5G Americas Conference Highlights on Open RAN, Enterprise Cellular and Telco Cloud

At the 5G Americas conference, attendees have an opportunity to meet with operators in the North and South American geographies, as well as standards, regulatory and vendor representatives. The four main topics we concentrated on from the conference were US FCC comments, Open RAN, Enterprise Cellular and Cloud.

FCC. US Federal COmmunications Commission CHief Counsel , Umair Javed, shared several interesting messages. First, he said that the FCC knows there needs to be more mid-band spetrum made available. Second, he commented that Open RAN benefits the US market because the US has no RAN vendors that are experts in the “closed-stack” ecosystem, while it has many front-runners in end devices and as suppliers to the RAN industry (e.g. chips). In discussing the FCC’s views about broadband satellite, Mr. Javed says the Chairman Rosenworcel’s office thinks: (a) the FCC needs new rules about satellite communications because rules should be different to reflect the new era, (b) the FCC should promote innovation, and (c) the FCC seeks to support space sustainability and safety.

Open RAN. We found Mavenir’s messaging to be very coherent in regards to what the Open RAN movement means; EVP Bejoy Pankajakshan said that two factors of Open RAN matter most: (a) vendor swapping between radio and baseband, and (b) enabling radio resource management (RRM) on the RIC. We see the first of Bejoy’s messages are being more imminent as it describes the main capital reduction mechanism that operators see from Open RAN. We had a good laugh at the Open RAN roundtable, when a distinction was made between Open RAN and “compelled integration,” as was seen at a large Japanese operator in the past year.

Cloud. AT&T made some of the most interesting comments relating to cloud adoption. First, it said that it would seriously considering deploying its own servers at “edge” locations if, perhaps, a hyperscaler like AWS would be willing to allow its software and automation environment be installed on these servers. Second, it said that the cost of using hyperscaler infrastructure is too high for it to seriously move a significant amount of its workload over to the hyperscaler community. Third, hyperscaler environments, as of today, are not able to provide sufficient “timing and synchronization” to enable workloads such as RAN. Mavenir made several points about its experience in getting its software (both core and RAN) working with hyperscaler cloud environments; EVP Pankajakshan said that selecting the right operating system is critical for making the Distributed Unit (DU) work right. ADditionally, Mavenir said that efforts by hyperscalers like AWS’ Outposts “edge” offerings, when using a real-time O/S allows DU with the right combinations of operator-compatible timing and acceleration choices. Ericsson commented that many of the easy workloads have moved to the cloud hyperscaler environment, including OSS and BSS, and that other workloads are more challenging. Nokia made an interesting comment that it sees Oracle as being a legitimate potential hyperscaler/cloud player that could make moves in the telecom workload market.

Enterprise Cellular. We found Cisco’s comments of special note: Bob Everson, Sr. Director 5G Architecture said that Cisco will work with Managed Service Providers (MSPs) or cloud hyperscalers to serve 5G to enterprises. In fact, Everson characterized that all of its 5G enterprise selling efforts are exclusively through MSPs. We asked each of the various participants whether they see more outdoor or indoor uses for enterprise cellular in their deal pipelines and found that while there was unanonmity that both were included, slightly more were outdoor-oriented. Intel shared that John Deere is using “5G” in its factory and that it is using 14 cellular radios versus what would have been 100 Wi-Fi access points.