Podcast: What the FUD? How disruptor telcos are beating Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

The challenge for network operators is “massive” as we transition to 5G, says Rabih Dabboussi, chief revenue officer of Japan-based disruptor Rakuten Symphony. He hopes operators won’t miss the chance to disrupt their thinking, their operating model, and the way they look at revenues. Because for the first time in three decades, he says there’s an alternative to “the old legacy, standardised technology stack and equipment from typical vendors”. Francis Haysom of Appledore Research and VanillaPlus’s Jeremy Cowan take turns to quiz the vendor who’s also a mobile operator.

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Jeremy Cowan  00:04

Hi and Welcome to the latest Trending Tech Podcast. My name is Jeremy Cowan, I’m co-founder of the telecoms and technology sites, VanillaPlus.com, IoT-Now.com and TheEE.ai which covers artificial intelligence for The Evolving Enterprise. Together, these websites are our podcast sponsors.

First, I want to thank you for joining today’s sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted look at digital transformation for enterprises.

Okay, if you’re anything like me, the name Rakuten Symphony probably brings to mind disruptive technology. Disruptive that is for anyone who’s managing telecom services in the traditional way. Rakuten Group’s Symphony brand has been a disruptor in digital business transformation for telcos since 2020. And our telecom site VanillaPlus.com, has been reporting on Rakuten Mobile and later Symphony for years.

Now, we all know that communication service providers, or CSPs, have never been more in demand than they are today, particularly for mobile services. Yet the irony is that they’ve never been under greater cost pressures, as demand for new networks and services has risen with 4G, 5G, fibre and Internet of Things (IoT) networks. Frankly, who’d be a service provider in this scenario? Well, one analyst firm that we quoted on VanillaPlus.com only yesterday, forecasts that CSPs’ monthly average revenue per user, or ARPU, across both mobile and fixed broadband is actually set to fall in the next five years by 4.2%. And this revenue fall comes despite the fact that telcos need to spend a fortune on new 5G and all-fibre networks. One of our columnists, Tony Savvas, compared it to communication service providers being in a permanently spinning hamster wheel. Telcos are trying to address the demand for ever-increasing connectivity speeds, but never see a margin-busting return for their efforts.

So, to help us unpick this problem, we have two expert guests on the Trending Tech Podcast. First, I’m delighted to welcome back a long-standing friend of VanillaPlus.com, Francis Haysom, Partner and Principal Analyst at Appledore Research. Francis, it’s good to have you here.

Francis Haysom  02:43

Okay, thank you, Jeremy. I’m looking forward to the discussion today.

Jeremy Cowan  02:47

And our other guest is Rabih Dabboussi, Chief Revenue Officer of Rakuten Symphony. It’s his job to realise the company’s dream of cloud-native, virtualised, open, agile and cost-effective 5G networks. Rabih, a warm welcome to the Trending Tech Podcast.

Rabih Dabboussi  03:07

And the dream is no dream anymore. Thank you very much, Jeremy. It’s great to be here.

Jeremy Cowan  03:12

Francis, are you in the UK at the moment?

Francis Haysom  03:14

Yeah, definitely in the UK and it’s fairly sunny at the moment. I’m trying to keep my eyes away from the economic catastrophe that’s going on around us at the moment. 

Jeremy Cowan  03:23

It’s best to avert your gaze I find. And Rabih, where are you speaking to us from?

Rabih Dabboussi  03:28

I am in Tokyo. 

Jeremy Cowan  03:30

Ah well, it’s great to have you. 

Rabih Dabboussi  03:31

Thank you.

Jeremy Cowan  03:32

Well, before we unravel the challenge for CSPs, we’ll take a look at two serious tech news stories that Francis and Rabih have found. And finally, when we’ve covered digital transformation, it’ll be time for a bit of light relief in our closing section called What The Tech! Here we’ll examine a couple of stories that amused or amazed us. Francis, I think you spotted something relevant to today’s discussion. I think it was in several news sources, tell us what you found.

