As the world grows ever more digitalized, infrastructure has been thrust into the limelight; and with the relative emergence of 5G, smart city development, and cloud gaming around the world, the need for Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) companies continues to exponentially grow.
According to a recent report by ResearchandMarkets, the IaaS market is expected to reach $74.63 billion in 2025 at a CAGR of 13.8 percent, with high growth mainly due to a spike in online services due to COVID-19 that increased demand.
This increased demand in bolstering digital infrastructure has wreaked havoc on global supply chains, affecting core components needed to run the explosion of devices from the automotive and reaching all the way to the gaming industry.
On the cloud gaming front, telcos are finding themselves increasingly involved in the industry by continuously including a suite of games and applications for consumers, bundled together with their 5G offering.
Inside Telecom sat down with Radian Arc’s CEO David Cook – a B2B company that specializes in digital infrastructure and cloud gaming for telcos – to better understand both the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
INSIDE TELECOM: Mr. Cook, it’s great to have you here; first off, could you please introduce yourself and your company?
COOK: My name is David Cook, I’m the CEO of Radian Arc, an infrastructure-as-a-service business curated for telcos, with the starting application of that being around GPUs, and 5G; we’ve been around for almost 12 months now.
For myself, my background is actually in a lot of media and entertainment, where I helped build the digital supply chain between record labels, and the OTT music services when they first launched almost 20 years ago now, and then did the same thing for video. My team actually bought lots of technology that is still used today in OTT video, as we were fortunate to get that technology onto about a billion connected TVs around the world.
From there, we moved into working on edge compute for telco networks; we actually did a project with Ericsson in that area, and out of that, we really became aware that there was a need to be able to put GPUs inside the telco networks to really take advantage of the combination of cloud gaming and 5G, to achieve low latency, put a GPU in the cloud and provide that service to telcos.
INSIDE TELECOM: Radian Arc’s offering includes Global GPU edge, could you give us a rundown as to how this service improves Value-added services and monetization of 5G investments?
COOK: One of the things that we observed when we were spending a lot of time with telcos over the last few years is that a lot of them had spent a billion or even more on planning and roll out of 5G, but they didn’t really have a lot of killer applications for 5G. While there’s a lot of opportunities in technologies such as drones and self-driving car, but that kind of killer consumer application seemed to be a little bit missing.
We felt like cloud gaming could be that, as a lot of people play video games, it’s become very mainstream. And so, if we could bring the GPU, put it inside of the operators’ networks to really help with that latency, then effectively, we felt like that could become a killer app for 5G carrier’s side.
INSIDE TELECOM: Cloud gaming is growing remarkably YoY, accordingly, could you provide us with a success story in the field of cloud gaming that you have contributed to?
COOK: So, we’ve only been around for about 12 months, thus we’re still building our success story. But what we have done is we’ve actually closed over 10 deals over the last few months with telcos all around the world. With the pace that we’re on, we think that we’ll be at about 20 deals by the end of the year. That was surely a good indicator that shows very strong demand. From there, our goal will obviously be to roll those out and create user experiences.
The one thing that we have shown early on is in our proof of concept conducted in Australia, we’re able to show roughly a 2x faster startup time for games, and our park compared to public cloud, and also a much higher throughput in terms of the number of CCU per GPU compared to a public cloud.
And that’s obviously incredibly important because one of the challenges in cloud gaming has been the economics. And so, the focus that we’ve had on putting the pop inside the operators’ network, we can get a lot of OpEx benefits. And having that pop really optimized cloud gaming to get the maximum amount of CPU per GPU, which obviously makes a fundamental shift in the economics of cloud gaming; that translates into good news for the publishers on one side, and good for the telcos on the other.
INSIDE TELECOM: We cannot talk about GPUs without mentioning the strain on the supply chain to deliver chipsets across all industries; thus, in your opinion, what are the lessons being learned from this ongoing strain that will most likely stay with us during 2022?
COOK: Well, first of all, we’ve been incredibly blessed with our relationship with AMD, which was announced during this year’s Mobile World Congress; so that’s given us very reliable access to both GPUs and CPUs. We’ve been very fortunate in that area, however, obviously, the supply chain goes well beyond that, there’s also procuring the servers, the memory, and more, there definitely have been a lot of challenges on that front.
