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5G is a critical currency

Real Conversations podcast | S5 E6 | March 23, 2023


Mishka Dehgan


Mishka Dehghan is Senior Vice President, Strategy, Product, & Solutions Engineering for T-Mobile for Business. In her role, Mishka is instrumental in helping define the strategic path for T-Mobile for Business to bring forward next-gen propositions to the market that meet the unique needs of the business segment in the new 5G era and poise T-Mobile for Business for growth at scale. She is focused on innovation and execution across commercial models and technology solutions.

Any innovative technological solution requires hardware, applications, connectivity and compute. Yet only connectivity gives modern business use cases a true life of their own. This makes 5G a critical currency, explains Mishka Dehghan of T-Mobile, because no previous versions of cellular technology had the same speed, reliability or ultra-low latency.

Below is a transcript of this podcast. Some parts have been edited for clarity.

Michael Hainsworth: Communications Service Providers are key partners for industry looking to digitalize their operations and remain relevant in the 4th industrial revolution. Nobody knows that quite like Mishka Dehghan, the senior VP of Strategy, Product, and Solutions Engineering at T-Mobile. While consumer connectivity is expected to grow 1% for the foreseeable future, enterprise connectivity is expected to see a 27% compound annual growth rate. She tells me she's been part of the evolution of wireless over the last two decades.

Mishka Dehghan: Yes. Can you believe it? I started really young; I think right after kindergarten. I've been with T-Mobile for 20 years and in the industry for more years than I care to admit, really leading product development and global commercial functions across wireless, but also wireline in the past, serving all business segments. And this has really given me a front-row seat to the evolution of the industry.

MH: Well, tell me how that informed your understanding of Industry 4.0 and how to shepherd enterprise into a future of omnipresent connectivity.

MD: Well, that's a very interesting question. Let me start with the first part of your question relative to Industry 4.0. I would say enterprise customers and business customers in general, regardless of their size and their industry, aren't just interested in Industry 4.0. What they're really interested in is the adoption of digital solutions, and the industry refers to it as digital transformation. Digital transformation has different meanings for different kinds of companies, depending on where they are on their mature journey of adopting these new data-driven applications and solutions. From my perspective, it's so much more than Industry 4.0. It really expands across all kinds of verticals, depending on the problems that CIOs and CTOs are trying to solve. I think that's the first part.

The second part to your question, relative to the omnipresent connectivity, this is really an interesting phenomenon. If you think back three years ago, as we were all entering the COVID phase and workers across all businesses were asked to work from home, many thought, "Hey, this is going to be just a temporary solution until we come out of COVID."

And then the trends, as we came out of COVID, are really showing us that we are not going back to the way things were, and the workplace has completely been transformed. The way we work has completely been transformed. So now, what used to be thought of as a temporary hybrid worker or mobile worker trend has now really become the way we work. And this new modern workplace requires what you refer to as omnipresent connectivity, or in other words, connectivity that is seamless and persistent and consistent and reliable regardless of where you are and what time of the day, what type of location. And by the way, it extends beyond just connectivity for people. The same applies, that omnipresent connectivity now extends to the requirements that technology leaders in companies have for the places and things that they manage.

MH: And where does 5G fit into all of this? Because I know you've called 5G a critical currency. How so?

MD: Oh, I love that question. I love talking about 5G, and I could do this all day. If you think about all of those business leaders and technologies that I was talking about a minute ago, they're sitting on massive amounts of data. But regardless of which study you read, these data volumes are not only continuing to increase at a massive pace, but more importantly, only a fraction, like a single digit, a fraction of this data is really being leveraged by the CIOs and the CTOs.

As they start thinking in their particular business or line of business or industry about the type of solutions and outcome that they are trying to enable, we call 5G the critical currency because there are four elements that are key to any new type of innovative solution. That's the hardware, the applications, the connectivity, and the compute. But without connectivity, many of these more modern use cases and applications would not take a life of their own, and that's why 5G really has become the critical currency. The type of speed, reliability and ultra-low latency that you get with 5G, we didn't get that in the industry with previous versions of cellular technology.

MH: I want to get your take on the opportunities that 5G opens up for enterprise, but before we get into that, help me understand where you're coming from on it. I think about the Henry Ford quote about the Model T where he said, "If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would've said faster horses." So how much of your work is listening to what customers want versus guiding them to what they need?

MD: I think it's such a pertinent question, and Henry Ford's comments still apply to the world that we live in today. I think, to put it in simple terms, the answer would depend on the customers and their level of comfort or familiarity with technology. You're going to get a different response depending on who you're talking to. We have some customers that come to us with a very clear vision of what the solution is that they need. I mean, they have it down to the infrastructure. They have all the requirements fully planned out.

Others simply need something that's a better mousetrap or that is going to help them deliver a better experience to their users or to their customers, to their employees. And they come to us not so much with a very prescriptive view of, "Hey, this is what I need," but they come to us with the problem that they're trying to solve. And that's where our teams, based on the repertoire of solutions that we have built, can really help our customers, and guide them on that journey.

