Network operators have long lamented the “dumb pipe” label that’s been applied to their business and particularly the manner by which over-the-top (OTT) service providers have made billions of dollars riding on their networks. But there’s a glimmer of hope that dynamic might change if their 5G dreams come true. Operators won’t be collecting big checks from YouTube or Facebook anytime soon, but new services and capabilities delivered by 5G could lead to new revenue. And Dell Technologies wants to help make that happen.
Dell Technologies is riding the advancing wave of 5G and making a big push and investment to attract network operators as customers. It inked a deal last week with Orange to develop and collaborate on edge computing use cases in 5G, and struck a similar deal with China Unicom the week prior.
“We have a strong focus on the top telecommunication providers around the world,” Tom Burns, senior vice president of Dell EMC networking and solutions, told SDxCentral in a phone interview. “We are actively participating with I’d say the top 15 or so telcos around the world in various discussions on how we may work together and how we might be able to help them.”
Smart Pipe Dreams
Dell Technologies’ core strategy is to foster digital transformation efforts that are underway in enterprises and figure out how it can help network operators modernize and automate their network infrastructure for 5G, Burns explained.
“I think that there is a capability that the telecommunication providers have had around performance, scalability, and reliability as it’s provided wireless and wireline capabilities for enterprises. Perhaps some of the over-the-top players have capitalized on this, but I think with 5G … it really expands the business opportunity for telcos to provide more services, more capabilities from a [business-to-business] standpoint,” Burns said. He also noted particular opportunities around branch connectivity and critical hosted services.
“We’ll see how the use cases come about and how it continues to get laid out over the next 12, 24, or 36 months, but [network operators] certainly have an opportunity to expand their business use cases,” Burns said. “It’s to be proven, but I think absolutely every telecommunications provider is looking for a way to expand their revenues and that 5G, because of its performance improvements, is an opportunity to do that as long as they can do it cost effectively.”
5G is not “just another wireless connectivity so you can stream video faster” to a smartphone, Burns said. “It’s about really connecting multiple devices and multiple use cases, and I think the telecommunication providers can capitalize on that from a revenue standpoint.”
He described a growing level of interest in 5G because of the capabilities and services it can provide from the network core to the edge and radio access networks (RAN). That shift is enabling operators to move away from traditional proprietary technologies to a more open and disaggregated approach with improvements in flexibility, automation, and costs, he said.
“We believe this explosion of data and the capability of connected devices will continue to grow and so therefore the expansion of edge computing and having the capability to connect and analyze data at selected points everywhere from the core to the cloud to the edge becomes very important to customers,” Burns said.
“The era of data, it’s no longer the data center but the center of data,” he said. “Where you want the center to be and connectivities to take place — that goes from core to cloud to edge.”