Francis Haysom  04:03

Yeah, well, you briefly mentioned this declining ARPU, really that 5G isn’t making this huge change in the profitability or the revenue for telco. In fact, it’s still declining. And not just 5G, but also fibre, which points to a major issue, which is that you’ve got this huge investment in both fixed and mobile technology, and yet the revenue from it is not picking up as a result of it. And that we’ve got a challenge. I think a number of things obviously come from that one. I hope one of the challenges is actually we’re a very traditional industry, a bit like an oil tanker needing to change, and maybe you know, when it comes to the real facts in the money area, that that becomes an impetus to change what we do and the behaviour that we’re doing in that area. 
 The other thing I think it points to is this general thing is that really, we’ve only really had one product to date, which is basically connectivity. If you really look underneath the bonnet in 5G, for example, all the new use cases are not that kind of consumer areas. So really that thinking of telcos thinking about different ways in which they can expose what they do, not just at the macro level but much more at the micro level, be it things like geolocation, or making predictions about how people move around, for example, just thinking outside the box of connectivity. And I think at the end of the day, it also comes down to the key things of operational efficiency, that just getting rid of the overhead can be a major issue, and better ways and more flexible ways of monetisation beyond just either the Minutes, or the All You Can Eat plan. And just a final thing; I think we just have to recognise that the clock is ticking on this thing, telcos have a limited time to make this transition.

Jeremy Cowan  06:17

Yeah, true. So, consumers are spending no more on 5G than they do on 4G. I mean, were the markets implicitly expecting a significant uptick from 4G to 5G revenues?

Francis Haysom  06:31

I mean, this is my personal opinion, I think the markets weren’t, in all honesty. If you look at the share price of a telco versus, say, for example, a tech firm, they’ve been in the doldrums for a long, long, long time. We did some analysis on the US companies, it’s not in the right place for the technology. So I think the market still really has the telcos in that kind of utility position. I think this is more of a wake-up call to the telco who, to some extent, have bought into the idea that yes, these new revenue streams are coming because it’s a new technology.

Jeremy Cowan  07:14

Rabih, I’m gonna stick my neck out here and say, I’m guessing this doesn’t come as a total surprise to you. What are your thoughts on it?

Rabih Dabboussi  07:22

Definitely not, Jeremy, I’ve been in this industry close to three decades. And I have to tell you, these questions have been debated in the early days of 2.5G and GPRS. All the way through what we see now. We think about this issue and this problem in the industry slightly differently, we believe that in the future connectivity is going to become a human right for everyone. And along those bits, you know, I want to reference some of the key things that have happened over the last couple of months in leveraging satellite technology to provide ubiquitous coverage for the unconnected, and we can talk about that a little bit. But to come back to the ARPU, if you look historically, over the last two and a half decades, the ARPU has been on a decline year-on-year in all countries, in all regions. And our thinking about this and our own mobile network is connectivity is going to drop somewhere near free for everyone and becomes a human right, and just the basic kind of infrastructure, right? 
 Where operators should focus is deploying networks in a new way and operating it in a new way where the cost structure becomes the least in their industry so they can compete better on their costs. Let’s call this your bottom line. And then increase the revenue stream, through use cases and experiences, because consumers today are not willing to pay a premium just to connect to data. They have so many alternatives. They could drop down to LTE, if you give them an extra charge for 5G. They’re looking for richer, more immersive, more valuable experiences. And we’ve seen this in 4G and the early deployment of LTE; everybody was saying, ‘Hey, okay, I get more bandwidth. So what, but my network costs billions of dollars. So, what did I do this?’ And then lo and behold, in a couple of years after that, you have devices, you have tools, you have services, you have experiences that became available for you through that LTE capability that allowed new revenue streams. Unfortunately, many over-the-top service providers took extreme adverse advantage of that. And because of the legacy thinking and the legacy model of mobile operators, I think many of them missed out on the opportunity. I hope that as we transition now into 5G, we, we are not going to see many operators miss out on the opportunity to really disrupt their thinking, their operating model, and the way they look at the revenues, and where they come from in a completely different way.

