Vodafone Americas: The 5G future
Looking back on a career in communications spanning the past two-and-a-half decades, the President and Country Chairman of Vodafone Americas, Andrew Morawski discovered a passion for technology and its applications in the space early on. From communications pioneer Nortel Networks, Morawski’s career has also seen him work for Telstra International and Cable & Wireless Worldwide, which have provided him “with a global view of business that has been key to [his] role at Vodafone. Vodafone is truly a global company and we are working to help businesses that are based in the Americas region connect globally,” he says.
Worldwide, Vodafone, which employs over 110,000 people across 25 countries and reported a net revenue of US$48.2bn in 2018, “is sitting at the heart of how technology is changing the world and we have the opportunity to help shape how businesses succeed in the digital world,” according to Morawski. In the Americas, Vodafone employs approximately 300 people and its customers are “some of the leading global brands with significant operations in the US,” he explains, “and I am able to bridge my experience in operations with my passion for technology.” Business Chief spoke with Morawski about the next paradigm shift already beginning to reshape both the telecommunications space and technology as a whole: the mass adoption of 5G. We found out about the myriad far-reaching applications and implications of the next big step in Industry 4.0, and got Morawski’s take on the operational challenges and technological opportunities on the horizon.
5G refers to the next generation of mobile communications. The technology promises faster data download and upload speeds, as well as wider currency, more reliable connections, and reductions in latency to basically nil. 5G is made possible by better use of the radio spectrum through which data is transmitted, according to a BBC report, which in addition to faster connections, will allow far more devices to access the mobile internet simultaneously. In addition to the way people download, upload and browse content over the internet, 5G is expected to have far-reaching consequences for the field of artificial intelligence (AI), drones, autonomous vehicles, robotics and a host of other cutting-edge technologies. Above all, perhaps, the rise of 5G coverage will elevate the Internet of Things (IoT) to new levels.
“IoT is an area I’m very passionate about. It is a game-changer for businesses across every industry as it offers access to real-time data, which enables increased efficiency, better customer experience and improved visibility into performance,” says Morawski. “In my opinion, IoT is the catalyst for other emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning, so I predict each to continue to grow in importance across businesses.” The ability for more devices to access mobile internet at greater speeds that 5G provides will, he predicts, empower other emerging technologies. “AI, machine learning, and data analytics gain value when fed with business-critical data. With more devices and endpoints in the business connected to networks via IoT, more data becomes available that can be analyzed through AI, machine learning, and data analytics instances.”
Although Morawski admits that, “it’s hard to see the full impact of 5G so soon, given that we expect it to be around for a decade, we can already see some elements that could have a significant societal impact.” Still, he predicts that “drones will become a much more common sight delivering everything from gifts to important medical supplies.” Back in 2016, Ericsson and China Mobile began testing drones operating over 5G networks. The potential for end-to-end low latency over high-traffic networks that 5G delivers will allow larger numbers of drones to operate in urban and rural areas, with massive implications for logistics and transportation. On the subject of mobility, according to Morawski, “an integrated transport system, with more connected vehicles (both autonomous and driven) can make roads safer, less congested and change the nature of commuting.” He also speculates that, “in the more distant future, remote healthcare could make a significant impact, enabling specialist doctors to treat patients wherever they are in the world,” as instantaneous data monitoring and consistently low latency could make specialist knowledge and skills readily available from the other side of the world.
5G will also, Morawski expects, have a dramatic effect on the US and global workforce. “5G is set to be as much as 100 times faster than existing 4G networks. This would give us the ability to download a full HD movie in under 10 seconds on a 5G network instead of 10 minutes with 4G. This will be game changing for how we share and consume digital content. [The technology] will improve efficiencies and facilitate the use of virtual and augmented reality, which we expect enterprises to start using to provide training and remote worker and customer support. We will even see the speed, reliability and low latency of 5G potentially used in smart factories and other enterprises such as hospitals to support new connected applications.”
For Vodafone’s operations in the America’s, Morawski reveals that the mass-adoption of 5G could have significant, but manageable consequences. “At Vodafone, we see telecoms as the center of digital transformation efforts for our customers, as digital transformation continues to be a main priority for enterprises. In terms of what still needs to be done, we are in the process of transforming our Vodafone owned networks to be able to take on 5G,” he says. “We believe 5G will enable a major shift in our customer’s experience, yet it probably won’t cause significant changes in customer behavior like the jump to 4G did. 4G ushered in the significant shift in the consumption of video and streaming services through devices at a rapid pace. 5G won’t change that behavior, but it will greatly improve that experience.” He also notes that “as much as we would like it to, change doesn’t happen overnight. Change management is a core part of my role at Vodafone as we ensure we can meet the needs of our customers both today and for the future. To me, it is important to set objectives that align with necessary changes and provide clear directions on where and how we make those changes.”
When looking to the future of Vodafone in a 5G world, Morawski says: “The past few years at Vodafone have been some of the most exciting, challenging, and rewarding years of my career and I do not see it slowing down any time soon.”