The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is well underway. It’s a critical time for the telco industry to deliver on the immense potential and power that is 5G.
Businesses have begun to offer private 5G networks, providing fast and high-capacity connectivity to customers and new opportunities to automate processes across their enterprises. The bulk of the benefits of 5G to telco customers are higher data throughput rates, increased system capacity, reduced latency, energy savings and simultaneous device connectivity at a reasonable cost. Communication opportunities continue to expand with new innovative ways to connect, collect and analyze data, and deploy apps across telco networks.
Then the unthinkable occurs: a pandemic rocks the entire world. People’s lives get flipped upside down without warning. Hospitals become ground zero to unprecedented chaos. The circumstances shake companies and industrial enterprises to the core, not only impacting their day-to-day communications but severely derailing operations. Any near-future plans shatter. And just like that, the way the world connects abruptly changes forever, and the dire need to accelerate a digital network transformation heightens.
Nationwide 5G rollout extends to more than 230 million people
End-to-end latency is now just 10 ms
Verizon Business is a prime example of a communications service provider (CSP) that is at the forefront of embracing this new digital transformation with 5G. With the emergence of edge computing and the introduction of a multi-access edge computing (MEC) platform, the astronomical impact of COVID-19 has catapulted forward the company’s plan to build the foundation that will support this next generation of business.
“The last year  has been unlike anything any of us could’ve anticipated. It’s been a tragic loss of life and of milestone moments, and we reacted and responded for our customers accordingly,” says Tami Erwin, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Verizon Business. “Now, as we come into 2021, we’re reimaging and redefining what customers require and how we serve them differently.”
One of Verizon’s goals is to help enterprises accelerate access to real-time connectivity by building actionable insights inside operations, paving the way for improved productivity and reducing customer costs. Verizon didn’t go about pursuing this goal on its own. Expanding on its longstanding relationship with IBM, the telecommunications giant began strategizing ways to combine the power of 5G and MEC with IBM’s AI solutions and Red Hat® hybrid cloud capabilities.
Steve Canepa, the General Manager of the Global Communications Sector at IBM, says: “IBM and Verizon have a long and successful history of collaboration, built on a shared vision to drive continuous innovation for consumers and businesses in all industries. Over the years, we’ve progressed our work together with this focus in mind.”
“When I think about the power of partnerships, now more than ever, the ability to come together and innovate on behalf of our customers is super important,” says Erwin. “The ability to do that with a partner like IBM, its expertise combined with our expertise and defined customer requirements, leads to delivering faster and better solutions for our customers.”
“Verizon and IBM both have ambitions to bring a lot of value to all of these initiatives; we know there’ll be many other firms that’ll be doing the same,” adds Canepa. “What we want to be able to do is to create the best possible open, efficient, automated technology environment that allows for that innovation to happen.”
The tenacious collaboration began years ago when Verizon and IBM got together with a reason: to help customers capitalize on the promise of Industry 4.0. The result was the creation of integrated solutions that bring together the best capabilities both companies have to offer. Verizon provides the network and edge infrastructure, and IBM provides the software that runs on top of it and the hybrid cloud platform.
“No large transformation is successful without a strong network plan in place,” says Sowmyanarayan Sampath, President of Global Enterprise at Verizon Business. “So, the time for it is right now, which is why it’s so relevant that IBM and Verizon get together, get faster and get moving on this. We are two huge companies very focused on bringing our best, shiniest and most advanced technologies together on the table.”
Working alongside IBM, Verizon has quickly laid the foundation using a deep bench of tools to accelerate network expansion within all verticals. From manufacturing, healthcare and education to retail and entertainment, the collaboration has been transformative, and it couldn’t have come at a more critical time.
One key industry vertical needing an accelerated digital transformation solution is gas, energy and utilities. Critical infrastructure monitoring, fault detection and response, worksite safety and security were all pressing challenges within the industry. By combining 5G and MEC’s power with IBM’s AI solutions and hybrid cloud platform, remote work just got that much simpler.
“We deployed more and more connectivity during the pandemic, and 5G changed that,” explains Srini Kalapala, Leader of Technology Strategy at Verizon Business. “We knew we needed to deliver a highly reliable connectivity that goes beyond humans, where machines can communicate with each other and do simple things remotely.”
Clients are equipped with tools to access information about their infrastructures from afar using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, cameras and drones. Implementing a solution such as the IBM® Maximo® Application Suite streamlines operations by sending alerts to field personnel remotely, enabling inspections and notifying clients of dangerous situations in near real-time. But all of this heavy processing wouldn’t be possible without the speed of edge, which enables cloud servers to run closer to endpoints, reducing latency. All of this improves productivity, reduces company costs increases return on investment and, more importantly, enhances worker safety throughout enterprises.
“I think the solutions we are building right now are more important than they’ve ever been before. We are building the 21st-century infrastructure and opening the door for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Erwin adds. “Accelerating the build and building it right with partners is critically important as we think about how enterprises, small or large, redefine what success looks like for them with tech at the core. That’s what driving change is all about, making sure we don’t just deliver a technical solution, but a truly sustainable change on behalf of the customers we serve.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to stay apart and halted just about everything, it didn’t seem plausible that a large-scale digital rollout could still launch. Verizon and IBM’s collaboration remained indispensable. The companies marched forward with their original rollout strategy, understanding that the previously set execution plan may need to evolve.
“In February 2020, we were nervous. We thought we would have to slow down 5G deployment,” says Sampath. “We actually went faster. We decided to spend half a billion [USD] more to get 5G deployed faster.”
Verizon found innovative ways during the pandemic to remain in constant collaboration with IBM, progressing further with machine mobility to further digitize its network more effectively. Yet COVID-19 began to rapidly exploit the flaws in the broader established connectivity infrastructure that only 5G and edge computing could tackle.
Kalapala explains: “We were all kept apart but still needed to communicate and get things done. COVID truly pointed out that you can operate at a normal pace if you have good connectivity — but if you don’t, you will get left behind.”
The power of the Verizon and IBM relationship has led to substantial advances in the 5G rollout. As of January 2021, 24 million customers throughout Central Texas, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Upstate New York, and New England now have access to Verizon’s 5G Nationwide service. Overall, the total number of customers with access to the advanced nationwide service increased to more than 230 million in over 2,700 cities.
“What the pandemic has done is made us move significantly faster, primarily around 5G adoption. It has probably been one of the fastest technology adoptions I’ve seen in my career,” confirms Sampath. “If there is a silver lining to all of this, it would be: when it comes to digital transformation and e-commerce, we made more progress in 8 – 10 weeks than we made in the last 8 – 10 years.”
Verizon is a multinational telecommunications conglomerate headquartered in New York City. Known as Bell Atlantic Communications from 1983 – 2000, Verizon is one of the largest local telephone companies in the US, with over 132,200 employees. The company offers voice, data and video services and solutions on its networks and platforms with a presence worldwide.
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