By Dan Rodriguez
For years, the future of communications has been steadily marching toward 5G.
Technology is central to every aspect of our lives, and our digital world is driven by four main tech inflections, or what we call “superpowers”: 5G connectivity, cloud, artificial intelligence and the intelligent edge. Maximizing the full potential of these demands flexible, agile and scalable infrastructures, where the hardware and software are optimized in a way that’s never been done before. This means evolving communications networks from fixed-function equipment to virtualized cloud-native deployments, implementing enhanced private network solutions in enterprises, and enabling edge-to-cloud communications that can unleash the full possibilities of our hyperconnected world.
In a recent survey of 511 information technology decision-makers, over 78% said they believe 5G technology is crucial to keep pace with innovation, and nearly 80% said 5G technologies will affect their businesses.
More: Intel’s Silicon, Software Accelerate 5G, Edge (News) | Intel at Mobile World Congress 2021 (Press Kit) | Intel’s Virtual MWC 2021 Event (Event Video) | Powerful New Business Outcomes Unleashed through 5G and Edge Innovation (Event Presentation) | 5 Key Findings on What Businesses Think about 5G (Fact Sheet)
At Intel, we know this interest in 5G and its future benefits will drive new business value with many opportunities. For the past 10 years, Intel has been at the forefront of building the technology foundation for an increasingly digital world. This isn’t by accident.
Build It and They will Come
From 2019 to 2020, our business grew by 20%, from $5 billion to $6 billion. Intel’s position as the leading network silicon provider is the result of our early investments in hardware and software, as well as forging the most proven ecosystem in a way that no other technology provider has done. We have powered the shift to virtualization of the core, where now more than half of all new 2021 core network deployments are virtualized and running on standard off-the-shelf servers, with the majority running on Intel® Xeon® processors.
During times of technological transformation, customers demand flexibility, agility and the ability to scale quickly. No other company offers the flexibility of Intel’s portfolio of CPUs, accelerators, Ethernet adapters, memory, software toolkits and solution blueprints — which together allow for rapid deployment delivered through a proven ecosystem.
The transformation to date reflects a lot of hard work, and it continues at an even faster pace.
Evolving to Keep Pace with Digital Transformation
The next frontier is transforming the access network to usher in the era of the virtualized radio access network (vRAN) delivered through an open ecosystem. This brings cloud-like agility and automation capabilities that can help optimize the RAN performance and ultimately improve the quality of experience for end users.
We’re not taking our foot off the accelerator. In the years ahead, we see global vRAN base station deployments scale, from hundreds to “hundreds of thousands,” and eventually millions. With each deployment, we enable a more agile network that can quickly respond to our digital society. For example, DISH Wireless is building out the first cloud-native 5G network in the United States. The launch in its first city, Las Vegas, is the starting point for a nationwide network that will be deployed on an infrastructure powered by Intel technology.
Though it’s still early days for vRAN, Intel saw this need coming and doubled down with our hardware, FlexRAN software reference architecture and the ecosystem. Already, nearly all commercial vRAN deployments are running on Intel® technology, including providers like Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica. And we are working with other leading global telecommunications companies to support their vRAN trials and deployments.
Powering Life at the Edge
Our digital society is creating data at an unspeakable pace. It is estimated that by 2025, 75% of data will be created at the edge, in factories, hospitals, retail stores and cities, generated outside the data center. Ultra-fast connectivity based on a strong network infrastructure is likely to become even more important, especially for mission-critical applications. Acting quickly on all that data at the edge means that companies can uncover new revenue sources and draw new insights from previously untapped data sources. A great example is EXOR International, which partnered with Intel and TIM to enable an end-to-end smart factory in Verona, Italy, as an example of the benefits of Industry 4.0 digitalization to manufacturers of all sizes.
A host of sectors are looking to implement edge computing capabilities, and a key consideration is the ability for enterprise customers to quickly customize their edge applications. On the software side, we’re making sure developers have what they need to create software more easily for the edge. One solution is Intel® Smart Edge, which includes both a commercial offering and an open source toolkit for the multi-access edge computing layer to more easily migrate, orchestrate and manage workloads across the edge, network and cloud.
A 5G Future Built on Intel
As 5G blooms to meet its full potential alongside edge computing, artificial intelligence, the cloud and smart cities will become the norm; factory automation will flourish with Industry 4.0; and retail locations will redesign the shopping experience. For consumers, cloud gaming and virtual and augmented reality over mobile networks will become an everyday experience.
But it's only possible with networks robust enough to offer reliable, low-latency communications in a flexible and scalable way for today’s needs and tomorrow’s requirements for new AI-based edge services. And that’s why at Intel, our purpose is at the heart of everything we do: to build world-changing technology that improves the life of every human on the planet. And we will continue to help you harness these superpowers to serve the needs of you and your customers.
Dan Rodriguez is corporate vice president and general manager of the Network Platforms Group at Intel Corporation.