Jeremy Cowan  10:27

Interesting. Rabih, what’s caught your eye in the serious end of the newsfeed?

Rabih Dabboussi  10:32

Yeah, so the reason I mentioned connecting the unconnected, there is two pieces of news that have come about in the last couple of months. Two have really interesting initiatives and objectives. The first one is what was announced between Starlink and the program with T-Mobile in the US, but obviously Starlink, as they launched their program with SpaceX. They will start providing services directly out of space and connectivity directly out of space. Today, there is close to 3 billion people on this planet that are not connected by neither a fixed nor a mobile network. And I think there is a real demand. Now unfortunately, those 3 billion people end up being in the kind of a tranche of customers that are not high paying customers. And therefore, they’re not being addressed for many reasons, including the fact that they are so remote that you cannot reach them. This news came out in August. 
 The second piece of news was the successful launch of AST’s Space mobile program, which we are very, very heavily involved in. And that happened on September 3rd, and we will be one of the first mobile operators in Japan that will leverage a native LTE signal coming directly from low orbit satellites. To reach the consumers’ and the subscribers’ mobile device, you will not need a satellite device to communicate through the satellite signal. And when that happens, which is supposed to be later on in the next few months, when that happens, you’ll have now the ability to actually communicate through satellite and provide 100% coverage over a landmass. So, this is two examples of significant news that are happening in the industry right now.

Jeremy Cowan  12:43

Indeed. Of course, in the first case, that’s text only isn’t it, SMS and MMS? Is that the same with AST?

Rabih Dabboussi  12:53

No, with AST we will actually have native band three signal transmitted over Japan, covering the whole landmass of Japan, which will give us Rakuten Mobile coverage across all of Japan, 100% of it. And this will include voice as well.

Jeremy Cowan  13:14

Francis, what do you make of this?

Francis Haysom  13:16

I think it’s very interesting. I’d say the Starling one is definitely at this stage SMS and MMS, but also the over-the-top text apps as well. It’s interesting and coming back, actually, to Rabih’s comment about the unconnected, I think thatthe way that you start thinking about the unconnected is that we think about sort of streaming cat videos in high definitionin Europe and the US. But actuallyif we think back to actually some of the great leaps that mobile technology made, a lot of them were very simple text apps. It was the Indian farmer who could predict what the price in the market was going to be before he moved his animals or his grain to the market. So, I think in many ways, we almost need to step back to that kind of level that text and SMS connectivity can be totally transformational. So I think it’s to Rabih’s point, it’s an important story there, this ubiquitous coverage where you’ve never had it before.

Jeremy Cowan  13:53

Well, we’ll put the links to the stories, wherever we have them, into the podcast transcript (https://www.t-mobile.com/news/un-carrier/t-mobile-takes-coverage-above-and-beyond-with-spacex ), in case anyone wants to follow up on this.

All of which brings us to the heart of the podcast where telecom operators are trying, as we said, to keep pace with rising expectations from customers, and stakeholders. If you’re a network operator, you’ll already know the huge financial burden that comes with building out and operating complex, large scale infrastructure. If not, buckle up for the next few minutes, because thankfully, there are new technologies and new strategies that now make it possible to create that new kind of operator; operators like Rakuten Mobile in Japan, 1&1 in Germany, Dish in the US. They have turned to Symphony in the hope of getting new benchmarks for speed, agility, operating efficiency, quality, security, customer experience, I’m sure I could go on. 

 Rabih, Francis is going to drill into more detail in a second. But can you do me a favour here for all of us? Can you set the scene for anyone who doesn’t already know; just how big is the challenge facing the network operators you work with?

