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Tag Archives: 5G

Open RAN – Defining the Path to Innovation

The telecommunications industry is the midst of a seismic shift from a closed radio access network (RAN) to an open one (O-RAN).  This shift is not only rocking the world of the communication service providers (CSPs) themselves, but also the worlds of traditional and non-traditional vendors and partners.  

In fact, open RAN (O-RAN) is expected to represent more than 10% of the overall RAN market by 2025according to the recently published report by Dell’Oro Group.  Other industry analysts agree. Omdia states that open RAN revenues will reach $3.2 billion by 2024 and Appledore Research claims that “over the next 10-15 years, all RANs will become open RANs”. These are very significant numbers for something that has gone from conceptual to real-world build outs in a relatively short timeframe.  Let’s examine what is driving this movement and how you can take advantage of it, without risking quality and reliability.

What is O-RAN?

As its name implies, the concept of open RAN takes a traditionally closed network and opens it up.  At a basic level, O-RAN means virtualizing and disaggregating the baseband unit (BBU) functions, separating the control plane from the data plane and opening up fronthaul interfaces. 

Virtualizing the RAN means decoupling the radio software from the underlying hardware by running it on a virtualization layer. More specifically, it involves virtualizing the BBUs so they can run as software on generic, industry standard hardware instead of specialized hardware. The BBU is split into multiple virtual functions. By logically splitting out these functions, CSPs have much more flexibility in terms of where they place their workloads and economies of scale through centralization.

Why would you want to do this?

CSPs are looking to O-RAN as a way to re-structure how the RAN is organized and run, and future-proof it for long-term innovation. The ultimate vision for O-RAN is to disaggregate the network and make it more open, fostering greater choice in a traditionally closed market. This will provide a strong foundation for CSPs to offer more innovative solutions to enterprise and consumer customers, as well as partners within their broader ecosystem. 

The ultimate goal is to secure a return on 5G investments and monetize the network by enabling new applications and services, especially at the edge. 

Why now?

Today’s landscape in the RAN is dominated by 3 major network equipment providers which results in limited competition and therefore limited creativity. The software and hardware is pre-integrated and interlocked from a single vendor, usually with proprietary interfaces.  This prevents smaller software vendors from being able to create innovative apps to run on top of the closed system. Release cycles tend to be long (6-12 months) and CSPs must rely on vendors for changes to the software. While these solutions are tried and true, it is very hard to foster innovation in this environment.  As new applications and trends emerge, such as cloud gaming, industrial IoT and work from home, CSPs will need to be able to anticipate these new trends and react fast. Agility and programmability will be key. 

What’s the benefit?

The benefits of implementing an open RAN are multifold and include both qualitative and quantitative benefits.

Flexibility, Scalability & Agility are gained by:

  • best-of-breed solutions
  • open architecture and interfaces for interoperability with new innovators
  • programmability for dynamic responses to a changing landscape

Cost Reductions and Operational Efficiencies are gained by: 

  • Utilizing generic, industry standard hardware with general-purpose processors for central units (CUs) and/or distributed units (DUs)
  • Running CU and DU network functions on pooled compute hardware for economies of scale
  • Performing remote software upgrades of CUs and DUs versus truck rolls
  • Centralizing operations creates consistency and gives rapid visibility in the event new changes or upgrades are affecting the network

What to do now? 

If you are like most of us, change, especially on this scale, is daunting.  Yes, it logically represents a tremendous opportunity for new innovations at faster speeds and lower costs. But it also represents a great deal of uncertainty and potential stress.  And who wants more stress after 2020?

VMware is here to help.  We’ve taken a phased and very methodical approach to migrating your networks to open RAN, at the pace you are comfortable with.  In most cases, it is not feasible to do it all at once, nor have all the standards be defined.  In our whitepaper, O-RAN: Defining the Path for Innovation the RAN, we walk you through our step-by-step methodology.

We’ve done our homework, so you don’t need to start from scratch.  Leading the way, we are working with large CSPs to build out deployments in real world environments. We are focused on delivering real-time, high-volume performance with security built in from the ground up. In our joint labs, we’ve set up a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline, thoroughly vetting best-of-breed CNF and VNF workloads from various vendors on our platform to ensure that optimal functionality is reached.  Zero touch provisioning and consistent operations across all locations, large or small, speeds time-to-deployment and reduces management headaches. All of this gives you the ability to introduce new services with confidence, at a much faster pace. 

