CEO Forum: The Future of Connectivity
Digital connectivity technologies continue to set the pace of change for the telecoms’ ecosystem. Business leaders and entrepreneurs from a wide range of sectors are increasingly embracing this hyper-connected age, accelerated by the pandemic, as they work toward driving efficiency, profitability and solutions for some of the world’s most critical challenges.
We convened leaders from across the global telecoms community and a range of industry pioneers to discuss cutting-edge and practical uses of 5G, IOT and AI. They shared how intelligent connectivity accelerated by 5G is transforming the B2B community and how this innovation is being managed sustainably.
- Enrique Blanco, Chief Technology Officer, Telefónica
- Anne Chow, CEO, AT&T Business
- Matt Kelly, CEO, JBG SMITH
- Vinod Kumar, CEO, Vodafone Business
- Annette Rippert, Group Chief Executive – Strategy & Consulting, Accenture
- Chris White, 5GEM Project Lead, Ford Motor Company
- Matthew Bloxham, Head of EMEA Telecom, Media and Technology Research, Bloomberg Intelligence
- Thomas Seal, Technology, Media and Telecoms Reporter, Bloomberg News
- Alex Webb, Technology, Media and Telecoms Columnist, Bloomberg Opinion
Below are some highlights from the event.
Click here to view the full event.
We kicked off the event with comments from Annette Rippert, Group Chief Executive – Strategy & Consulting, Accenture, who said the communications industry is the backbone of transformation for any industry. This has been especially true during the pandemic. “Technology has enabled the sophisticated blending of physical and virtual worlds. We call this Real Virtualities,” she said. It has not only accelerated innovation in the worlds of gaming, entertainment, retail and daily communication, it can make businesses more efficient. “Real virtualities can mitigate the challenges of recruiting and retaining talent by removing the idea of location as a barrier to attracting the very best workers,” Rippert said, adding, “this accelerated blurring of the virtual and physical worlds means the world will become even more connected.” Accenture is the sponsor of this event.
In the next session, which focused on 5G usage, Chris White, 5GEM Project Lead, Ford Motor Company, said Ford is trying out a new technology. Called E:PriME, it is needed to make electric vehicles, in particular motors and batteries. White said Ford is focusing on planning factories of the future – to change all their plants, the key technology needed is wireless connectivity. “This is a collaboration project with Vodafone and a number of other partners to introduce a new private mobile network into a trial pilot facility in Essex,” White said. The facility is the first one of its kind in the UK.
Vinod Kumar, CEO, Vodafone Business, went on to say that the partnership is a learning journey for Ford and Vodafone and a chance for both companies to learn about the power of technology. There are inevitably practical challenges when a new technology is integrated into any system’s workflows. 5G enables the integration of different components such as sensors and devices into the workflow, making sure they all work in the factory settings. This was not possible even two years ago.
The discussion then turned to 5G cost and efficiency. Kumar said the commercial angle of the technology usage is still at an early stage and in a “DIY mode.” White added that it’s important to have data from the factories about what’s going on there in order to build up business cases for investment. “There probably is no business case for 5G, but there is a business case for what you can do with 5G, it’s a fantastic enabler for those things,” White said.
During a presentation, Matthew Bloxham, Head of EMEA Telecom, Media and Technology Research, Bloomberg Intelligence, gave us an outlook for the global telecom sector. He pointed out that despite positive discussions at the Mobile World Congress 2021, the telecom industry is not faring so well in the stock market vs. the broader market. However, “It is not all gloom and doom,” Bloxham said, pointing out that investor sentiment toward 5G is improving.
Bloxham referred to an annual survey BI has run for the last three years. The latest poll in March showed that the majority of respondents see 5G as an important part of their investment screening process; almost half of respondents say they are more optimistic about the outlook for 5G now than they were a year ago; and the vast majority of respondents see 5G contributing to industry growth.
“What we saw from our survey is the important role of enterprise services in the future of 5G for carriers,” Bloxham said. To realize the potential of 5G, carriers still need to make a huge investment in infrastructure. Bloxham also said that 5G carriers need to redefine the way they collaborate and partner with other parts of the ecosystem. “If they can do that successfully, they can unlock substantial profit growth.”
The final panel looked at how 5G networks can run efficiently while also opening the door to broader positive social impact – such as improving the efficiency of energy networks, transport and smart cities. This conversation took place against the backdrop of a recent announcement that AT&T and JBG Smith will deliver the first 5G Smart City at scale in National Landing, which could make National Landing a prototype for smart cities in the future.
Matt Kelly, CEO, JBG SMITH, spoke about the importance of being sustainable. For example, we can’t just tell everyone to stop driving, he said, “We have to innovate our way out. I believe this is a really important step on the road toward that day when we have figured out ways to innovate, to make ourselves more efficient, to make ourselves less impactful, less taxing on the climate and the planet. We, as real estate owners, have a hugely important role to play in all of that because of how we can build our buildings,” Kelly said.
Anne Chow, CEO, AT&T Business, said one of the things we have learned from the last year and a half is that the “demand for and criticality of connectivity and networking is forefront.” She said, “If you are going to conceive of and build a smart city, you need a smart network and infrastructure underlying all facets of that city.”
Enrique Blanco, Chief Technology Officer, Telefónica, spoke about cost efficiencies. “In 5G, it is true that power consumption is higher, but it is true that it is a 90 percent higher efficiency if you compare the cost per giga,” Blanco said. He added, “and we are growing every day.” That means while consumption is growing, so are efficiencies. “And you can adapt the consumption with the traffic. This was not happening with the previous technologies,” Blanco said.
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