Rabih Dabboussi  15:06

The challenge is quite massive. On one hand, they have a huge task that keeps them busy day in and day out 24 by seven, which is continuing to manage and operate their network and continue to manage the business along with it. And at the same time, they have to deal with these waves of additional tasks that they need to go through. And there’s major waves that come through every about 10 years, which is moving to a new generation of radio network. And every new generation comes with its own new complexities, its own new protocols. So, it’s as if you’re going back to the university, again, every 10 years, you go and get a degree in 4G, you go and get a degree in 5G. And now this is happening and 5G, but it’s happening even at an exponential level of complexity, because for the first time in the last three decades, you have an opportunity to have an alternative to the old legacy, standardised technology stack and equipment that is coming from the typical vendors that we know of. 
 So, there’s currently in addition to ‘Okay, I need to now design and plan for 5G, I need to put together you know, the right timeline, the right phasing of this rollout, and the right monetisation of it’. I need to also make a decision about the alternative. And in order for me to make a decision for that alternative, I have to educate myself first, and my team, and the whole organisation that there is something out there that can help me build a 5G network, introduce the new services without being locked in to one specific vendor and leveraging the new tech such as commodity hardware, cloud native architectures, software-centric applications and reducing the cost of the radio access network, which is always the highest cost in rolling out new mobile networks. And introducing the new services that could be enabled by 5G, which brings two main advantages over the previous generations. The first one is ultra-high capacity 5G promises hundreds of megabits per seconds, theoretically gigabits per second, and ultra-low latency. So, now you can do things that could not be done in the past, because the responsiveness of that network is so fast that you could introduce applications that could not be introduced on your previous generation, whether it’s 3G or 4G.

Francis Haysom  17:46

So Rabih, you have an extensive background with cybersecurity. Can you talk a little bit more about how you’re seeing the discussion and approaches to security evolving in the telco space?

