Telus CTO: 5G is letting us down

Ibrahim Gedeon of Canada's Telus says there needs to be less focus on speed and more attention paid to real transformation.

Iain Morris, International Editor

May 8, 2019

4 Min Read
Telus CTO: 5G is letting us down

DENVER -- Big 5G Event -- The telecom industry has been crowing about 5G as the most transformational G ever. And yet what did operators do when it finally turned up? Use it to provide faster mobile connections and broadband services.

That's the frank assessment of Ibrahim Gedeon, the amusingly outspoken chief technology officer of Canada's Telus, and he's not at all happy about it. "We just spend more money and don't make more money," he said during a keynote presentation at this morning's Big 5G Event in Denver. "5G is letting us down."

Figure 1: 5G Disappointment Ibrahim Gedeon, the chief technology officer of Canada's Telus, is not happy. Ibrahim Gedeon, the chief technology officer of Canada's Telus, is not happy.

Gedeon clearly isn't a fan of some of the more advanced "use cases" that are typically associated with 5G, either. "Can you please raise your hand if you would like to be one of the first people in the world to have a surgeon operate on you using a reliable network?" he joked. He seems equally unconvinced by talk of 5G-powered autonomous cars. Everyone appears to be doing their own thing, he said, perhaps alluding to some of the recent battles involving carmakers and telecom players over the technologies that will ultimately be used.

So what does Gedeon recommend? In a nutshell, he thinks there should be less focus on the radio side and more on how 5G will affect other parts of the telco network, and specifically the "edge" -- a promised land of opportunity for telcos that has been somewhat overlooked.

At least, it has been overlooked in some critical ways, according to Gedeon. While operators such as Verizon, in the US, and Deutsche Telekom, in Germany, are busy talking about their edge plans and trialing new services, the industry has yet to address some critical edge-related issues. Above all, if the edge means deploying the telco cloud and IT resources at customer premises, such as a sports stadium, then where is what Gedeon calls the "demark?" What does the customer actually own?

"We need to think of the demark. We need to think about APIs and gateways … Everyone talks about cloudifying, but everyone is busy doing EMBB [enhanced mobile broadband] and autonomous vehicles," said Gedeon.

You're invited to attend Light Reading's Big 5G Event! Formerly the Big Communications Event and 5G North America, Big 5G is where telecom's brightest minds deliver the critical insight needed to piece together the 5G puzzle. We'll see you May 6-8 in Denver -- communications service providers get in free!

His other objective is to cut out some of the complexity in telco networks and operations by integrating the edge with the metro network, consolidating planning teams and ditching technologies that are driving up costs. "It is stupid to have two planning teams. Why is a wireline planning design acquisition team different from a wireless planning design acquisition team?" he said.

As for the technologies that do not meet Gedeon's approval, CPRI and E-CPRI are at the top of the list. These already have a bad rap in parts of the industry as semi-proprietary technologies used to support the "fronthaul" connections between radios and baseband processors. They are also an obstacle to simplicity, as far as Gedeon is concerned. "We need by design to think of a single metro. We have got to find a way to kill CPRI and E-CPRI because they will be the death of us. They will keep coming up with unique requirements for wireless networks that will deny us the right to put things on the same fiber-optic grid," he said.

Gedeon's remarks about the edge come just one day after his company announced a partnership with MobiledgeX, a software company owned by Deutsche Telekom (but managed separately) that is developing a middleware platform for third-party applications to run on an operator's edge computing assets.

The Canadian operator has said it will pilot MobiledgeX technology at "key locations" near the edge of its fixed and mobile access networks. That is a boost for the small company, which Deutsche Telekom is positioning as a global standard for middleware in edge computing.

"The idea is just to expose the edge cloud to developer communities in the form of APIs," said Alex Choi, Deutsche Telekom's senior vice president of technology, during a conversation with Light Reading earlier this year.

MobiledgeX is also in trials with South Korea's SK Telecom, where Choi was the chief technology officer before he left to join Deutsche Telekom in 2017.

Related posts:

— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like