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4 Post-COVID-19 key trends in telecom

Globally, leading telecom and technology organizations are evolving as a result of the current COVID-19 crisis in order to satisfy a greater demand for connectivity worldwide. Right now, they are adapting to the new market and their limitations, as well as the pressures of the business model in the area of sales, service, security and support. We consider that the following 4 Post-COVID-19 key trends are key in the telecom industry, thanks to the higher demand and the current needs due to the crisis, investments in the industry have  increased and accelerated both in the private and public sector.  

In this article we will talk about 4 key trends that will promote changes in the telecom industry.

4 Post Covid key trends in telecom

1. Intelligent edge 

Intelligent Edge is one of the 4 key trends in telecom. It’s actually a key element to generate business information that smooths digital  transformation. It is the combination of advanced connectivity, compact processing power, and  artificial intelligence (AI) located near devices that use and generate data. Those basic opportunities  are based on specific benefits that businesses can enjoy by using computing resources at the  Intelligent Edge. 

The 3 C’s of the Intelligent Edge 

In words of Tom Bradicich «the usefulness of the Intelligent Edge is revealed when we unpack the  three Cs: 

  • Connect: When devices, people, or things connect via networks, it facilitates data exchanges that  promote new sources and quantities of data. 
  • Compute: Systems can then compute this data, provide access to applications, and reveal deep  insights concerning the connected things, devices, and the surrounding environment.
  • Control: These computed insights can then be used to take action, control the devices and things at  the edge, or prompt other types of control actions associated with the business or enterprise to which  the edge is connected.»

Intelligent Edge: Key trends in telecom

Figure 1. Intelligent Edge

«Deloitte predicts that in 2021, the global market for the intelligent edge will expand to US$12 billion,  continuing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 35%. Expansion in 2021 will be driven  primarily by telecoms deploying the intelligent edge for 5G networks, and by hyperscale cloud providers optimizing their infrastructure and service offerings. These highly capitalized leaders are  establishing the use cases and best practices that may make it easier for companies across multiple  industries to attain the capabilities of the intelligent edge. By 2023, 70% of enterprises may likely run  some amount of data processing at the edge. As one leading graphics processing unit (GPU)  manufacturer has stated, “We’re about to enter a phase where we’re going to create an internet that is  thousands of times bigger than the internet that we enjoy today.”

«The intelligent edge can benefit any business that manages infrastructure, networks, clouds, data  centers, and connected endpoints such as sensors, actuators, and devices. It can support consumer  use cases that require very low latency, such as cloud gaming and augmented and virtual reality. It  can enable enterprise uses that require aggregating, securing, and analyzing a great deal of data  across operations and customers. And it can improve industrial processes for managing quality,  materials, and energy use, such as monitoring factory floors, assembly lines, and logistics.» … « Not  all businesses will be able to implement intelligent edge solutions broadly right away. Many may need  to invest in the right infrastructure and partnerships first before seeing a return on investment from  narrow use cases. But laying these foundations can give organizations much greater opportunities in  the future.»

2. Open and virtualized RANs 

Open RAN is a hot topic in mobile telecoms. At its simplest, Open radio access network (RAN) is a term for industry-wide standards for RAN interfaces that support interoperation between vendors’  equipment. Open RAN allows service providers to speed up 5G network development through its  open architecture. 

«The main goal for using open RAN is to have an interoperability standard for RAN elements such as  non-proprietary white box hardware and software from different vendors. Network operators that opt  for RAN elements with standard interfaces can avoid being stuck with one vendor’s proprietary  hardware and software. 

Open RAN is not inherently open source. The Open RAN standards instead aim to undo the siloed  nature of the RAN market, where a handful of RAN vendors only offer equipment and software that is  totally proprietary. 

The open RAN standards being developed use virtual RAN (vRAN) principles and technologies  because vRAN brings features such as network malleability, improved security, and reduced capex  and opex costs. »

Open RAN is becoming a disruptive trend that moves the telecommunications infrastructure from  static to dynamic; and the key element is the integration for the adoption of Open RAN as has mentioned Patrick Filkins, senior research analyst of IDC he said “The elephant in the room regarding  Open RAN is, of course, integration.” 

Previously, companies were vertically integrated and hardware-centric. Now the new approach with  Open RAN must be based and driven by software, preferably open where the software communicates  with all physical components, at any time, to offer scalability, innovation and change the landscape of  how open networks are integrated. 