And actually, it’s not just the inbound supply chain, it’s not just being able to source all of the materials but also being able to distribute them out, and get them into the operator, because it’s what makes this unique, so we’re not just building regional parks, we’re actually sending the equipment and putting it inside each of these operators, networks.
I think it’s really about flexibility in terms of how we operate. Accordingly, we have a reliable source for the key thing that we need the GPU and the CPU. Thus, having flexibility and sourcing around things like switches, control servers, and oftentimes working with the operators, they may have some switches or control servers that we can use, but we can provide the thing that they can’t get anywhere else.
We together with AMD can provide a reliable source of those GPUs and CPUs.
INSIDE TELECOM: We imagine the pandemic has been quite the hurdle for Radian Arc, with extremely high demand coming in all at once; how did the company meet this data explosion at its height?
COOK: Yeah, actually, for us, it was quite interesting, because we were just starting the company during this time; very interesting time to start a company as well, right? So, we didn’t actually have the pressure of having to deliver on the data side during the pandemic, since we’ve just been always into deals and deployment now.
But what it did for us, was provide a very unique opportunity to go out and close deals, because I think what you saw was that everyone became aware of how important gaming is. Thus, for a lot of these telcos, those things came together at the right time, we were in the right place at the right time to go and get those telco deals closed.
Accordingly, for us, in some ways, it was actually quite a blessing, because we weren’t actually trying to physically deliver the bits at that time, but it generated an incredible amount of demand for our product and service.
INSIDE TELECOM: So basically, the telcos came to you. in a sense?
COOK: Absolutely, basically, anyone with a 5G strategy really realized that cloud gaming was an important part of that strategy. We’ve had to do very little outbound promotion of our service. It has actually been an incredible amount of inbound and it’s been inbounded directly from the telcos that we already had relationships with as a team.
INSIDE TELECOM: U.S. President Joe Biden officially signed yesterday the $1 trillion infrastructure plan; will this plan have any effect on your company? And if yes, how?
COOK: Yeah, we haven’t looked at that yet, and the main reason we haven’t is that we’ve been literally blessed with so many inbound leads from the telcos that the entire focus of our team has been really on signing those up like I said, over 10 closed deals, and we’ll be at 20 by the end of the year.
And then going through the process of deploying those pops. So, we have 16 pops that are actually in flight right now being deployed and will deploy another 20 in the January timeframe.
INSIDE TELECOM: Governments have been sluggish in their efforts to revamp their infrastructure, especially when seeing that many of them are looking to accelerate a transition into smart city development; in your opinion, how can the public sector hasten this transition?
COOK: Yeah, so first of all, I think public-private, and that kind of deployment is incredibly, incredibly important. We look at it like this: we believe that if we can put GPUs inside the operator’s networks that actually provides the infrastructure-as-a-Service, which becomes a key ingredient to the overall rollout.
We look at opportunities in the Middle East on this right now as well as Southeast Asia, since those two markets specifically seem to boast a lot of that kind of public-private collaboration around smart cities and smart homes. Accordingly, we say the piece that we can provide in this is really two things: One, if we put the GPU inside the operators’ network, and we connect it with a 5G connection, that really can help you to deliver the smart, that’s a smart city, that isn’t the smart home, so it’s almost like artificial intelligence-as-a-service.
That way your IoT devices – such as the ones deployed in your streetlights for example – those divided devices may be deployed in the home; they really don’t need a lot of computing capability. If you have a low latency connection to them, then the applications, they’re going to support, those kinds of services that can actually run in the cloud inside of the operators’ network.
The second piece, and this kind of goes to the heart of what we’re doing, we’re not just bringing a GPU pop to these telcos, we’re bringing a GPU pop with a small and curated set of applications that will run to optimize the whole process. If you look at clouds, public cloud, you know, a brilliant product, right? It’s really about being able to bring thousands and thousands of application developers and give them the ability to run on the cloud.
