At MWC, Cisco Looks to Offer AI-ready Infrastructure for Global Service Providers

This syndicated post originally appeared at Network Computing.

Barcelona is the center of the tech world this week, with the extensive MWC 24 conference drawing an international crowd. On day one of the event, Cisco announced a range of AI-related investments aimed at helping global service providers. I had the chance to hear three Cisco Networking leaders preview this week’s announcement in a briefing. Hosting the briefing were Bill Gartner, SVP/GM of Optical Systems and Optics, Kevin Wollenweber, SVP/GM of Data Center and Provider Connectivity, and Masum Mir, SVP of Provider Mobility

Gartner led off by describing their global service provider community. “We know from many years of experience in this industry that these service providers must continue to provide their customers with great user experiences,” he said. Their priorities are to continue finding ways to grow revenue and do that at lower capex and opex. And we’re helping our customers drive those user experiences, reduce costs, and drive revenues.”

This week’s announcements included the following service provider use cases.

Cisco and TELUS partner in connected cars

The Canadian service provider TELUS and Cisco have joined forces to launch new 5G capabilities to serve IoT use cases, focusing on connected cars. TELUS uses Cisco’s Mobility Service Platform to improve and simplify the driver experience, enabling auto manufacturers to realize new revenue streams. TELUS expects to onboard over 1.5M 5G cars onto the platform over the next several years.

Masum Mir says the company sees connected cars as a global phenomenon. “We’re seeing all the car makers around the world making connected vehicles the default going forward,” he said. “So, by 2028, we believe 90% of the new vehicles will be connected by default. Those connections are mission critical. It’s not only providing infotainment, but the safety of the vehicle and drivers will become paramount. And it needs a reliable network.”

Using partnerships to connect people, places, and things

Cisco announced it’s working with service providers worldwide to help monetize their infrastructure. In collaboration with AT&T, BT, Reliance Jio, stc, XL Axiata, and TELUS, Cisco is looking to support the needs of enterprise customers with better network experiences.

Mir said the company has seen some caution on the part of providers regarding capital investments. “How do we help our service provider customers to get to monetize the massively scalable infrastructure they have put on the ground?” he asked. “How do you find newer revenue streams faster and remove friction to acquire new customers at a much faster rate?”

One of the challenges for Cisco and its peers is that telco spending tends to be very lumpy, often with long delays and canceled upgrades. Despite years of discussion on how service providers must create new revenue streams, most telco modernization efforts have revolved around cost savings. The lack of impact on revenue eliminates the urgency to upgrade infrastructure. What’s needed is a greater focus on innovation to improve topline. On the call, Cisco shared several ways it intends to help.

  • Cisco and DISH have worked on a 5G hybrid cloud network slicing solution that should result in faster launches of new services for enterprises.
  • MKI, Cisco, and KDDI Engineering implemented private 5G to support networking operations at Shinwa Komaki, a top Japanese manufacturing facility.
  • Cisco is working with du Telecom on a Middle East cybersecurity transformation focused on using AI and automation to transform du’s SOC into an advanced Cyber Defense and Intelligence Center.
  • Cisco is collaborating with T-Mobile to build a connected workplace: T-Mobile that unites 5G Business Internet, Cisco Meraki devices, and managed services.

None of these use cases would fall under the category of a “silver bullet” that can be applied to all service providers globally. Rather, they’re examples of what’s possible. The goal would be to create a portfolio of use cases that could be used to highlight different business outcomes.

Bringing the ecosystem together

Cisco is bringing its ecosystem together to develop standards and services. The company shared that it would feature a number of those developments at its booth at MWC, including private 5G and AI-driven vision with NTT DATA, an automated guided vehicle (AGV) with an Airspan radio with Deloitte, a look at the future of IP video and sports with Orange and a partnership with Intel to deliver 5G enabled manufacturing and AI use cases.

Infrastructure has grown in complexity as many more moving parts are delivered from a growing ecosystem. If network services are to solve industry challenges and deliver on business outcomes, a more collaborative approach is required for Cisco and its partners. Bringing the ecosystem together to create standards will spur innovation and create a rising tide for everyone.

Final thoughts

Historically, Cisco’s service provider business has ebbed and flowed depending on where the company was with product cycles. About five years ago, Cisco rolled out Silicon One to bring webscale performance across its portfolio with consistent features. Last year, it hit another major milestone with the release of the Cisco Networking Cloud, which brings all the data from historically disparate products together for simplified management and operations. More importantly, Cisco has been focused on helping its telco customers better utilize their networks to deliver new services that can be monetized. Telco profitability is something the entire ecosystem should care about, as a more profitable telco leads to more spending and faster innovation, and that’s a win for everyone.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.