I mentioned it a minute ago, it's really all under the digital transformation umbrella, but it manifests itself for different companies in different ways. As an example, I would say we launched our Advanced Industry Solutions (AIS) a few months ago here at T-Mobile, and it really was intended to simplify for those customers who know they need a better outcome, they need a better solution, but they really haven't defined, and clearly, they are not in the business of wanting to define, the multiple solution partners that they need to be bringing together to deliver an end-to-end suite of solution. They come to us, and AIS solves that problem for them. It puts in an end-to-end package the hardware, the software, the device, and, of course, the connectivity. In other words, the smart solution all the way from the network core to a heat mapping sensor, let's say, if they are operating a retail floor, if they are a large retail provider.

We focus our efforts on four major categories or industries, to start with the smart solutions: logistics, manufacturing, retails and smart cities or smart campuses as a category. Bringing all of the components of the solution together that would've been tested and pre-certified by T-Mobile, so that we can roll it out to our customers as a single solution where they have a single provider to deal with, so that they can really go focus on their business rather than having to deal with infrastructure and this very complex ecosystem of managing multiple solution partners, service level agreements (SLAs), et cetera.

MH: Which brings us back to the whole idea that companies and enterprises today are not really leveraging the remarkable amount of data that they possess or could capture, and that's really the underlying opportunity for 5G when it comes to enterprises.

MD: Absolutely. We really do see 5G as the enablement technology for all of these new emerging technologies that are bound to really transform the way society is functioning. And this explosion of data that you just mentioned a minute ago is really a key driver of the adoption of these emerging technologies, and we really do see 5G capabilities being the enabler to that entire ecosystem.

As an example, think about the way data can be better harnessed through 5G to solve critical business needs that require increased capacity, enhanced wide area coverage, increased reliability, lower latency, or, for that matter, seamless and consistent mobility. All of this data can be used to develop these newer, innovative solutions that are ultimately going to become the new norms and the new standards in our society across all industries.

MH: So then, what's the unexpected lesson that you've learned about designing, deploying, and operating a 5G network that you apply to enterprises when they're looking to leverage private 5G?

MD: When I think of us at T-Mobile, I really think of us as the network experts. The type of network deployment that we do at scale, our Chief Network Officer Ulf Ewaldsson has coined it as "the network factory". That's what we do. Deploying networks is our expertise, and we've been doing it for years and years.

And now we're basically taking this same expertise and we are bringing it to our customers, allowing them to develop private networks so that they can, as I was saying a minute ago, focus on their business and then let the network experts really manage their private network requirements. We're offering this service to our customers because they still haven't figured out for themselves how they want to do it. The design is complex, the deployment is complex, the management is complex, and they are glad that they see someone like T-Mobile stepping in and say, "Hey, you know what? Let us take this off your hands so that you can go focus on what you do best." And then our network engineers, they take their expertise and experience, because we've built America's largest, fastest and most reliable 5G network with precision at scale, and they take that same expertise, which is really unmatched, and they bring that wealth of knowledge and learnings to our enterprise customers.

MH: In the world of sales, there's an industry term that's often used when talking to clients: objection, and it's the idea that you've got to get this client, this potential client in some cases, over a hurdle psychologically. I think about that when it comes to rolling out 5G in a private network world. What do you say to an enterprise that's already spent millions upgrading to Wi-Fi?

MD: That's a very fair question and it's a real observation. And I think that, of course, there is the psychological barrier, but there are real return on investment (ROI) barriers. There are real technology perceptions that oftentimes technology leaders and decision makers have within businesses. As it relates to your question relative to Wi-Fi and 5G, our immediate answer is, look, Wi-Fi and 5G are going to coexist for a very long time, but I think CIOs and CTOs understand the limitations to Wi-Fi and we need to continue working with them, bringing up the level of awareness on how these two technologies need to coexist and what are the differentiated benefits.

I mean, Wi-Fi does a great job in indoor environments such as offices for non-mission critical use cases or with legacy wireless equipment where many devices lack modern cellular capabilities, but there are real limitations in terms of what one can do on Wi-Fi. For example, Wi-Fi cannot perform as well as 5G networks in outdoor environments with limited mobility across wide areas. Wi-Fi brings slow handoffs as devices search for the next strongest signal and disconnect from one access point to another and then reconnect. Wi-Fi is susceptible to unexpected outages and security threats and network congestion and so on and so forth.

Overall, Wi-Fi is complimentary to private networks, and when we go in and we sit down with our customers and we understand what are the pain points that they're trying to address, what are the issues that they're trying to solve, or what is the total business outcome that they're trying to deliver for their business, oftentimes our architecture recommendation is a combination of like, "Hey, you maintain Wi-Fi for particular applications, and then for the more sophisticated, more mission critical applications, that's where you would be deploying a 5G private network."

MH: If much of the industry is thinking about an all or nothing approach when it comes to private networks, I guess this is how you're defining a hybrid and private mobile networks. Let's talk a little bit about that.