We’re not really taking that model, we’re taking a small part of that GPU Park, a curated set of applications that are optimized to run on that part, and then taking that as a bundle to the telco. When we sit down and we talk to the telco, we know that the tip of the arrow now is cloud gaming, which clearly is a pathway to monetization, there’s strong consumer demand for it today.
But it actually becomes almost like a Trojan horse to be able to get these pops inside the network, and then be able to sit down with a telco and say, “What are you looking for, in terms of either smart city applications or smart home applications that we can bring, and we can certify to run in the park, and then actually bring to you to, to sell for your enterprise sales groups.”
INSIDE TELECOM: What areas of focus are the company looking to double down on to accelerate business growth in 2022?
COOK: For us, it’s really about two key things: on one side, it’s about increasing the number of telcos that we have; and we think that we can increase that almost exponentially in 2022. We’ve proven the recipe for success in closing these deals, we know what works, we know what the telco operators are looking for, especially with regards to 5G and cloud gaming.
The second part of it is execution. We have all of these deals that have been closed, we have all of these pops that are being deployed right now, and we need to be able to scale that supply chain. So, we need to better work through supply chain challenges and scale them.
Once we’ve got the real estate, then we can come back and layer in these additional applications. In parallel, there may be other forms of cloud gaming, a bit more around eSports, or maybe more on the smart city side. For us, it’s about increasing the number of telcos, as well as having a very good execution and building out the pipes all around the world, by working through supply chain challenges.
Then after that, it will be about increasing a curated suite of applications we can bring to our telco partners.
INSIDE TELECOM: With someone as veteraned in the telco space as yourself, when looking at all these emerging technologies, what excites you the most and what concerns you the most?
COOK: While we can’t be certain of how these technologies will impact social dynamics, I believe that expanding access to games and accelerating smart city development via cloud infrastructure will provide more benefits to consumers globally.
My main concern is the ongoing supply chain issues, which are far from over. They continue to present challenges, but we have been able to navigate them by working closely with our partners.
Why the United Kingdom Hates Huawei
The telecommunications industry is not immune from the political tensions and the war of attrition that has been reigning between China and the USA and other European countries for some time now. The emergence of Chinese vendor and original equipment manufacturer Huawei as a serious competitor to other vendors and manufacturers has been a notable event in the last decade. As a vendor, the Chinese company has been increasing its ties with operators throughout the world. As a smartphone manufacturer, Huawei has been poised to dethrone Apple and Samsung as the leader in the industry. After President Trump’s executive order in 2019, the war on the Chinese giant escalated massively and most of the US allies were involved in a way or another in this technological collateral damage resulting from the ongoing tensions. One of the biggest US allies, the United Kingdom has been lately at the center of attention with the decision to remove Huawei components from most wireless networks with a deadline set to January 2023. Why the United Kingdom hates Huawei is a question with an answer that goes well beyond its geographical borders, with many factors contributing to this relation.
The Huawei Ban
The fight against Huawei hasn’t started in May 2019 with President Trump’s executive order that placed Huawei and other Chinese companies on the Entity List, preventing them from doing business with entities and organizations operating in the USA. Huawei has been accused of intellectual property theft for a long time starting with the accusations of Cisco in 2003. Many other big companies such as Motorola and Nortel joined the fore in accusing the Chinese company of patent infringements and other security breaches. Huawei has consistently proclaimed its innocence though.
The “official” ban that started in 2019 meant that Huawei could not work with the likes of Google and Qualcomm, two of the closest partners to the Chinese company in the USA. The main reason for the ban is the suspicion that the equipment used by Huawei and other Chinese companies can be used for spying purposes by the Chinese government. While Trump’s mandate has ended, the ban effects is ongoing as more and more countries and companies having to cut the ties with the manufacturer.
A Ban to Throttle Huawei’s Eventual 5G Dominance
The Huawei ban can also be seen as one key component of the raging 5G war. It is rather not surprising that the time of the ban coincided with the official deployment of 5G networks. Huawei has in fact become among the best telecom infrastructure providers and the leader in 5G equipment market . The good value for money that Huawei is known for has made it the partner of choice for may operators around the world. It has even significantly contested the dominance of Ericsson and Nokia. Huawei’s technology is also considered among the most advanced.
