BARCELONA, Spain — Believe the hype about 5G. “This is one technology that feels like the hype is going to be reflected in the reality,” said Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins on stage during a keynote at MWC Barcelona today.
And he’s also got the scoop on the killer app for 5G. “My 17-year-old son, taking his 5G phone and turning it into a hotspot and 20 of his friends playing Fortnite.”
Joking aside, Robbins said that while 5G has been all the rage for the past few years at MWC, this event is different because this year operators are starting to roll out 5G networks. “5G doesn’t only create a tremendous opportunity from a business perspective, but it also opens up a world of opportunity for the applications and the capabilities that we can deliver to help people all over the world,” he said.
It also requires a different infrastructure and a new way of thinking about the network. While early 5G trials and connectivity pilots run on existing 4G LTE networks, turning the hype into reality will require next-generation networks that are fast, secure, and scalable.
“We have to build new, massively scalable, simple, secure, secure, secure, secure networks that are reliable, programmable, automatable, software-defined — pick your buzz word about networks,” Robbins said. “We have to have all the buzz words.”
Specifically, this means bringing together 5G and WiFi 6 and enabling a common security policy across private networks and 5G networks. And naturally, Cisco has a solution for this with its intent-based networking.
A GSMA survey found that the biggest opportunity for operators to make money off of 5G comes from enterprise applications in the automotive and manufacturing industries. Similarly, more than 75 percent of Cisco’s total revenue comes from enterprise customers. So there’s a partnership opportunity here.
Telecommunications service providers can build new enterprise applications and services that are simple to deploy using Cisco’s intent-based networking, Robbins said. He pointed to Cisco’s partnership with Verizon announced earlier this week as an example. The two companies will build a mobile SD-WAN offering, which leverages Verizon’s future 5G network.
It’s worth noting that AT&T and VMware forged a similar partnership this week in which customers will be able to leverage SD-WAN alongside AT&T’s cellular network. The network will be able to upgrade the network connection to 5G — once it is available — by changing the modem.
“Our enterprise customers are going to want that intent — or their policy — to be extended from the private networks into their 5G infrastructure,” Robbins said. “We believe that if we can do that together, then you can actually monetize your investment and build services that the enterprise customers will be very happy to consume as we move forward. And if we can integrate that policy across both sides of this, then our enterprise customers will be much more capable of building integrated networks with their private infrastructure, leveraging 5G for mobile users for IoT for connective remote branches.”
And this, he added is where telcos can get a return on the 5G investments that they are making. Oh, and it boosts Cisco’s bottom line, too.