MD: One of our differentiation points at T-Mobile in terms of the 5G Advanced Network Solution suites that we launched last year is really addressing that very point that you just raised, is because of our very dense and deep and broad 5G network and spectrum assets that we own, our macro 5G network has a differentiated position than the other operators in the US. That robustness of our macro network allows us to offer a hybrid 5G private network solution to our customers where they don't have to go all in and do a full private network deployment for the total perimeter of their facility because we can do the handoff to our 5G macro network.

Really, what that does for customers is that it significantly brings down the cost of deployment of the infrastructure but also the subscription costs on an ongoing basis. I think that's a very important differentiation point, and when we sit down with the business leaders who are looking at, "Hey, what do I need to do to innovate in my business without compromising those investments that I had previously made?" To your point a few minutes ago, I think that that's where our 5G ANS has a very rich value proposition that we brought to market.

MH: So then tell me more about those business leaders. Which early adopter industry verticals would benefit the most from a 5G-Advanced based private network?

MD: I think that the best way I would say this is that many industries are still in the early adoption phase in terms of understanding the broad set of capabilities that 5G can enable in a way they can really transform their business. Here at T-Mobile, based on the work that we had done with our customers prior to the launch of our 5G ANS offering, we started talking to customers, seeing who the early adopters are, and we're focusing on four industries with our Advanced Industry Solution. And these are retail, manufacturing, logistics and transportation as well as municipalities and smart cities. We focused on those four industries because many of these organizations are looking for this smart solution to address them. Maybe it is either the shifting economic climates or changing customer demands, tighter margins, and of course, in the last couple of years, the strain on the supply chain has also been a key driver. These four particular industries for us in the set of customers we have been working with, have been really primed for this kind of innovation that 5G is bringing to bear.

But I would be remiss not to mention that this entire ecosystem needs more than one player to come to life, and that's where strategic partnerships are crucial in the way we go to market, and we serve our customers. And as you know, T-Mobile and Nokia have been working together on multiple industry verticals, including some of the ones that I just mentioned, and Nokia is obviously one of our trusted partners when it comes to our 5G and enterprise offerings.

MH: You're talking about a collaborative advantage.

MD: Absolutely, collaborative and differentiated because each strategic partner brings their own set of expertise and experiences, and when you bring them together, it's not one plus one equals two. It really has a multiplier effect in terms of the way we show up in front of customers, really demonstrating that, "Hey, we got you covered all the way from the equipment, all the way to the connectivity and bringing additional solution partners as part of the mix." It really resonates with those business leaders, as I was mentioning a minute ago, because quite frankly, they don't want to have to deal with dozens and dozens of vendors and multiple contracts and multiple SLAs. All of this adds up to the overall cycle time; from bringing a solution from concept all the way to execution and bringing it to market. When they see a partner showing up with the entire ecosystem already figured out, that really resonates with them.

MH: So then if there was one takeaway for an enterprise concerned about the support and the trust they can expect when working with a CSP and deploying a 5G network on their campus, what should it be?

MD: We do this at scale. Network deployment, we do it at scale with precision and with a type of velocity, quite frankly, not seen anywhere else in the world.

When we do have those conversations with our customers, they know that, hey, not only 5G is a critical currency, but they are dealing with the experts. I talked about our network, and if I think about some of the external reports, don't take my word for it, but for the last two years, 30 plus third-party reports such as Ookla, Opensignal or Omelette, confirm that T-Mobile is the 5G network leader through accolades like the lowest latency, the highest consistency, the fastest 5G download and upload speeds, best 5G availability. And of course, with the best 5G reach nationwide, with our super-fast Ultra Capacity, our 5G covers 260 million people nationwide.

MH: I suppose when you're talking to friends and family, they must be surprised to learn that while 5G is definitely a thing for them on their smartphone, 5G is really way bigger in a behind the scenes world that they'll probably never directly touch.

MD: That's absolutely right. I don't think that our average neighbor really knows about the benefits of 5G other than seeing the 5G icon on their phone and experiencing faster speeds in downloading a movie when they are at their airport gate before getting on their flight. But behind the scenes, the transformation of all industries, the acceleration of digital transformation enabled by 5G as the critical currency, all of us as consumers, are going to be the beneficiaries and the recipients of all of that transformation. But of course, that growth is going to come from businesses. It's through the adoption by enterprises of these new emerging technologies enabled by 5G that we are going to start seeing changes manifest themselves through 5G.

MH: You must be thrilled about the next 20 years then.

MD: I can't wait. I can't wait because when I sit down and I have three teenagers and I talk to them about their goals and aspirations, about what they want to do when they grow up, I am thrilled to see that there is a whole new world of experiences and applications and the type of jobs that they should be dreaming about, that our generation certainly didn't have access to. Of course, a lot of it is already there; the access to the wealth of information that's out there, or the hype and excitement that's out there around ChatGPT at the moment. But there is a confluence of all these emerging technologies coming together, and again, I really do see 5G as the enabler of it. But yes, I think the next 20 years are going to be very exciting.

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