5G at the Heart of the UK-Huawei Issues
The decision of UK prime minister Boris Johnson to ban Huawei equipment focused specifically on its 5G technology. The task has been much more difficult that originally thought. The main problem is in changing the core component of the network without disrupting services to the customers. British Telecom, the leading operator in the country raised the voice regarding the deadline to phase out Huawei equipment. This illustrates the high reliance of global operators and British ones on the Chinese manufacturer.
The daunting task awaiting operators in the country is to gradually changing network components without disrupting services and while maintaining the same performance levels. This is not obvious as the equipment from various vendors has different properties, and the network needs to be reoptimized to guarantee at least coverage and capacity requirements. What politics does not understand is that telecom infrastructure can’t be changed with the click of a button.
So, to be more specific, the position of the UK as a key ally to the USA has had a big influence on the country’s decision regardless of the economic repercussions. Although many companies inside and outside the UK voiced their desire to re-establish a connection with Huawei, this hasn’t affected to gradual ban prospects.
Can the Chinese Giant Survive the Ban?
Since the ban started, Huawei has been developing its own ecosystem in terms of smartphones, operating system, and more telecom-related segments, in a way to make it independent of the effects of the ban. The sanctions on the company have indeed affected its revenues. Huawei can however rely on its strong presence its home country China. The company provides a large chunk of the infrastructure for most operators in the country. Huawei also has strong presence in external markets and countries which are not affected by the US decision. Although the business of the company has been affected, the question related to its survival is out of question.
Can Telecom Companies Survive Without Huawei?
A lot of companies in the USA, UK, and many other countries have been relying a lot on Huawei’s advanced technology. The sudden disappearance of their trusted partner will have several effects. Manufacturers will have to upgrade their equipment without the components provided by Huawei. As for telecom operators, Huawei’s absence will force them into looking into the new partners among the competition, searching for a similarly advanced technology. In broader terms, the 5G roll-out plans for several countries including the UK will be severely affected as Chinese manufacturers, such as Huawei, have a significant contribution in all domains of the process.
The Huawei saga is far from ending soon. Its significance far exceeds the legal battle between Samsung and Apple. The notable presence of Huawei in the telecom industry has made it difficult to simply wipe it out from deployed infrastructures. The role the company is playing in the 5G market also makes it much difficult to sideline it from future 5G projects. Why the United Kingdom hates Huawei? The UK’s decision has notably been of political nature and the struggles of British operators to remove Huawei components from their network is a clear indicator. The important question is whether they will meet the specified deadline to remove all Huawei equipment without clearly affecting the network performance or 5G plans.
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China Welcomes a Fourth 5G Telecom Provider
China is one of the largest countries around the world. Together with India, it accounts for about one third of the world’s population and two thirds of Asia’s population. The country has been enjoying steady economic growth with a gross domestic product (GDP) increase of about 10 percent each year according the World Bank. However, the last few years witnessed a slowdown in GDP growth with estimated 5 percent in 2022. The coronavirus pandemic and several challenges contributed to the slowdown. As in other countries, 5G seen as an opportunity for economic growth. In contrast to neighboring India which should see the new fifth generation later this year, Chinese operators have deployed the latest technology three years ago. A few days ago, telcos has welcomed the fourth 5G provider, namely China Broadnet.
Telecommunications in China
The telco landscape in mainland China has been dominated by three operators, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. China Mobile is undoubtedly the largest operator in the country with a number of subscribers nearly three times that of China Telecom and Unicom. Given the political system in the country, the three operators are backed by the Government of China. The sector is regulated by the ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
The strength of the telecom sector in the country is not limited to the service provided in the country, but also to the presence of operators and vendors outside the country as well. China Mobile has a presence in Hong Kong, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and Singapore. China Telecom has two subsidiaries for the European and American markets. China Unicom has a subsidiary named China Unicom Global Limited which has been established to cover telecom markets outside China. Vendors and original equipment manufacturers have also been dominating telecom markets outside the country. Despite the US. sanctions and the talks about intellectual property infringements, these companies have used their aggressive pricing strategy to get into the ecosystem of most countries around the world. Huawei, ZTE, and some lesser known brands have rivalled with the likes of Ericsson and Nokia. Their phone segments have also become popular with their offerings which provide the best value for money. In countries where notable economic difficulties, Chinese brands are the best sellers.
