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Why 5G is not just another G

By JEAN PIERRE BRULARD, senior vice president and general manager at VMware EMEA.

2019 has so far been the year of 5G. From 5G enabled folding phones, to surgery conducted on a patient miles away by doctors at Mobile World Congress, early super-fast network rollouts in the US, to the tactile internet and the Internet of Things, and, of course, robots – it seems there isn’t a conversation that doesn’t have a 5G angle to it.

For telecoms operators or communication service providers (CSPs), it’s a time bursting with opportunity – from upgrading capacity to delivering new services, content and interactions in ways previously simply not possible. Using 5G to enable the Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing, they now have an amazing opportunity that was unimaginable just a couple of years ago.

But it means 5G is at a massive inflection point.  Planning decisions made today will have far reaching financial and operational ramifications for CSPs, from being able to beat competitors to market with new value-added services, to significantly improving the performance and operational efficiencies of their networks.

Yet to think of it as only a telecoms opportunity is to miss the point. Any organisation in any sector that uses networks (in short, everyone) should be planning for the 5G rollout and thinking about how they can use it to achieve their business goals.

It doesn’t matter if they’re operating in retail, logistics, in a city, in a rural environment, in the public or private sector; 5G promises huge opportunities to deliver new services and applications, increase automation and the possibilities this brings, to aiding businesses to engage with customers in ways never previously imagined.

That’s not to say that it’s all plain sailing – as Åsa Tamsons, the head of new businesses at Ericsson, said in an interview with CNN, many still view 5G as just “another network.” It’s an attitude which could make it harder initially for some organisations to make the case for the up-front investment required. Enterprises will need to work to convince both internal and external stakeholders that the costs are justified.

One network, a world of opportunity

So, to answer the question, how is it not just another G? Put simply, 5G delivers much faster speeds, far lower latency and significantly higher density than 4G. 

If we want to realise the potential of the likes of Internet of Things-enabled services, robotics, autonomous vehicles, smarter cities and utility services and break throughs in telemedicine, then each of these elements need to be in play. What, however, do they actually mean?

Speed is relatively straight forward. The 5G example often used is being able to download a high definition film in ten seconds, compared to at best about twenty minutes currently (depending on local broadband services).

Latency is slightly different, reflecting the time required for data to travel between two points. We are in fact talking less than a millisecond delay, which becomes significant for surgery, for example, and combined with speed is also a factor for many gamers who might want to pay for this type of fast, low latency service.

Density becomes significant with the sheer number of devices connected to a network at any one time. We are already in a world where there are more than 23 billion connected devices and growing, with greater mobility and IoT use cases. We’ve all been in situations where speeds drop dramatically as everyone logs in, and as we become increasingly connected, we need networks that can cater for significantly more devices than ever before.

In each of these instances, 5G has the potential to dramatically improve on the performance of existing 4G networks. This can then be used to deliver new services and applications, exactly the level of connectivity the digital world requires.

It could be a hospital serving an area several hundred miles square. As we saw at MWC, a surgeon might use a high performance, high reliability 5G network to perform critical surgery via robotics on a patient in a clinic elsewhere. 5G introduces a concept called network slicing A network slice has technical characteristics important for delivering a particular services. In this case, a network slice could be used to deliver a service with low latency to ensure that actions are taken in real time and without delay, high throughput to ensure quality high-definition images and sound for the surgeon, and high reliability to ensure the service is available for the duration of the operation and that performance is not impacted by other mobile users.

Or take retail. Augmented and virtual realities have long been touted as a way to arrest some of the challenges the sector faces – with 5G’s low latency, they can become mainstream offerings, rather than niche innovations, by easily allowing customers to view purchases in local environments or on themselves.

We’ve all heard seemingly fanciable ideas of deliveries by drones, conjuring images of swarms of pilotless objects floating around. With 5G it becomes much more than just an unnerving vision. With high density, networks will be able to support huge numbers of aerial vehicles while enabling remote operators to coordinate movements and avoid collisions along the way. The knock-on benefits would mean less congestion, particularly in urban areas, as well as reaching far-flung locations previously lacking the infrastructure to support all deliveries.

To deliver all this is going to require a significant amount of investment in network infrastructure. For CSPs, it is a major undertaking, which is why it is likely that rather than a pure 5G network, the majority of people will see a blended approach, where 4G is available to deliver basic services, and 5G introduced for specific tasks. It is therefore critical to have what’s known as the telco cloud. This is software-defined technology that supports both current 4G and lays the ground work for 5G, something much prized by operators like Vodafone. “The ability to be flexible and agile as we continue to automate our network operations and management could only be achieved through a software-defined infrastructure,” said Johan Wibergh, the group’s chief technology officer. “We have been pleased with the accelerated time-to-market and associated economic benefits of our transition to NFV and, increasingly, a telco cloud infrastructure.” 

With 5G, enterprises can access the levels and speeds of connectivity they need to take advantage of the game changing technologies such as IoT, edge computing and AI that are going to shape the next stage of the digital revolution. Combined with this software-defined infrastructure, more in tune with its specifications and aspirations, 5G has the power to transform the operations and business models of established organisations beyond all recognition.

Capitalising to thrive

We haven’t even begun to realise what the possibilities of 5G are yet. So much needs to happen before we see full adoption, yet enterprises must start thinking now about how they can harness the power of these new networks for their own competitiveness. Simply thinking about it as another G risks not being prepared when it does come along and missing out on the huge opportunities available.

5G is the network and foundation which makes the promises of many other new technologies a reality – any organisation that fails to capitalise on that will struggle to survive in the digital world.


Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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