Network X

Some Takeaways from Network X

Apis Training was at the Network X conference in Amsterdam in October, meeting old and new customers. Being the technical sales support guy in our team, I took the opportunity to listen to some of the presentations and panel discussions. Here are a few facts, impressions, and personal thoughts that I think are worth sharing. 

5G Status

Not much was said about 5G technology itself, which is perhaps assumed – rightly or wrongly – to be well-known by now. Instead, the focus was on monetizing 5G, private 5G, partnerships, the relation between telcos and hyperscalers, and of course cloud in general.

It was argued that 5G – as of now – is not primarily about consumers but about businesses and enterprises. In fact, there is little that 5G can do for consumers today and that cannot be done with 4G and/or WiFi. So far, one of the main 5G use cases has been uplink video for all the digital meetings during the pandemic. But that is not to say that 5G is not needed. In the long term, 5G is better than 4G if for no other reason than because it’s cheaper and more energy/resource efficient (which is a serious topic now). Also, 5G for FWA (Fixed Wireless Access) is important in certain markets, e.g. Australia and later emerging countries.

Private 5G

5G for enterprises/businesses is a hot topic. The enterprise market is obviously huge but also very diverse. Not much seems common between, say the port of Rotterdam and Daisy’s homemade cookies.

There were discussions about the various flavors of private 5G: isolated SNPN (Standalone Non-Public Network) owned by an operator or enterprise,  network slices, or user plane termination on edge. Again, no size or model will fit all since enterprise can refer to any size, type and location of a business.

It was agreed that when discussing 5G with enterprises, the focus should be on the unique use case, what (initial) problem to solve, the existing situation (WiFi, cables etc) and company IT/tech knowledge and culture. As we know – don’t we? – customers are typically not that interested in technology itself, but rather the business problem that technology solves. As one speaker expressed it: 5G for enterprises will create value not by solving communication problems but by solving business problems.

It was stated that enterprises in general prefer a managed service rather than owning their own network. But again, there is no one magic recipe for private 5G. All the same, some speakers expressed a desire to standardize/industrialize solutions and offers, to avoid reinventing the wheel too frequently.

As expected, Edge was mentioned a lot! It is part of everybody’s network, product and solution although there are different views and interpretations of what and where the edge actually is.

6G

And of course, we were talking 6G…  In general, 6G is about things like new THz spectrum, and inbuilt support for various existing and future verticals. So 6G will not just give us bigger, better and faster bit pipes for connectivity. However, there is as of now no ITU definition of 6G (or more correctly IMT-2030). And 3GPP is, at least officially, not working on 6G yet.

Nonetheless, various initiatives are working on the direction of 6G and pre-standardization, such as Hexa-X, Next G Alliance and NGMN Alliance. So – we will just have to wait and see!