Remarks as delivered

Mobile World Congress
June 28, 2021

I’m delighted to be joining you today from New York.

Telcos are one of the many unsung heroes of the pandemic. Whether it’s working from home, paying bills online, seeing doctors via telehealth or even helping our children with remote schooling — the world has never been so reliant on connected devices and networks. When much of our lives shifted online, telcos quickly and brilliantly responded to the crisis and kept all of us connected at a moment when we needed it the most. And in doing so, many of them have deployed powerful technologies like hybrid cloud, AI and automation to overcome, and even anticipate, the growing demands on their networks.

This is the result of a quiet, but swift and far-reaching digital transformation that is already well underway. With the help of IBM and Red Hat, telcos everywhere are modernizing their core networks to be more software-defined so they can deliver far better customer experiences, but also capitalize on the enormous opportunity of the cloud, 5G and the edge.

This, along with the convergence of 5G, the edge, hybrid cloud and AI – are the tectonic forces shaping the futures of telcos and their customers.

Just like bare-metal, virtual environments, private cloud and public cloud, the edge is a new IT footprint that is becoming an extension of the data center. What edge computing does is blend pieces from each IT footprint to create an infrastructure that can tackle specific customer demands that traditional IT models struggle to address. And by extending the data center to the edge, we are moving computing power closer to the source of where data is being created.

5G is the fuel for edge computing. But what’s critical to understand is telcos have enormous potential to harness the power of 5G and the edge, not only as a connectivity solution but also as a business services platform.

To take one example, out of many others, in manufacturing, 5G-connected automated operations can help reduce costs and control quality on production lines through robotics and real-time visual analysis – ensuring plants operate at peak efficiency.

To seize on this opportunity, today’s telcos are moving away from rigid, highly centralized network architectures to adopt more horizontal platform architectures. And while the initial focus was on virtualizing key network functions, they are now quickly moving to cloud-native approaches – with Linux, containers and Kubernetes at the heart of these efforts. This is a massive undertaking.

And as a result, the three core domains of the telecommunications network – the core-network, the radio access network and the edge network – can be managed seamlessly and optimized continually.  

As we move into this new era of distributed computing, I fundamentally believe that the winners in the 5G and edge era will be those who embrace an open hybrid cloud approach. Let me explain why.

First, an open hybrid cloud approach gives telcos the flexibility to bring together the edge, private clouds and public clouds from multiple providers. But also, to apply AI and automation to help make it all efficient, scalable, and secure.

Second, an open hybrid cloud approach brings clarity and consistency to what would otherwise be chaos. It provides a common foundation so that IT teams can manage ten thousand networked devices just as they would manage their centralized IT. And it enables IT teams to deploy features, functions and security patches consistently, and globally, everywhere computing is done.

This is why telcos need to adopt open software platforms and standards to remain in control of where and how they deploy their network services, edge computing and enterprise offerings.

This brings to my next point. Open technologies and standards will be key enablers of competitive advantage. Open means faster innovation. Open means access to a vast community of developers and a broader ecosystem of partners. And open means having the ability to deploy apps or services on any infrastructure, regardless of vendor.

IBM is working with some of the world’s biggest telcos to do just that. We are helping telcos transform their networks with open hybrid cloud and advanced AI capabilities. In fact, more than 140 telcos in total are served by IBM and Red Hat, and 80% of the world’s largest telcos are our clients. We’ve been collaborating with some telcos like Vodafone, Bharti Airtel, Telefonica, AT&T and Verizon, to mention just a few, to advance the era of 5G and edge computing using open technologies with Red Hat.

For example, IBM and Red Hat are helping Vodafone Idea deploy its modern network as a universal cloud platform to lower costs and provide services much more quickly for its nearly 250 million customers in India.

Another example is our work with Bharti Airtel, one of India’s largest integrated telcos, to build their new open hybrid cloud network. This is enabling Airtel to improve network connectivity, transform its core network, and launch innovative, cloud-based services for its 400-million-plus customers. And with intelligent automation, we are dramatically reducing the time it takes Airtel to deploy its network – including accelerating its Radio Access Network deployment. In fact, their entire cloud deployment process has been automated, which has reduced the cloud deployment time by more than 60%.

