IBM, Bouygues plan enterprise 5G experiments

  • French operator Bouygues Telecom spies 5G enterprise opportunities
  • Is collaborating with IBM to develop 5G enterprise use cases
  • The partners aim to kickstart experimentation with an Open 5G Lab approach

With an eye on the potential prize of enhanced enterprise revenues, French operator Bouygues Telecom has teamed up with IBM to develop an ‘Open 5G Lab’ to new use case and application development that meets the specific needs of business users.

Bouygues shelled out €602 million for 70 MHz of 5G spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band during the recent auction that concluded in early October and is now ready to roll out its network (it plans to offer services starting on 1st December) and, at the same time, figure out how the maximize the return on its investments. 

So it has turned to IBM, which is even keener than ever to be go-to partner for communication service providers and others in the telecoms world, to help develop services and capabilities that truly meet the needs of enterprise users. The partners believe that the combination of connectivity from Bouygues and the cloud, IoT and AI know-how that IBM can bring to the table give them the building blocks with which to develop, in collaboration with enterprises, meaningful and useful solutions. 

To do this the new partners have developed an Open 5G Lab process that comprises:

  • Co-development of use cases that leverage the power of 5G networks in various sectors such as manufacturing, transport, health, energy and utilities, retail, and smart city though the IBM Garage approach.
  • Creation of rapid 5G-enabled test sites for clients, with a 5G device kit provided by Bouygues Telecom
  • Implementation of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and evaluation of the ROI
  • Support for the industrialization of the chosen solution

Eduardo Argüeso, Telco and Media Industry Leader, EMEA, at IBM, says the idea is to accelerate the potential service development process, to “develop the design over a period of two to three months,” to get to a point of a minimum viable product, “then evaluate and decide whether or not to industrialize it.”

As well as the additional bandwidth, enhanced speed and lower latency that 5G connectivity can bring, Argüeso sees the cloud, potentially using IBM’s public cloud delivery centres and Red Hat cloud platforms such as OpenShift for containerized developments, being at the heart of the enterprise service development. 

And then there’s the edge. “The ability to deliver services from the telco edge is going to be critical to certain use cases…  we have our Edge Application Manager that would be able to manage that kind of environment, comprising potentially hundreds of smaller data centres, and also Telco Network Cloud Manager, which can help to orchestrate different functions… not only for the first deployment but whenever upgrades come from the underlying infrastructure, be it firmware or the operating system or the middleware or applications,” notes Argüeso, who also points out that the multiple use cases supported by IBM’s Watson machine learning capabilities and existing IoT use cases can also be applied to service development. 

And it’s clear that consultancy experience will also come into play here to enable enterprise requirements to be translated into services quickly and efficiently. “That’s what this boutique initiative tries to address in these small labs, with our consultants and the business owners,” says the IBM man, who says the first enterprise users are already being engaged and who also points to a similar engagement with AT&T in the US

Key to this approach is multi-cloud capabilities and a broad ecosystem of partners that can offer their specialisms into the mix, and this is where IBM’s bigger recent push into the next-gen, cloud-oriented telecoms arena comes into play. 

Earlier this month IBM unveiled its Cloud for Telecommunications strategy, which pulls together the capabilities of a broad range of partners, from infrastructure giants such as Nokia, Cisco, Intel, HPE and Dell to digital platform specialists such as Matrixx Software and Enghouse Interactive, to help CSPs get the most out of their next generation network investments and create and deliver services using whichever cloud platform makes the most sense, including the public cloud platforms of AWS, Azure and Google. (See IBM unveils its Cloud for Telecoms and an impressive posse of partners.)

That kind of approach will look more and more appealing to the CSPs desperate to identify and capitalize on any business opportunities that might help them develop a return-on-investment story for their 5G and associated telco cloud developments. 

Argüeso says the Bouygues Telecom relationship is just one of a number of similar engagements the tech giant has with CSPs, with others set to be unveiled in the coming months. 

It’s possible that, with its IT, cloud, AI and security heritage and know-how and with the technology and cultural boost the Red Hat acquisition has given it, IBM could play a pivotal role in the development of the new telecoms era. But there’s an awful lot it will need to get right in the next few years if that aspiration is to become a reality, and there will be plenty of other big names looking to do play the exact same role.

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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