“The key with Open RAN is that the interface between the BBU and RRU / RRH is an open interface,  so, any vendor’s software can work on any open RRU / RRH. More open interfaces enable the use of  one supplier’s radios with another’s processors – which is not possible with CRAN or vRAN.

“In traditional RAN deployments, the software and interfaces remain either proprietary or “closed” by  the individual vendor and are often tied to the underlying hardware by the SAME vendor. Meaning,  operators cannot put vendor B’s software on a BBU from vendor A or connect a radio from vendor A to  a vBBU hardware and software from vendor B. Any software upgrades are tied into the installed base,  and if an operator wants to do a vendor A swap, they need to rip out all of it: from the vendor A radio to  the vendor A BBU hosting the vendor A software – they cannot replace just one component in the  legacy RAN deployment. This creates a vendor lock-in.”

To describe the concept in a simpler way we present the following image: 

Traditional RAN

Figure 2. RAN Diagram

3. SASE Convergence 

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) – defined by Gartner – is a security architecture that establishes conversions of security and  network connectivity technologies on a platform delivered through the cloud to enable fast and secure transformation of the cloud. SASE’s  convergence of network connectivity and network security addresses the challenges of digital business transformation, edge computing, and employee mobility. 

According to Cisco some benefits by consolidating SASE’s model  enterprises can: “Reduce costs and complexity. Provide centralized  orchestration and real-time application optimization. Help secure  seamless access for users. Enable more secure remote and mobile  access. Restrict access based on user, device, and application  identity. Improve security by applying consistent policy. Increase  network and security staff effectiveness with centralized  management” .

«The Gartner SASE architecture provides for the dynamic creation of  a secure, policy-based access service perimeter, regardless of the  location of the entities requesting the capabilities, and regardless of  the location of the network capabilities to which they request access.  From a security point of view, SASE is the convergence of the unified  offering of threat and data protection capabilities. This converged  service relies on a continuous, low-latency presence, very close to  the location of users wherever they are. 

Although SASE platforms are not going to be installed overnight, the  path to SASE is gaining in speed and urgency and, as Gartner  anticipated, “by 2024, at least 40% of companies will have clear  strategies for adopt SASE, up from 1% at the end of 2018 “.1 The  reality is that the adoption of SASE has accelerated significantly in  the last 18 months in part because the pandemic has forced  companies to transform their human resources in workforces  composed mainly of teleworkers. More companies are looking for  solutions to the challenge posed by SASE.»

In addition, Gartner recommends choosing suppliers that will control  where the inspection is done, how traffic is routed, which is registered  and where those records to meet privacy requirements and  compliance in all geographies are stored. 

Overall, Gartner expects widespread adoption of SASE is a journey  of several years, especially for large companies where network  equipment and security remain separate. Because of this, the group  of analysts advises companies to limit the duration of contracts to  three years or less as they move to adopt new SASE technologies.

4. 6G 

The 6G race has started. Said simply and directly, it aims to promote mobile networks as the base  infrastructure on which all economic activities – industrial and services – are mounted, where Artificial  Intelligence (AI) acts as the modeler of this new concept of infrastructure. 

Ryuji Wakikawa, vice president and head of the Advanced Technology Division of SoftBank reviewed the  evolution of 4G to 5G networks, the first oriented for smartphones, the second for new services. And he  ventured that 6G will transform those networks into infrastructures that will support the digitization of all  industries. “With 6G, every business in Japan will be conceived under this new concept of mobile networks  because the Internet will be transformed into a single infrastructure for communications around the world.” 

The proposal is underpinned by Beyond 5G, the consortium promoted by the government of Japan, aimed  at exchanging experiences between the public, private and academic sectors to precisely accelerate  development and innovation around 5G. But he wants to go much further than this initiative. 

In the document, published on its website, it is noted that just as the era of 5G will bring ultra connectivity, ultra low latency and ultra speed, 6G will be the technology that will  bring deeper innovations, aligned with AI and the new services, facilities and benefits that could be triggered  by this technology, including greater energy efficiency. In the conception of SoftBank on 6G, goals of caring  for the environment are also contemplated. 

There are the 12 challenges for 6G pointed out by the team of SoftBank, those challenges are architectural,  technological, and social. This company is taking up the challenge of resolving numerous issues in different  areas,” with the service provider, which plans to invest 2.2 trillion yen (US$20.13 billion) during the next 10  years on its 5G and 6G networks. In the image below we showcase these 12 challenges.

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