The Chinese 5G Landscape
The large Asian country has been unsurprisingly one of the early adopters of the latest wireless evolution. The Chinese market is huge and full of opportunities compared to other markets. According to spokesmen from the MIIT, all cities and around 90 percent of the rural areas have 5G coverage in the country. This is higher than 5G coverage in the USA for example. The number of 5G cell-sites is also expected to reach the two million mark by the end of 2022. The investments by telecom operators is expected to be around Yuan 1.2 trillion which is about USD 179 billion. The investments are not only in the infrastructure but in advanced technologies that will help the operators unlock the full potential of the 5G evolution. Earlier in May, Huawei and China Telecom announced their super time-frequency folding technology, which in simple terms, combines the merits of time and frequency division duplexing (TDD and FDD) to achieve high uplink and downlink data rates while reducing the perceived latency as much as possible. This will allow to meet the requirements for ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) use cases in the future.
The 5G network has been gradually deployed in the country between the second half of 2019 and early 2020. While the pandemic has had an impact on the different plans in the country, the different activities related to the telecom infrastructure hasn’t been affected much. The initial deployment was in the n41 band (2.6GHz) for China Mobile and the n78 band (3.5GHz) for China Telecom and Unicom. To extend coverage, the low sub-1GHz bands are being planned for better coverage. As a noteworthy example, China Telecom and Unicom are co-building the 5G network, with cost-saving in sight.
China Broadnet as a Fourth 5G Provider
At the end of June 2022, a fourth operator has started providing services and potentially compete with the other three operators. Named China Broadnet, the new entrant started offering 4G and 5G services to customers.
The announcement was important for two reasons. Firstly, China Broadnet strategically decided to operate in the 80 MHz bandwidth its mother company China broadcasting network (CBN) acquired in the 700 MHz golden band in 2019. The new operator also owns spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band (n79) which it may use as well. The second notable event is that China Broadnet is cooperating with the leading operator to deploy its network and will probably rely first partially on its partner operator’s network. The agreement which spans multiple years allows the new entrant a paid access to the leading operator’s network notably in the 2.6GHz band. The new operator also chose ZTE as a partner to build the new infrastructure.
In a sense, the Chinese telcos has organized themselves into two groups, China Mobile and Broadnet are collaborating to integrate the new entrant into the ecosystem. The bands acquired by Broadnet and the already existing bands that China Mobile uses should provide some nice future insights for the partnership given the wide spectrum availability when combining all the bands. On the other side, the remaining two operators are working on their own 5G network.
Despite all the controversy surrounding Chinese operators and vendors, and the persistent political tensions with the USA and other European countries, the telecom market in China remains a prosperous, interesting, and unique model. The advent of the fourth operator with all telco politics surrounding it shouldn’t cause a major impact directly. The partnership with China Mobile and the gradual rollout of the network promises a change in the competition dynamics in the near future, notably if China Broadnet can deliver unique services that can set it apart from its competitors.
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The Impact of Telecommunications on Our Society
The telecom evolution has been happening at a considerably fast pace. Civilizations flourished around the latest advances in technologies that allowed communications between distant parties. From smoke signals to pigeons and hawks, wireless communications went through several stages of evolution until reaching the current global connectivity we enjoy. The impact of telecommunications on society has not only been related to enabling voice and data connectivity, but it has also contributed significantly to improving the quality of life and provided individuals with the means to face disasters, and other less significant daily life problems.
Telecommunications For Global Connectivity
The biggest impact telecom has been having on society is dissolving distances to create a connected world. The invention of wireless telegraphy by Marconi in 1901 and the transmission of the first radio signal across the Atlantic Ocean was the first precursor to the current telecommunications era. The work of Claude Shannon in 1948 laid the foundations of current digital communication systems we presently use. The evolution towards the fifth generation of wireless communications, the predominance of Wi-Fi connections, the proliferation of web and mobiles apps have all contribute to make the world as small as the click of a button.
