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Inspiring telco operators to thrive through and beyond the pandemic

Real Talk

Nokia held its inaugural Real Talk 2020 event on Tuesday, 10 November. Hackers, futurists, technologists and other experts shared their views on what Communication Service Providers’ (CSPs) customers want and need to move through and beyond the pandemic.

Nokia President and CEO Pekka Lundmark kicked off session one, sharing some key insights. Had the pandemic hit two decades ago, a maximum of 0.2 percent of the labor force would have been able to work remotely compared to ten percent who did so during this year’s pandemic. CSPs added a year’s worth of additional bandwidth demand in the space of weeks, saving up to 300 million jobs and safeguarding eight trillion dollars in global GDP. Connectivity also enabled 100 million schoolchildren and 200 million university students to carry on learning online. “COVID, the risk of a downturn, and general unpredictability around the world have shown us that we cannot just go on expecting business as usual. I want Nokia to tell a more ambitious story of how our CSP partners can scale performance, unlock business potential, and build a better world,” he said.

Following Pekka’s introduction, Nokia President of Mobile Networks, Tommy Uitto talked on scaling performance and resilience. The transition to 5G brings a new world of possibilities including industrial automation, remote medicine, cloud gaming and wireless robotics. These new services all demand extreme performance from the network in terms of throughput, latency and of course, security. Keren Elazari, “friendly hacker” and Cyber Security Analyst, shared the hacker mindset and how 5G and IoT are changing the threat landscape. “I think 5G is going to be a major part of many other technology mega-trends. It's one trend, but when you bring it together with IoT devices, with sensors everywhere, with autonomous vehicles and with a lot of other trends that are actually converging right now, the security of the 5G configuration and the devices, the technology that's in, it is going to be key. It's going to be really crucial.”

Type ‘most connected’ into Google and you’ll find Chris Dancy, the world’s most connected person. Chris tracks every digital interaction and believes we are headed toward a world full of wisdom and not division because of connectivity. “Where 4G allowed you to walk in and buy a cup of coffee from your mobile phone, 5G will allow you to think about and explore where that coffee came from, what type of life the farmer leads. You'll be able to make better decisions but there's a bigger thing we need to start to talk about. And that's this idea that we are all fundamentally changing and we're changing because of our relationship with technology.”

Session two focused on how CSPs can launch and monetize new services and business models that these technologies enable. Catherine Henry is Global Innovation Officer at Palpable Media and an expert on Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and XR integration. She highlighted the possibility of CSPs offering Virtual Reality as a Service to help enterprises capitalize on this new technology and consumers to get the experience they want from it. Brian Solis, Digital Anthropologist and Futurist, challenged CSPs “to imagine what tomorrow looks like, but build for it today”. He noted customer experiences for both businesses and consumers are incredible differentiators and provide competitive advantages. “People on the buy side, whether that's your business customer or that's your consumer, they just need a little help in seeing what they need, but don't know they need. And once they have it, they can't live without it.” Accenture’s 5G lead and author of The Future Home, Jefferson Wang, wrapped up the session by explaining the key factors that make up the smart home and how CSPs can help orchestrate the smart homes of the future.

The final session looked at the ways technology can have a sustainable impact and be digitally inclusive. Nokia’s CTO Marcus Weldon said: “Solving the future value equation will allow us to build intelligent, mission critical, infrastructures.” He pointed out that up until now in the internet age, the economic imperative to increase human productivity has not been achieved and added: “We need to digitize the physical world to increase human productivity and realize the full potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Those who've made the early investments typically now become massively successful”. Demand for home broadband skyrocketed during the pandemic. Sandy Motley, President of Fixed Networks told Real Talk said: “Broadband has given many of us a degree of continuity in our lives. We owe the unconnected and the underserved the same opportunity.”

Futurists Cathy Hackl and Elina Hiltunen joined Nokia’s Leslie Shannon for a panel discussion about how to spot the acorns which will turn into mighty oak trees. The energetic discussion went from merging humans and technology to the more prosaic need to be more careful with the planet. Hiltunen said: “We need to emphasize more on the circular economy. To make more out of little stuff…that is something that every company, no matter in what industry they are, but every company has to go to that direction.”

CEO and Chief Economist at Macronomics Graeme Leach agreed with Marcus that the world is on the cusp of a transformational acceleration in productivity growth. He told the event 5G is what he calls a general-purpose technology and it is these that change the curve. “At this point, I think this is precisely the wrong time in history to be looking at the road ahead through the rear-view mirror”. The session closed with Telenor Group CTO Ruza Sabanovic saying: “We strongly believe that our purpose of existence, connecting you to what matters most - empowering societies, stands much stronger than ever before”.