Many believe 5G will be a catalyst to change economies, countries, and life as we know it. Physical industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, and transportation will digitize and transform unlike anything ever before. Some say it will bring about our next industrial revolution. It’s that big.

I believe it. I also believe that the service provider can emerge as a hero in this story because at the very heart of this new opportunity is the service provider infrastructure that makes it all possible. I also believe that a transformation this massive requires two things to profitably succeed that only Cisco can provide: leading innovation and a trusted business partnership.

I have been quoted saying, “Cisco is the most important 5G vendor in the world.” In fairness, I am often asked by well-meaning and curious people, “why is Cisco meaningful to mobile? You don’t have a macro-radio.” My response (boiled down for brevity), is essentially, “If you think that 5G is only about radios, sorry, you’re wrong, but I think we’re going to have a great conversation.”

5G is so much more than a radio. This is no longer simply about coverage. To progress, we need to push past the familiar. The new 5G enabled world should be defined by the value created from new experiences and applications, not simply the method of access. In fact, those new 5G experiences will span various access types (e.g. business, residential, wired, or wireless) that are unified on an IP network much different than what we know today. Currently, nearly all those networks are completely separate. Continuing with that familiar approach not only is expensive, but the complexity prevents seamless multi-domain services envisioned in the 5G era. To make 5G viable, the infrastructure and operations must evolve dramatically.

Industry-leading Innovation for a Strong Foundation

Modern networks require a software-defined approach to meet current expectations of agility, scale, and extensibility. Cisco has been innovating to unify subscriber management (e.g. cable, BNG, and mobile) into one common cloud-native architecture. It is essential to save costs and provide the multi-domain experiences that customers will value. It is one of the most critical pieces to “get right” as subscribers are the foundation of revenue and profitability for any service provider. Our #1 position in overall subscriber management solutions helps customers trust Cisco in this critical evolution.

We can take a closer look at a good example in mobility with the Cisco Ultra Cloud Core Platform. Cisco Ultra Cloud Core is enhanced with dynamic microservice capability for cloud-scale deployments. Our #1 mobile subscriber management platform has gotten even better. It is 100% cloud native. It is designed for automation. It offers a common execution environment and has a flexible deployment model to simplify operations for our customers.

Now, the mobile network precisely aligns performance and policy to the desired user experience – whether it’s slicing the network specifically for an IoT user or a video optimized for the latest 4K smartphone screen. New services can be personalized in days vs. months. With industry leading performance of over 9 Gbps per UE on our Ultra Cloud Core Platform, waiting and delays will be a thing of the past. Rakuten and T-Mobile are just a couple of great examples of early successes that are using our mobile packet core solution to create new 5G networks or modernize 4G LTE networks to transition to 5G.

Trusted Partnerships for Business Strategy

In a study by GSMA, 69% of SP CEOs believe that enterprises are the key to monetizing 5G. Although enterprises may be lucrative, they are much more demanding and complex than consumers in terms of service customization, availability, and immediacy. Currently, the level of agility that enterprises require is not often met by their service provider.

Cisco’s #1 positions in enterprise networking and mobile packet core provide advanced insights to create unique solutions to these business problems. Having service infrastructure and products addressing enterprise and SP domain have uniquely qualified Cisco as authority to understand these requirements and create a path to profitability for our 5G customers.

This has resulted in Cisco Unified Domain Center (UDC). With UDC, service providers allow enterprises to control their own 5G network slice transparently as if part of their existing LAN/WAN. Whether it’s bringing up a new site, new IoT strategy, or a new remote worker, the enterprise seamlessly extends their intent-based networking management into 5G to extend beyond their current facilities. The service provider now provides 5G business agility at a premium value that the enterprise demands. I’ll share more exciting details on specific customer successes in a future blog.

Cisco 5G Now

Cisco has a unique ability to provide the most advanced 5G innovations, and trusted business partnerships help our customers succeed in this massive yet all important transition to 5G. Whether a customer is relatively big or small, our unmatched cloud to client portfolio will help customers evolve from a 4G monolithic architecture to a distributed, programmable, and automated 5G architecture.

Already, we have seen great momentum with customers trialing and transitioning to a 5G network infrastructure. One of the most recent examples was with T-Mobile USA. In July, they announced the world’s first standalone 5G data session on a multi-vendor 5G next gen radio access and core network, and the first stand-alone 5G data session of any kind in North America. This is a significant milestone as standalone 5G will enable groundbreaking applications that require real-time response and mass connectivity.

5G is so much more than radio. I am so excited to see further adoption of 5G over the next months and years. The momentum is building. Cisco has pledged $5 billion dollars over the next three years to assist our customers in accelerating their 5G deployments. Stay tuned. I plan on sharing many more specifics on the winning journeys we are taking with many customers. One final thought to the well-meaning and curious, instead of asking me “why is Cisco meaningful to mobile?”, maybe the real question you should be asking legacy vendors is “why should I buy a second-class IP, optical, and automation infrastructure from a radio vendor?”


Jonathan Davidson

EVP and General Manager

Cisco Networking