Telecommunications as a Facilitator for Remote Working and Learning
The latest pandemic which has not ended yet, has taught us the importance of telecommunications as a key to survival. What has been seen as an unessential commodity has turned out to be a main method for survival, without which, most industries and businesses would have collapsed. In a period where lockdowns were preponderant, telecommunication systems have constituted the oxygen of the society.
Remote learning has also been an addition to large pool of telecom use cases. With schools closed, the telecom infrastructure replaced the institution’s physical premises. The pandemic coincided with the deployment of 5G networks around the world. Therefore, several uses cases were developed to make use of the latest technology. Blended learning modules, virtual and interactive classrooms activities were developed by exploiting the available technologies provided by telco operators, to fill the gap imposed by the lengthy lockdowns.
As the pandemic eased up a bit, several businesses continued to have remote or hybrid working opportunities as this model proved to reduce operational costs without having to sacrifice the quality of work. In a sense, the presence of solid telecom infrastructure provided businesses with the tools to slowly get out of economic recession.
Telecommunications as an Enabler for Digital Transformation
Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and internet of things (IoT) have been with telecommunications the main pillars of digital transformation which aims at changing the society we live making it “smarter”, and much more driven by continuously generated data. The success of the digitalization process is highly dependent on the quality of the telecommunications infrastructure. As the digitalization and telecom evolve in synergy, the way we complete our daily tasks will be completely disrupted, as the daily activities will be performed digitally, and the interaction will mainly be with machines and computers.
Telecommunications as a Means for Innovation
The biggest contribution of telecommunications for today’s society is innovation, regardless if the innovation is beneficial or not to society. Several innovative solutions are inherent to progress in the telecom field.
The Metaverse is probably the future society we will possibly live in, in the future. This digital world that is attracting investments from different companies trying to own some part of this ecosystem, can certainly not exist without an underlying telecom infrastructure. To this end, telecom operators are the true enablers of the Metaverse. With this project, telecommunications will be indirectly and radically changing the structure of the society.
The other big thing that dominated the last decade is related to this decentralized currency, that envisions a financial paradigm that circumvents the dominating role of banks. With transactions stored on a blockchain which is available to anyone in the network, the telecom industry has provided the society with a new mechanism for financial transactions. Any commodity can now be purchased using cryptocurrencies, without relying on fiat currencies backed by banks.
Telecommunications For Better Health Services
The pandemic has not only emphasized the role of telecommunications as a central element to keep vital sectors alive. It has changed how health services are provisioned. The difficulty for doctors to reach their patients has increased the adoption of telehealth services. When coupled with IoT and wearable solutions that continuously collect patients’ data, telehealth services have provided low-cost means to treat patients, replacing traditional costly hospital visits. The democratization of healthcare in society requires a strong telecom infrastructure needed for the continuous transmission of data. With upcoming telecom evolutions, digital twins will be the next big thing in the healthcare industry.
Negative Impact of Telecommunications on Society
The evolution of telecommunication networks and the increasing reliance of people on the developed services has created a digital society that lacks the necessary physical interactions. Social gatherings and events have had less importance in favor of social media activities and multiplayer gaming platforms. Even if physical events are taking place, attendees are most of the time immersed into their mobile phone. Advances in telecommunications have created a segregated society with newer generations preferring to remain isolated in their digital word, away from their older relatives. Normal family bonds have slowly been transforming into distant digital connections. This trend amplified by the pandemic, illustrates the collateral damage that technological evolution has on the society. No matter how technology and telecom in particular facilitate our daily life, we need to be always ready to pay the price in terms of our interactions with the surroundings.
The currently advanced society is indebted to telecommunications for the evolved state it has reached. The way we complete our daily tasks has been greatly simplified through the use of our communicating devices. The effects of global disasters are also less detrimental with telecom network providing a safety network where businesses and other vital sectors can offload their activities to the digital world to survive. As we gain a lot, we have to pay a price as technology promotes increased isolation and progressively fewer social bonds.
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