Rabih Dabboussi  17:59

Of course. Yes, Francis. I mean, look, this is a really sensitive topic and I want to make it unsensitive. Because the best thing to talk about these major concerns in the industry is through openness and collaboration. And we believe that there may have been some confusion around exactly what is being messaged around security. But let’s talk about the principles of cybersecurity in the new 5G networks. And for the sake of time and for the sake of the debate and dialogue around this topic, I will park the standard on the RF side, and its security parameters and its security implementation out of this discussion. And I believe there has been significant improvement over the generations as we move as we move from 2G, 3G, 4G, and now 5G on the RF side and how we secure the radio signal. And that is defined by 3GPP, obviously, so all the radio vendors and all user equipment vendors will have to comply on both sides. 
 What I want to talk about is, is Open RAN secure, is it resilient? Is cloud secure? And is it resilient? And these are the questions that I typically get asked every single time I speak with a mobile operator. And let’s be honest with ourselves, you wouldn’t expect a CTO and a CXO and a mobile operator to go and be an expert in this space, because their job is really to make sure they manage and design and implement and operate their network. And that’s a full time job. So, the way I respond to that is, let’s look at the bigger picture. What happens in O-RAN, in Open RAN, is you moved away from a monolithic system to a completely diversified system that is based on multiple collaborators into the space and these companies, typically, are innovative companies that have come and implemented new tech, and deployed it on commodity hardware using virtualisation and cloud to leverage the cost benefits and the economies of scale. 
 The second basis is, there is no digital system out there that is that could be 100% bulletproof from any potential attack and any compromise, there is no such thing. If there is such thing, just show it to me. And you know, let’s see if we can if we can learn from that. So I would say every digital system has potential vulnerabilities, potential attack vectors and compromises. And therefore, they should be looked at in different ways. So is O-RAN more secure than legacy, is legacy more secure than O-RAN? That should not be the question, the question should be, what are the key vulnerabilities? And how can I build a resilient environment around those vulnerabilities so that, first of all, I detect, prevent, and respond to an attack. And second, I recover. And that’s why it’s resiliency, right? The most important thing is I recover quickly enough. And I am now more resilient than I was before so that I don’t get attacked by the same attack vector again. 
 And these debates are not taking place. What is taking place is claims that simply because you move now to an open system, you use an open commodity-based hardware within a cloud operating system and a cloud automation tool and a lot of open source available in the operational stack. Now you are vulnerable, because there is a lot of vulnerabilities in those systems. Well, well, yes. But at the same time, you have 10s of 1000s of engineers in this communities of different open source communities or the Open RAN ecosystem, that are developing tools and techniques to prevent and defend and harness and secure and harden the systems. Equally, you would say a legacy, a proprietary system is more secure, simply because only one company develops it? Well, yes, but there is a flip coin to that; when somebody discovers a vulnerability for it, and we have so many examples of those, and when you do get hit by an attack, the only saviour that you can find is the actual company that built the product. And I’ve been in situations like this, and I won’t mention names but I’ve been in situations and during my time in previous roles, where a customer would call me up in the middle of the night and say, ‘Hey, Rabih, my network is down and I really need to just bring it up. What can you do to help me? And in some cases, actually I have an example and you know, honest to God on this, I was somewhere in a completely different region and different timezone. The customer calls me up and says, ‘You know what, I’ve got an outage and I need your help and I am unable to reach my supplier because they are in Las Vegas on a sales conference and Everybody is in Las Vegas partying and I’m not getting a response. 
 So look, in general, what I believe is the question of security needs to be a more carefully discussed question. And the principles still remain. And last but not least, I would raise one question back to the industry. If cloud is not secure enough for Open RAN to be deployed on it, why is it secure enough for airlines, banks, transportation, governments, oil and gas, our personal use? Every single vertical, every single domain is using cloud. But when it comes to the radio access network that is supplied by a handful of vendors, ‘Thou shalt not use cloud because it’s not secure’. Well, is your core deployed on cloud and a virtualised environment? In most cases, the answer is yes. Is your IT system, is your email system, is your OSS, is your BSS? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. ‘Thou shall not deploy on cloud when it comes to O-RAN’. I wonder why 60 to 70% of the spend in telco takes place in RAN with a handful of vendors. So now that brings me to the question, is it really a big topic for debate or is it just FUD? Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt? 

Francis Haysom  25:05

We’ve been following Rakuten for a number of years with Appledore Research. And our opinion is that what makes Rakuten different is your focus on business needs rather than technical standards. Is that a fair statement? And do you think that’s an important part of, going back to our previous question, successful transformation in traditional CSPs?

Rabih Dabboussi  25:34

Yeah, I mean, look, our DNA is totally different. We come from, as a company, I spent all my life in telco. But we come as a company from a different DNA, different background, we come from a digital innovator that has, you know, introduced e-commerce to Japan, and became a global multinational successful player in 70-odd, distinct businesses. But what is so common among all of our businesses is they’re all digital facing businesses. We don’t have traditional legacy businesses. And our entry into the telco space started as an MVNO. But then very quickly, our chairman and CEO said, ‘You know, in order for me to make money and own my own destiny in this space, I have to manage and own my own network’. And thus, in 2018, we made the decision, 2019 we started the rollout. And then April 2020, launch of 4G and September of 2020, launch of 5G. So, if you think about it, I guess your statement is correct to a certain degree. I mean, obviously, Francis, we’re now a mobile operator. So, we are compliant with three GPP standards, we have to be with the government, right, with the local regulators, the global standards, the community standards, GSMA, and so on for roaming and all those great things, but at the same time, we are pragmatic business people. And when we started exploring the cost of building a 4G, 5G network, we were like, we scratched our head and thought this is just astronomical. There is no way we’re going to spend that amount of money. Is there an alternative to do it now? In 2018, the alternative wasn’t mature enough. And therefore, yes, we did not. We were not quote, unquote, compliant. But now the whole industry is moving in that direction. And we were spearheading the movement of O-RAN and now O-RAN is becoming more mainstream. 
 So, because we were pragmatic, we said, ‘You know what, let’s do it. Let’s move into that area. Because we believe in democratisation, we believe in no dependency on one single vendor and one single source. And we believe in openness at the end of the day’. And it made perfect sense for us, for our network. And lo and behold, the most recent third-party benchmarking on open signal comparing O-RAN in Tokyo, our network and Tokyo to so many different markets and cities around the world, it is not just really standing up to the others, it is up there in the Top 10, Top six percentile, which is amazing in less than two years of operations. So, if it does make sense for us, and if it’s not among the mainstream of technologies, but it’s something disruptive and innovative, we make a conscious pragmatic decision and go after it. We’re not restricted to the legacy thinking. And this is the mindset shift and change that I was alluding to earlier, Francis.