VMware is actively working with CSPs all over the world to help them break free to from the limitations of legacy RAN networks and bring the economics of cloud to the RAN.   Join us in the conversation today.

For more information on how VMware can help transform the RAN:

To Take Full Advantage of 5G Investments, We Need to Think Differently about Network Security

The potential market for new 5G services is enormous and is estimated to exceed USD 400 Billion by 2027. Services like autonomous transportation, low latency healthcare apps, reliable communication for first responders turn 5G networks into national security and critical infrastructure that cannot be allowed to fail.  

The challenge is that in a modern communication service provider (CSP) environment migrating to 5G, there is an increasing number of moving parts to protect, and that complicates 5-9s requirements. There’s a way to stay ahead of the threat, however.  If we’re going to get there as an industry, we need to start thinking very differently about network security. That starts with recognizing that we can’t just delegate it to the security team.  

Security is now a team sport—and should be part of every decision that gets made about your 5G network.    

New Innovations Bring New Challenges 

A couple decades ago, attackers may have been mostly lone operators seeking to cause mischief. Today, they’re highly organized, well-funded criminal operations, sometimes with state backing, with the time and resources to mount sophisticated long-term attacks. The new threats they’re developing are evolving more quickly than our strategies to combat them.  

Major industry groups have, of course, made efforts to protect operator networks, but wireless security standards remain inconsistent and incomplete. For example, 3GPP continues to do important work securing the signaling plane between services and inter-function communication, but many of these measures are optional and implemented differently by different vendors. They also only address the areas where 3GPP traditionally operates—not the underlying cloud architectures that many CSPs are now adopting. 

Today, as CSPs advance their 5G rollouts, these problems are growing more urgent.  

As we build out next-generation networks, we inevitably create new potential inroads for new threats, both from outside and within the network. Externally, the sheer density of subscribers, devices, and applications is reaching a level unlike anything we’ve dealt with before. But it’s the potential internal vulnerabilities that can be even more pernicious and that don’t seem to be on people’s radars.  

When your network gets heavily disaggregated, previously monolithic functions get broken up into many smaller pieces, in some cases, from multiple vendors. You can’t protect all those pieces, and the interconnections between them, using legacy approaches. Building proper security into the architecture from the beginning is easier than trying to overlay it later and thus savvy CSPs will consider this from the start.  

In response to the fact that these increasingly complex 5G networks are being considered to support aspects of national security and critical infrastructure, the government oversight that has already begun in the UK (and is sure to follow around the world) will soon regulate the security requirements for these networks. Exactly what the regulation will be in each country will vary but looking at the UK should provide a pretty good level of guidance because the UK’s telecom security requirements are ahead of the curve.  

Take Concrete Steps to Protect Your Architecture 

We absolutely can improve security for a 5G world, but that process starts with accepting reality: threats will continue growing more powerful, networks will continue getting more complex, and defenses will likely always be playing catchup. In this environment, you can’t rely only on fulfilling the requirements of regulations to protect you or your customers. Instead, we need to think differently—and more holistically—about how we’re designing and protecting our networks. That includes steps like: 

  • Thinking through security implications of cloud-native 5G infrastructure: As we develop and deploy containerized network functions (CNFs) for 5G, we need to be thinking about security across the container lifecycle in heterogeneous, often multi-cloud environments. That includes steps like securing CNFs through CI/CD pipelines, using trusted container image repositories with strict access control, and tightly controlling communication between CNFs and microservices.  
  • Reducing the blast radius: If you accept that breaches are going to happen, then the wise move is to design and deploy systems to minimize the damage when they do. For example, if you only use cryptographic authorization and encryption in the cloud, and attackers discover a vulnerability in those systems, you now have a huge potential attack vector. However, if you pair encryption with micro-segmentation—isolating every layer in the stack with virtual firewalling and strict network access policies—you greatly restrict what even a successful attack can do. 
  • Embracing opennessIt can sound counterintuitive, but using open standards and open, virtualized systems across your environment allows for stronger security than closed, proprietary technologies. Using a vendor’s vertically integrated system can seem more secure, but the reality is, you’re now completely reliant on that vendor to protect you. Effectively, you’ve got a “black box” in your environment, with no way to know what’s happening inside. Alternatively, if you’re using open, virtualized systems, you can inspect every layer of the stack. You also now have the freedom to quickly remove and replace any component that’s found to be insecure—including switching to another vendor’s product.  
  • Protecting your orchestration tools, as well as the things they’re orchestrating: In a world where more parts of your operations are getting automated, it’s essential to identify security-critical systems within management, automation, and orchestration tools. More than ever, we need to lock down management and operational access to network components and meticulously track any changes made.  
  • Think through security at every level of the network: Even as networks have gotten more virtualized, we still tend to think about security in a hardware-centric, box-by-box way. But while disaggregation means there are more pieces to secure, it should now be simpler to secure them. If you’ve implemented your next-generation architecture properly, you should be able to use uniform policies for everything and manage and enforce them centrally.  

Stay Ahead of the Threat 

For all the innovative things we can do with the next generation of service provider networks, 5G and beyond, it would be foolhardy to overlook the new security concerns that come with them. But while the threats are real, they don’t have to disrupt your customers (or even your weekend).  

At VMware, we’ve long argued that security can’t be a bolt-on feature that gets added after the fact. Rather, sound security needs to be built into every aspect of how you design and operate your architecture. We’ve also long argued that virtualization makes this job easier—and it should be easier still with next-generation 5G networks. When you have a horizontal, end-to-end abstraction layer overlaying your infrastructure, it becomes much easier to both monitor your environment and to enforce policy in a uniform, holistic way. Data privacy, ingress-egress inspection, micro-segmentation—all these things are now just policies you define at the software layer. And they can now be applied in the same way, everywhere, across even the most complex heterogeneous multi-vendor architectures.  

Want to learn more about the steps VMware is taking to secure operator environments for 5G and beyond? Download our Intrinsic Security for Telco Clouds overview. And, for an in-depth technical exploration of this topic, see the VMware white paper Intrinsic Security for Telco Clouds at the Dawn of 5G.  

Telco Bits & Bytes – 11 March 2021

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For more information, find out more on telco.vmware.com

Think Again: Tackling 5 Common Myths about 5G

As many of you may have seen, I am about to transition from an operating role at VMware to a Special Purpose Acquisition Company focused on Telco, 5G, and Edge. As I hand over the baton to my esteemed colleague Sanjay Uppal, I am delighted to share with you some thoughts around 5G based on common assertions I’ve encountered – with the goal of helping to separate fact from fiction.  

That’s what this “Think Again” column is designed to do.  Periodically, our team at VMware will publish an update as an opportunity for us to add clarity on Telco and Edge topics.  So, here’s the first installment for 2021!  

Myth 1: Large-scale 5G deployments are another year away.     

It’s true that the costs of 5G are massive; the infrastructure investment is estimated to be $80 billion by 20271.  Given that expense, deployment delays would be expected IF the primary use cases were consumer oriented.  But commercial use cases – like private 5G, remote work, AI applications for autonomous vehicles – are keeping global 5G deployments moving at scale and on schedule.  Additionally, with the emergence of greenfield projects, like the cloud-native 5G ORAN deployment recently announced by DISH, Intel and VMware, the arrival of large-scale 5G deployments is now measured in months not years.  So, yes, 5G is here folks; buckle up.

Myth 2: Hyperscale clouds can deliver the 5G Edge.

Whether it’s a hope or an assumption, there’s a notion that 5G Edge applications can be sufficiently supported by existing hyperscaler cloud infrastructure. Truth is, you can’t just graft your existing hyperscaler solution onto a new batch of distributed requirements and expect it to work.  5G Edges come with their own set of nuanced requirements around latency and scale, requiring any Edge solution to pull together communications and computing clouds in a seamless and effective way.  Hyperscalers can’t dress up public clouds as low latency, distributed 5G Edges.  Edge-native is the new craze … get on that train already and find the right Edge providers.

Myth 3: IoT was a passing fad.

I get it; with new technologies, there typically is an abundance of hype in the beginning with lots of ‘experts’ jumping in to show how it has promise, and a ton of startups and investment following the hope of a big return. IoT in its first phase went through this hype and subsequently cooled off. Carriers set up IoT businesses and only a few of them got returns. However, now we are entering a new and more robust, Edge-enabled phase of IoT. I am bullish about the applications in industrial automation –e.g. automation of a large-scale automotive factory shop floor — that are leveraging Edge-delivered IoT. So, no:  not a passing fad.

Myth 4: The pandemic has had a slowing effect on Telco cloud and 5G deployments globally.

We’ve all seen the pervasive disruptions to life and work due to the COVID pandemic.  It would be natural to expect that 5G and telco cloud deployments could be delayed — but the opposite has occurred.  Driven by the shift to work-from-anywhere employment and the uptick in at-home education and entertainment, connectivity requirements have skyrocketed. That in turn, has accelerated and expanded telco cloud and 5G deployments to be faster, not slower. So NO, we aren’t seeing any slowdown in network deployments because of the pandemic.

Myth 5: 5G is what will finally drive XR into the mainstream.  

Consumer applications of AR and VR have been hyped for years now – will 5G be what finally makes XR a consumer success?  It’s true that XR form factors are getting better and that 5G infrastructure delivers on the low-latency, high-bandwidth requirements for rich XR experiences.  But are consumers ready to embrace those still cumbersome and funky-looking goggles?  Do they feel comfortable strapping around a set of gadgets 24×7?  Jury’s still out on this one.   

To learn more about how the VMware Telco Cloud is supporting 5G, visit https://telco.vmware.com/solutions/5g-core.html

1 Fortune Business Insights, “5G Infrastructure Market Size, Share & COVID-19 Impact Analysis,” January 2021

Telco Bits & Bytes – 25 February 2021

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Evolving 5G as we Pave a Path Toward 6G 

In my last blog, I talked about VMware’s participation in the newly formed ATIS NextG Alliance. If you follow the research community around wireless technologies, you’ll note that this is just one of several industry organizations focused on upcoming wireless generations—commonly referred to as “Beyond 5G” (B5G). Already, we see B5G/6G initiatives launching from 3GPP, IEEE, ITU, the 6G Flagship Program in Europe, China’s new 6G satellite program, and several others. All of which raises the question: If we’re still in early days of deploying 5G, why is there already so much activity around what comes next? Let’s take a closer look.


Evolution of the Next Big G

Let’s start by looking at it from a pure wireless generation evolution perspective. Tradition holds that every generation introduces a new service concept. To support the new concepts, groundwork is laid for aligned evolution of radio and other essential elements. It isn’t until the next generation comes along that the work needed for full-scale adoption is completed. This pattern can be traced all the way back — cellular telephony introduced in 1G saw mass adoption in 2G, packet data was introduced in 3G, but full benefits weren’t reaped until Long Term Evolution of the architecture with 4G.

Another notable observation here is that mass adoption of almost every new wireless service introduced by 3GPP in the past has been led by an over the top phenomenon. Apple App Store being the 3G surprise, and the rise of the hyper scale cloud in early 2000s created a demand side pull for massive broadband. In turn, this enabled mass dissemination of compute which gave rise to services like uber – unthinkable without this powerful duo at play.

5G is no different – only a bit broader in its original ambition. The previous generations have been focused on evolution of wireless systems for higher performance and bandwidth, improving the quality of experience for human centric communications and content consumption and entertainment. 5G is the first generation of wireless designed for highly interactive collaboration amongst ‘smart things’, be it humans, machines, cyber-physical systems or any combination of the above. Antiquated technologies underpinning currently prevalent Packet Data Networks (including the wireless networks) designed and optimized for remote human consumption are seriously challenged with the new service characteristics vectors being shaped with machine centric communication and collaboration.

Hence, a new plan, design and operations paradigm was envisaged for 5G with a few key elements deemed essential to a solid foundation for the unprecedented applications ecosystem anticipated with 5G. We’ve come a long way with implementation of these essential elements, thanks to the leadership from 3GPP global community and telecommunications service provider led efforts (e.g. massive broadband, cloud native 5G and pervasive connectivity) but much remains to be completed for some of the broader elements that sit at the cross section of wireless, networking and cloud.

Below is a rough score card of our progress on these essential 5G elements, in the order of maturity from left to right:

As service providers prepare for their initial 5G deployments, mainly targeting broadband access and New Radio capacity augmentation of LTE for network densification, the research community continues to unravel the more complex challenges. These challenges include areas around network programmability and autonomics which must be addressed before we are able to take a crack at Time Sensitive Communications – the most interesting element of the 5G foundation.

At VMware, we think it’s critical that someone like us—a company that has one foot in the world of service provider networks and the other foot in the cloud—help lead this new chapter of 5G evolution.

 

How VMW is shaping the new chapter of 5G evolution toward NextG

A 5G connected world is anticipated to be an ecosystem of interconnected intelligence components, systems and fabrics enabled with fusion of technologies that sit at the intersection of wireless, networking and cloud industries. VMware aims to bridge these somewhat disparate industries for unification of cross-sectional technologies that maximizes the interoperability while maintaining individual differentiation of each for a sustainable win-win for all.

We analyze below, foundational imperatives of this unification for 5G era, paving a path toward 6G:

  1. Virtualize the data center: We need the ability to adapt, federate, and optimize heterogeneous resources that span multiple physical data centers managed by disparate providers, across multiple geographies, as a unified pool of adaptive compute capabilities. 
  2. Virtualize the network: Next, we need to be able to adapt, federate, and optimize heterogeneous networks to enable distributed applications that span multiple providers, across multiple geographies such that the underlying networks become invisible to the application.
  3. Virtualize the edge: We need the ability to adapt, federate, and optimize heterogeneous platforms spanning multiple providers, across multiple geographies to enable a fungible edge that continuously optimizes itself to maintain QOE across vastly interactive, highly mobile, distributed applications.
  4. Virtualize the control: Finally, we need to be able to adapt, federate, and optimize heterogeneous entities contributing to collaborative controls applications that are distributed across multiple intelligence agents that span multiple providers and geographies, ultimately leading to universal autonomy with complete virtualization of control.

We realize that this is a significant undertaking that can only be successful with a strong collaborative effort bringing together best and brightest of all the relevant industries. We are developing a world-class ecosystem to help unravel these challenges in a real-world setting. With the unique combination of our long-standing leadership in virtualization and our deep expertise in service provider and data center networks, VMware is perfectly positioned to drive harmonization across wireless, cloud and networking industries. And, we are already doing it through our participation in cross-functional industry groups like 5G Americas, ATIS NextG Alliance, 5G Open Innovation Lab and many others.

These NextG imperatives align closely with the major initiatives VMware is pursuing right now. Today, we’re partnering with our key customers to enable edge-to-cloud virtualization underpinned with our multi-cloud 5G edge platform. We’re also building a new generation of network controls and intelligence to lay a solid foundation for the most ambitious goal of tomorrow’s networks: universal autonomy. When the industry comes together to realize universal autonomy, VMware will be right in the thick of it.

Join us in our journey toward 6G by leaving comments on this blog and following us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Want to know more about what we’re doing in 5G? Watch this video.

Telco Bits & Bytes – 22 December 2020

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Welcome to the last edition of our ‘Telco Bits & Bytes’ news blog for 2020. Here we share news and insights from across VMware and the technology industry that caught our attention, so you don’t miss a beat. Happy Holidays Everyone!

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Telco Bits & Bytes – 26 November 2020

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Welcome to the next edition of our ‘Telco Bits & Bytes’ news blog. Here we share news and insights from across VMware and the technology industry that caught our attention, so you don’t miss a beat. Let us know in the comments below how we can improve this service and enjoy!

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Telco Bits & Bytes – 12 November 2020

Our regular roundup of the technology news that matters

Welcome to the next edition of our ‘Telco Bits & Bytes’ news blog. Here we share news and insights from across VMware and the technology industry that caught our attention, so you don’t miss a beat. Let us know in the comments below how we can improve this service and enjoy!

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Launching next week!

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With the Next G Alliance, VMware Prepares for 6G: Multi-disciplinary systems call for multi-industry alliances

It’s only been months since the first 5G-enabled consumer devices hit the market, but the industry is already preparing for what comes next. Here, you’ll find the first of a two-part blog series discussing where the telecom industry is headed and how VMware is helping to shape the next big evolution to 6G and beyond.

After living and breathing 5G nonstop over the last couple years, you’re probably still trying to catch your breath. Thinking about yet another generation of wireless networks may be the last thing you want to do. But here’s something to consider: Wouldn’t it be great if your transition to 6G wasn’t the same kind of massive, all-encompassing transformation effort as the move to 5G?

That’s exactly what a new North American industry group, the ATIS  Next G Alliance, will study – among other objectives in establishing North American 6G leadership.

As a founding member of the ATIS Next G Alliance, VMware is joining  some of the leading network operators and equipment suppliers in the world to set the agenda for next gen wireless. And, we have some good news: many of the things you should be doing to prepare for 6G have already begun as you scale out your systems with 5G.

 

Planning Ahead

Historically, when we’ve gone from one wireless generation to the next (2G to 3G, 3G to 4G), it meant significant infrastructure investments considering bespoke systems that had to swapped out. You can understand why it happens; you can’t just move all your customers to a new network generation overnight. So, you add the new technology as an overlay, continue running the old, and hope that eventually you can switch everything over. In the interim though, you spend a ton of time (and effort, and resources) running multiple siloed architectures at once.

The first few times we went through this process, you could excuse it. By the time 4G rolled around though, we knew all about the costs and hassles of building yet another silo. We knew we’d be better off making more fundamental changes to our processes and organizations. Specifically, we knew that by embracing software-first models from the world of IT and web-scale data centers, we’d be able to evolve our networks much more easily and cost-effectively.

But we didn’t. Instead, we kicked the can down the road. We left the most profound changes for the next major network evolution: breaking down legacy network siloes, moving to cloud-native infrastructure, implementing continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines, retraining network teams in agile development process and DevOps.

How much easier would implementing 5G have been if you already had all that in place? Well, we’re finally in position to build a more flexible, capable foundation for future network evolutions. By embracing agile software models and cloud-native applications as we expand 5G, we can make the next transition a lot simpler.

 

Entering the Next G

Preparing for the next big telecom evolution years in advance is nothing new. Several other regions have already announced plans for 6G research initiatives. If North American industry wants to lead in this space, we need to start laying the groundwork now. VMware and other companies participating in the Next G Alliance aim to do it.

It’s still early days for this effort, and plenty of details remain to be worked out. But we already know some of the things that need to be in place for 6G and beyond. Things like:

  • Openness: We need to move beyond vertical ecosystems to horizontal platforms that enable full separation of ‘function’ from the underlying hardware and software, with multiple industries, multiple providers and multiple vendors contributing to the end to end system compositions.
  • Cloud-native applications and infrastructure: We need to eliminate a reliance on monolithic network functions and systems. Instead, we need to embrace containerized microservices from the world of IT, which will let us treat the network as a flexible pool of resources that can be assembled and reassembled at will.
  • Automation: We need to lay the foundation for use of Machine Intelligence in all aspects of plan, design and operations enabling self-organizing, self-healing and self-optimizing systems.

If those principles sound familiar, they should, because they’re the foundation of the offerings VMware is bringing to 5G networks and services right now. And, that’s the best part: whether you’re thinking about 6G today or not, you’re likely already taking many of the steps that will make future evolutions easier.

 

Envisioning Tomorrow’s Network

Stay tuned to industry efforts like the ATIS Next G Alliance—and expect to see VMware leading the way in many of them. In addition to our own Ready for Telco Cloud certification and partner program, we’ve been longtime contributors to industry groups like the O-RAN Alliance, TM Forum, and GSMA.

Recently, we became a founding member of the 5G Open Innovation Lab (5GOILab), where we’re helping startups develop groundbreaking 5G applications and services. Leading into 5G, we recently joined the Board of Governors for 5G Americas to help bridge the wireless and cloud industries. And, we’re working with the Open Infrastructure Foundation (OIF) to support the open-source communities developing tomorrow’s open infrastructure software.

Through efforts like these, we’re working to help service providers capitalize on the most innovative 5G capabilities today, while smoothing the transition to the networks of tomorrow.

Learn more about how the VMware telco cloud portfolio supports the transformation for future-ready networks by reading Telco Cloud for Dummies. And, stay tuned for the next blog in this series, where we’ll explore previous network evolutions and discuss why the next one will look very different.