I’m also proud to announce a new major collaboration with Verizon. Last year, IBM began working with Verizon to advance the era of 5G and edge computing in industrial operations. Today, we are integrating IBM’s Telco Network Cloud capability into their service Orchestration Platform and helping Verizon benefit from running on Red Hat OpenShift. This will help Verizon unlock the potential of 5G and edge computing. It will bring agility, automation and elasticity to Verizon’s core 5G network, which help drive down costs and improve service.

Verizon is not the only company embracing an open hybrid cloud architecture. IBM and Red Hat have also come together with Telefónica to evolve its Cloud Garden platform to an open, hybrid cloud architecture. One of our shared commitments for this platform is to deploy use cases of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, IoT and analytics.

That’s why today we’re announcing the launch of a virtual cognitive assistant, which is hosted on Telefonica’s Cloud Garden and uses IBM Watson. Offered as a turnkey, 24x7 service to enterprise customers, the new solution improves customer care and can be deployed in any cloud or IT environment a customer chooses. This service also leverages the widespread adoption of IBM Watson by telcos around the globe, with over a billion telco clients now able to access Watson as an integrated platform.

Adding to this, we’re also announcing with Telefónica a new blockchain solution for customers based on open hybrid cloud technologies. This will optimize supply chain management by reducing costs, enabling better product traceability and transparency, and improving delivery timelines.

Now, as telcos try to balance digital transformation and network modernization, many operators are running into another issue: the issue of proprietary systems with vendor lock-in. This is why IBM supports the development of open technologies and industry-wide standards such as the Open Ran standards. We believe this is critical for telcos to thrive and for the 5G and edge era to take off. And this isn’t just a theoretical point of view. We’ve been hard at work to make this potential future a reality.

Just recently, we’ve launched a proof of concept with Movistar, a Telefónica brand, to deploy one of the first, fully functional Open RAN networks, covering 81,000 inhabitants in the city of Puerto Madryn in Argentina.

And to further drive innovation in that space, we have just launched an Open RAN Center of Excellence in Spain, along with eight new global labs dedicated to advancing 5G, edge and Open Ran innovation. Our new global labs will leverage the power of the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications and its vast and growing ecosystem of partners. In fact, the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications now includes more than 40 partners.

As evidence of this, today we’re also announcing that Movistar Empresas, a Telefónica company in Colombia, has joined the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications to accelerate the development and delivery of next-gen edge and 5G services to enterprise customers.  

Over the last year, we’ve learned that unpredictable events can drive massive changes in network needs and traffic patterns overnight. And that limited automation and the lack of real-time visibility across the networks have hindered the ability to quickly deliver services fast. That’s why today, IBM is bringing AI-powered automation software to networking to help simplify the broad adoption of 5G.

We’re doing this by announcing IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation, which helps telcos dramatically improve networking and deliver services in minutes, rather than days. Telcos can now use AI-powered automation to stand up and manage networks quickly, and rapidly scale new services, which can help improve customer services response times by up to 6x. With our recent planned acquisition of Turbonomic, IBM also plans to integrate IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation with Turbonomic network performance management and assurance.

I’d like to make one final point as I wrap up here today. For decades – some would argue since at least the days of Morse and Bell – telcos have been central to the global economy. Right now, as our customers – and all of us – increasingly live their lives using digital technologies, telcos have the potential to play an even bigger role. But the reality is that telcos today are at a crossroads. They must make a choice between two futures.

One is a closed future. A future that’s proprietary and inflexible. Another is an open future. A future where telcos control their own digital transformation journeys. And a future that benefits from all the innovation that hybrid cloud, AI and open technologies can make possible.

At IBM, we are committed to helping telcos build that open future for the benefit of customers, businesses and society.

Thank you.


Arvind delivers remarks at Mobile World Congress 2021

Watch Arvind deliver remarks at Mobile World Congress 2021 (12:40)