Francis Haysom  28:46

Rabih, automation seems to be at the centre of everything that Rakuten Symphony is doing – almost a defined goal for Rakuten Symphony. How is that changing your conversation with operators? And could you kind of kind of characterise what you see is the difference in your approach versus what a lot of telcos are doing at the moment, which is kind of mechanisation of what they do.

Rabih Dabboussi  29:12

Yeah. Thank you, Francis. So, I have a lot of discussion around automation in general with industry players, and mainly MNOs. In a nutshell, the way we think of automation, and orchestration, and the way we automate, enable the network to, first of all, heal itself, scale itself, manage itself and operate itself. And this is a grandiose vision, by the way, nobody could achieve that today. But I think we’ve made really good headway into that direction. And it’s good to have such a bold vision. I’ll reference that in quantitative ways. So, we currently have over 51,000 macro radio stations or macro sites in Japan. And that continues to increase every single day, we launch new sites, and total radio emitting devices, or base stations is near 300,000. So, it’s not a small network by any means. 
 Now, the team that operates the network around the clock, 24 by seven is no more than 250 to 300 people. And that is one quantitative measure that I want the listeners to pay attention to. Because in traditional sense, in traditional ways, you would need thousands of people to manage and operate that network. And I think the MNOs that come from this legacy environment would understand that. The second thing is, Francis, now with the advanced technologies that we’re deploying, most importantly, cloud automation and cloud orchestration, designing software in a true cloud-native architecture that is a microservice-based approach, that abstracts the underlying enablers of data connectivity, data lake, database systems, etc. Abstract that from the application to make it thin, agile, easy to deploy, easy to spin up in a virtual machine or a container, easy to shift from one server to the other from one data centre to the other. These dynamics are unheard of, in the legacy environment. Now in the enterprise space and the public cloud domain. We see this magic happening every day. You have no idea where your iCloud sits. If you want to find out you could call Apple and ask them, they probably don’t know. Because this is the beauty of cloud, cloud is an aggregate and a pooling of compute, network memory and storage that becomes available as a commodity so that it can be consumed in smaller units. It could be democratised so that communities use the same common infrastructure. Now, you have to make it secure, and you have to do all of that around it. But this is magic! Now, that Magic hasn’t made it into the telco space. And now as we do this, and we start thinking about the possibilities of shifting workloads, the baseband units used to be a monolithic system sitting at the base of a cell site. Now it is nothing but a mere software that is sitting on some server in a nearby closet, dark room. And let’s say that dark room gets knocked out, you could shift that to another dark room in a different location. 
 Now, in the past, it would take you days, potentially weeks, depending on which country we’re talking about, to make that shift. Today, it takes us minutes. And in the future, it should take us seconds. And we know the formula for that, it’s not like we’re speaking out of you know, just nowhere, out of vapour. These are examples that can be looked at, and I believe this is where the excitement and the light bulb starts coming on. And people people’s little flicker in their eyes go like, ‘Are you serious? I can really do this, the network can auto scale out and become higher capacity, or scale in and become lower capacity?’ It could auto heal in case of failure and disruption or attacks. It could auto operate eventually, if we put more AI (artificial intelligence) into it, it could auto design. In fact, we have some early measures and early early signs of you know, in the RF planning and optimisation, this is an ongoing test that is typically done by humans and machines. So you have to have the tools, but you have to have the RF engineers that have you know, a lot, a lot more hair than I do. And most of it is usually grey. And you know, as they do this RF optimisation and RF planning, it is a combination of the two coming together. 
 There is the possibility now of doing RAN optimisation RF planning in a near 100% automated way. We’re not there yet 100%. But we’re near, so we invite a lot of the potential customers and the industry players to come and visit us and see first-hand. And I always thought with this, Frances and Jeremy, I always when I’m talking about this topic, specifically I show first, and then I talk about it. And that is really a great advantage that we have; not only we’re providing the whole lifecycle of managing a mobile network, the platform that helps you manage that whole lifecycle of your network, but also we’re providing the tech stack. And we are a mobile operator ourselves in our domestic market. So, it’s not like we’re talking about it from theory and books and ideas and PowerPoint slides. We live this day in and day out as a mobile operator.

Jeremy Cowan  35:12

Rabih, Tareq Amin, the CEO of both Rakuten Mobile and Symphony, is on record as saying he wants to take the telco cloud solution to operators to governments and enterprises, right around the world. And you’ve done a deal now with MTN in Africa. Can you just briefly give us an overview of what the particular challenges are here?

Rabih Dabboussi  35:35

Yeah, so, in general, we haven’t done a deal with MTN South Africa, we announced that we are signing a memorandum of understanding. And we did that back in Mobile World Congress to conduct O-RAN proof of concepts and trials across numerous properties in Africa. And these activities are progressing and they have been progressing. Hopefully, in due time, we can announce more great things. But yes, we are, Jeremy, if you recall, back in March of 2022, we announced the acquisition of Robin.io, which is a US-based, small cloud innovator. Now, historically, we had deployed Robin.io in our network in Japan and have seen the tech and really understood it. And that’s why we made that decision. And now we’re doing the same for our clients globally, and that is going to be our default, telco cloud stack that we will use, especially when it comes to the RAN. 
Now, this telco cloud technology is also applicable to enterprise, it could be applicable to industries and other verticals. And we are starting to see the interest in the enterprise side of things and other industries as well. So, we believe this is a very important area. The second piece is the operating system, we believe in openness and communities and open source. Tareq has spoken very openly about this, and we are engaged in very serious and meaningful ways with our existing clients to also evaluate alternatives that, you know, basically continue this legacy spirit of keeping at least a highly capable, effective high performance operating system, whether it’s a Linux operating system or a Kubernetes stack, that is always available for anybody free of charge, and supported and tested and validated by the community and potentially supported through small companies that will benefit from that as well. So, we’re strong behind those kinds of principles and that mission, Jeremy.

Jeremy Cowan  38:08

Okay. Rabih, thank you for that. We’ve reached the What the Tech section of the pod where we can unwind for a moment and see what in the world of tech has amazed or amused us lately. Rabih, I’m going to ask you to go first. What have you seen?

Rabih Dabboussi  38:23

Oh, just recently the discussion with the headlines around Metaverse with Mark Zuckerberg. I won’t get into the details but I think somebody said, will Mark Zuckerberg find themselves on virtual legs with metaverse. And I believe I found Mark Zuckerberg, real physical legs. And I’m going to call that the edge cloud. (Laughter) And I think that’s going to be what’s going to make Metaverse and other new, very, very rich and very demanding experiences a reality by deploying edge compute storage and network, and bringing the network closer and closer to the users. 

Jeremy Cowan  39:15

Yeah, yeah. I recently wrote a piece for Issue 5 of VanillaPlus.com magazine. From conversations I had, it became clear that the metaverse is evolving pretty fast. But I must say one of the things that interested me was that discussions on it used to focus mainly on the gaming industry. And now, today, everyone’s talking about collaborative work within enterprises and small to medium businesses. I did not anticipate that, so that was my amazement when I started doing some research into this.

Rabih Dabboussi  39:47

I mean, if you think if you think about it, you’ve got your ultra-high bandwidth, ultra-low latency – bring them to the edge, the closer they are to your customer, the more enriched the experiences are going to be. Metaverse is just one use case. 

Francis Haysom  40:01

Jeremy, I think it’s one of those classic things, which is the opportunity is often overestimated in the short term, versus actually what happens in the long term. I think the most interesting thing you hinted at that it was all about gaming, but now it’s about enterprise. I think that the challenges that the metaverse face is that that kind of gaming world is a kind of social network; the issue with the enterprise is it’s not one single thing. It’s lots of different things. And I guess it’s a bit like 5G almost; meta is having to face the same thing. It’s not a single thing that it’s been used to developing, it’s lots of things, lots of variants, and almost definitely in partnership with everything rather than owning everything. So, an interesting sort of correlation between the two areas.

Jeremy Cowan  40:57

Thanks for that, Rabih, and thanks, Francis. Francis, you had a story I think of your own to offer.

Francis Haysom  41:05

I had, the one I was going to point out, which I thought was a lovely of technical consequences or not foreseen was the lovely story about the lady with the new iPhone 14, who initiated the crash detection feature on her phone, which is obviously for car crashes. But actually she was on a big dipper in a in amusement park at the time on her own. (Laughter) It’s a lovely sort of case of unforeseen consequences. And maybe here’s the serious point about it, it’s a great one in which context is everything. And actually the telco has that context, the iPhone on its own doesn’t know that it’s on a big dipper. The telco knows it’s in an amusement arcade, and it’s not in a car and all that kind of context. So, maybe an opportunity in there, one is to make the crash detection better.

I think the final one, which actually only occurred to me last night, and I think it’s both funny but also it’s kind of a wake-up call to the industry, was I was watching a historical mockumentary on the BBC Netflix last night, talking about the history of the Dark Ages in Europe. And this quote came out of nothing which said the dark ages delayed the rollout of 5G by centuries. (Laughter) He just cracked me up But if somebody is talking about 5G rollout in a mockumentary the industry really needs to wake up as to its messaging and how it’s achieving 5G rollout.

Jeremy Cowan  42:51

Love it. It’s been great chatting with you both. So, let me say a big thank you, first to Rabih Dabboussi of Rakuten Symphony. Thanks, Rabih. 

Rabih Dabboussi 42:58 

Thank you very much, Jeremy. It was a pleasure.

Jeremy Cowan  43:01

And how can people reach you for more information? 

Rabih Dabboussi  43:04

We’ve got the website and I’m on LinkedIn and Rabih Dabboussi, there’s only one. (Laughter)

Jeremy Cowan  43:11

And our thanks also to Francis Haysom. It’s been a pleasure as always to have you with us Francis. 

Francis Haysom  43:17

Thank you, Jeremy. It’s been a great conversation. 

Jeremy Cowan  43:19

And where should listeners find you if they want to? 

Francis Haysom  43:21

Obviously the website, Appledoreresearch.com. And I can be got on LinkedIn through Francis Haysom.

Jeremy Cowan  43:29

Great. And thank you too, to our amazing audience all around the world. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to the Trending Tech Podcast wherever you found us today. So, until the next podcast, keep safe, keep checking IoT-Now.com, TheEE.ai and VanillaPlus.com where you’ll find more tech news, plus videos, top level interviews, event reviews and much, much more. And join us again soon for another Trending Tech Podcast looking at enterprise digital transformations. Bye for now! 

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