Fancy technologies such as autonomous cars and the Internet of Things (IoT) are going to give the telecom network a new look, according to Ed Chan.
That means changing not only the mobile network, but also the fiber network and the way we think about the cloud, the Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) senior vice president said during his keynote at the Big Communications Event in May.
For example, the downloading of information won't be the network's main priority. The fiber network, in particular, is going to need fatter upload pipes -- a symmetric network, ideally, Chan said -- but even that won't be enough. "It needs to now be interacting with the information in the physical world," he said.
Those interactions will have to be nearly real-time, which is why mobile edge computing (MEC) is being discussed so heavily. In-vehicle sensors, for instance, will gather information that needs to be acted upon immediately; there won't be time to shunt sensor information to the cloud. MEC is about packing the edge with computing power, like "making the cloud as if it's in your back pocket," Chan said.
For the mobile network, carriers will have to exploit new bands of the spectrum, he said. The benefits go beyond just having more bandwidth. Higher-band spectrum means smaller antennas, for instance.
"That tells you that you have the ability to put a whole bunch of antennas together and provide a true massive MIMO experience," he said. That's leading to millimeter-wave spectrum being applied to mobile networks rather than just point-to-point links.
Verizon hopes to acquire some of that spectrum with the $3.1 billion purchase of Straight Path Communications Inc. , announced in May. That deal is subject to a nine-month FCC review. The FCC is also planning to auction more millimeter-wave spectrum but hasn't indicated when that might happen. (See Verizon Buys Straight Path for $3.1B, Beating AT&T to 5G Spectrum and Ready, Set, Go! FCC Votes for First 5G Spectrum.)
All these changes do imply a change to the definition of a service provider, Chan told Light Reading after his keynote.
"Software gives us this capability to actually play in a different space than the connectivity space for the consumer and the enterprise," he said. Verizon is trying to move in that direction with last year's acquisitions of LQD and Sensity. (See Verizon Buys Smart City Kiosk Player and Verizon's Sensity Buy Brightens IoT Strategy.)
But becoming a software player is a complicated process, partly because it thrusts service providers into new ways of thinking. One helpful mode might be to resist the temptation to standardize everything, Chan said.
After all, that's how Silicon Valley came about, he said -- by prizing innovation. "You didn't do this phase of 'Let's talk about standards forever.' You'd go and actually challenge the status quo and create new things by doing."
For more coverage of BCE 2017, including keynote videos and Light Reading interviews, click here.
— Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading