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“During the pandemic, Broadband has saved economic collapse and the health system collapse” says Phil Sorsky, Senior Vice president of Worldwide Sales at CommScope. When you think about it, one of the unsung heroes of the last 2 years has been technologies that kept us connected to our families and our work.
With the lines between “home” and “office” increasingly blurred due to the rise of remote working, access to reliable connectivity is crucial so that local economies and communities can truly thrive.
In the latest episode of The Actionable Futurist Podcast, we explore the future of 5G and fibre technologies and what we can expect around the corner.
We also looked at what can be done to narrow the digital divide, especially since we’re now relying on online services even more as a result of the pandemic.
Phil has more than 20 years of telecommunications industry experience, having worked for Juniper Networks, Adobe Systems, Cisco Systems and AT&T, and he is a graduate of the University of Birmingham in the UK.
In this episode we also discussed
- Narrowing the digital divide
- How 5G can solve the “last mile” problem?
- The state of 5G in the UK
- The rise of “community fibre”
- Will every home be connected to fibre in the UK in 10 years?
- How Covid accelerated high-speed broadband adoption
- Would a National Broadband Network concept work in the UK?
- Why Fibre is the answer for faster broadband
- The societal benefits of faster broadband
- How broadband has saved lives and economic collapse during the pandemic
- Cybercrime post-pandemic
- Will we see more 5G use cases?
- The uses of 5G with IoT
- Femtocells to help mobile coverage
- New innovations to drive new services
- What new developments have come out of the pandemic?
- 3 Actionable things for this week
More on Phil
Phil on Twitter
Phil on LinkedIn
Welcome to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast a show all about the near term future with practical and actionable advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question, what’s the future all with voices and opinions that need to be heard. Your host is international keynote speaker and The Actionable Futurist® Andrew Grill.
Andrew Grill 0:30
My guest today is Senior Vice President of service providers say, for CommScope fiddles responsible for all business in the telecommunication space, including mobility and fixed line. He has more than 20 years of telecommunications industry experience, having worked for Juniper Networks, Adobe Systems, Cisco Systems and AT and T. And He’s a graduate of the University of Birmingham in the UK. So for people that don’t know about CommScope, what do you do?
Phil Sorsky 0:57
We basically provide the plumbing for the Internet, whether that be fixed like in terms of fibre, and or copper DOCSIS style of infrastructure, as well as wireless infrastructure. On the wireless side, for example, the rent site we do, we do everything except the radio. So all of the antennas, the cabling, the filters, and so on, it’s all typically purchased from Costco.
Andrew Grill 1:18
Now, I saw another interview you did, and I didn’t realise this, but you actually own the Andrew antenna brand.
Phil Sorsky 1:24
That’s right. We acquired Andrew I think was around about 2008. And of course, Andrew, although we’ve been involved in modern Rand systems to one G 2g 3g, Andrew goes back a lot further than that, I think, right back to the 1930s, you’ll, you’ll see our old antennas at the top of the Empire State Building. They’re
Andrew Grill 1:42
very distinctive as a radio engineer years ago, in Australia, that distinctive red lightning bolt was something that I always looked up at. And I’m the geek that looks up at microwave towers to see what frequencies they’re using. But hey, that’s a whole other story.
Phil Sorsky 1:53
Um, the other one that I bought my wife every time we see one of our satellite dishes. There’s another red flash,
Andrew Grill 1:59
we did talk about a number of things. One is the digital divide, which is an interesting thing to talk about, especially sort of as we’re coming out of pandemic and people are now relying more on communications. So with the lines between home and office increasingly being blurred due to the rise of remote distributed working, access to reliable connectivity is really curious shuffle so that local economies and communities can truly thrive. I read a recent report from Ofcom that showed 1.5 million homes in the UK are still without efficient broadband. So my question to you is what can be done to narrow this digital divide, especially since we’re now relying on online services even more as a result of the pandemic?
Phil Sorsky 2:35
I think this phrase digital divide is actually an interesting phrase, because it’s become a common phrase that we all use. But I would define digital divide as people who don’t have access to the internet or reasonable access to the internet. Now, I would suggest than everybody who works in an office that needed to work from home through the pandemic, either already had or soon acquired a decent broadband connection, because otherwise they couldn’t do their job. But then other people that at least one Digital Divide was originally defined as, like the haves and have nots, that they to me are not the people that are being left behind. The people that are being left behind are the ones that don’t have access to a basic internet connection. And by definition, those people are not going to be people who were working in an office, I would suggest that maybe, you know, educationally, they didn’t get a great start in life, they didn’t get a great chance at the very beginning. And as society moves more online, and as most people do have access to, not so much database, but fixed broadband, even as low as, say, 256k or 512. K. But as most people do have access to some kind of broadband link, the ones being left behind are the very poor, and the second people didn’t get a chance to get a good education and fixing that, to me, it’s as much of a political problem as it is a technology problem. And I guess, you know, there was a lot of who are at the last election in the UK as to whether there should be free broadband for all. Well, I don’t prescribe to that at all. Because if if you can afford to pay for something which I can you can, then why should the government subsidise that? Because that’s money that could be going to the NHS or to local council services or whatever. But for those people that really can’t afford some kind of connection, broadband connection, then I think that is the role of government. So I’m not out of you know, I’m not suggesting for one second three bought broadband for all, I’d say in well over 90% of cases, people should pay for it just like they pay for Sky TV and so on. But there is that section of society that is going to need supporting if we’re going to be able to move everything online and everybody’s going to live in the cloud and so on and all government services will be accessible via the cloud, then yet we can’t leave behind that section of society that didn’t get a great start. And I think there is a role for government should provide some kind of backstop for and if you’d like in the same way we do for food and for healthcare.
Andrew Grill 5:05
I saw during the pandemic that a lot of the mobile operators were providing low or free services to people that were vulnerable. And I think also NHS workers actually got access to extra data or unlimited data as well. So the mobile operators also saw how important this was. So I suppose when we talk about broadband, we often think about a fixed connection. But can new services like 5g Solve this last mile problem? In short, yes,
Phil Sorsky 5:29
it can. If if you live in a place that doesn’t have decent fixed broadband, but you can get that wireless signal, and then 5g can certainly do the job. I was I was unfortunate enough to watch Liverpool at West Ham last weekend, and we lost three, two, so it was a great experience. But whilst waiting before the game, I just tested my download speed. And I pulled out nuclear near the stadium at the Olympic Stadium. And I was getting 200 megabits per second on 5g. And for a geek like me, I think Wow, 200 meg it wirelessly in in the Middle East End is absolutely incredible. But I would suggest that unfortunately, a lot of the places that don’t have good fixed broadband don’t have access to good wireless either, because fundamentally, you still need to run fibre from that place, wherever that place may be back into the core network. And if that place is, let’s say a remote Scottish Island, or somewhere deep deep into the countryside, that no telco has run fibre to a point of presence. There, no amount of wireless connectivity is going to give you that high speed internet because the wireless world sooner or later has to be connected to the wired world, which in this day and age is fibre. So unfortunately, I think the places with bad coverage are often ones without good fixed or wireless broadband, in which case 5g Isn’t isn’t going to particularly help. Why am
Andrew Grill 6:55
I a former telco engineering work for Telstra and Optus in Australia? As you know, so if we were having this discussion Australia, the Telstra people will be laughing at you because they read some of the most remote places in the world with fibre. I laugh sometimes because I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the UK could fit into Australia 42 times. So it’s actually quite tiny when you look at the landmass of Australia. And when you say there are some parts that don’t have coverage, the media famously talks about not spots, places where there’s no mobile coverage. And you’re absolutely right with these 5g services, the fact that you can get 200 megabits a second on a handheld that has to get to a base station that has to get there via fibre. So obviously the East End of London is well covered. But how do we balance the digital divide? And what’s the latest in the UK with fibre and wireless connectivity in those rural and hard to reach areas? BTS are ramping things up? What’s the limit? Where will we get to
Phil Sorsky 7:42
the good news is that certainly from a BT point of view, they are extending their tentacles deeper into the UK footprint. And as you say, you know to BT, going 50 or 60 miles off piste is a long way. And in Australian terms that’s around the corner we work a lot with NBN, the big Australian Carrie and that is literally still in a local neighbourhood in Australian terms. But I think when it comes to BT, they are going deeper and deeper into the the rural footprints as it were a because they see a business opportunity. And be there is more government pressure than ever now for BT to step up and provide universal coverage across the UK. In the same way if you’d like as the post office when the post office first thing came to the fore. Many years ago, they had to offer a service to everybody in the country. And I think finally BT are getting with it from that perspective. I was indiefest Wales about nine months ago with my wife and I were surprised to see an open reach man trundling down the lane. As we stopped, the guy stopped and was about to get a perceptible at the pole. And we had an you know, good conversation that while you’re doing these environments, totally fibre to them on site. And this is right in the middle of nowhere from from the UK point of view. So yeah, I think it’s getting a lot better, and it will continue to get better. What I can’t say is having that quickly as the alternates the alternative carriers that are putting fibre in whether that be virgin oh two at the very high level, or some of the other alternatives like cityfibre, they will they will cherry pick, they will go after work and they get the most sense connected quickly. And of course, a farm down the End of the Lane in Norfolk isn’t going to be as attractive to them as doing downtown. Norwich would be for example. So I think for commercial reasons, they will be slower to that very remote location.
Andrew Grill 9:32
We’ll want to talk about community fibre for a moment because I’ve had G dot network dig up the street outside my home and they’re doing it all over here in South Kensington and it just seems to me a very expensive way of connecting people so they lay the fibre and then obviously they will hopefully go door to door and try and connect people up. I’ve got friends in Fulham though that for people not from London is not very far it’s about a half an hour walk or a 10 minute drive from here and one street is being laid the parallel street with my friend leaves they need 5000 pounds up front before they’re leaving. Consider laying fibre down the next street. So you’re right that they’re cherry picking what is the opportunity here for community fibre? Will we really see areas where there is decent fibre? Will every home be connected in say 10 years time? I
Phil Sorsky 10:12
think the answer is yes. Interestingly, we one of the reasons I say yes is the carriers are all dealing with the streets. As you said, you can’t get around London these days without having to navigate all kinds of roadworks for that very reason. The government is pushing hard, not just on BT, but on all the childcare to make it happen. But that coincided with COVID and the pandemic. And like, you know, I liken COVID, to a war. And in all, all wartime, some terrible things happen, some very sad things happen. But also some things are extremely accelerated, if you like. So, you know, going back to World War Two, things like penicillin were really pushed to the fore, penicillin had been invented, but it wasn’t really being used. Whereas in World War Two, the military realised if they could inject penicillin to give it to all their soldiers, it made their army more robust, and it massively accelerated the mass production of penicillin. And I think broadband has gone through a similar curve before COVID. There were people like me, and daresay you, the more geeky and a society that absolutely wants the fastest speed, and other people that would just always choose choose the fastest speed available, because that’s the kind of personality they are. But a lot of other people were not that bothered about the speed they were getting, until suddenly they were working from home. And they could see both the visual and the audio difference that a decent broadband connection made. And so all of these things happening at the same time, is forcing people to see not just the need for a an internet connection, which I think everybody jumped on that bandwagon by 2008 or 2009. But now everybody is conscious, particularly if you have an office type of job, or a job that you can do from a computer. And if you have that kind of job, everybody now realises the importance of a decent broadband connection, as well as anybody with children, anybody who’s had to suffer their children being at home, on and off for the last 20 to 22 months, whatever, also realise that once you’ve got three or four children coming home from school, whether it’s because they’re doing their homework, or they’re doing some kind of online gaming, but suddenly when their broadband speeds crash, because they’re also trying to run an office teams call or a zoom call whenever they realise how important broadband is. That’s tied in with, you know, if you talk to estate agents, there’s been a massive surge in interest, and in fact, sales of property much further away from London than they typically was before the pandemic. I’m not from the south east of England, like like you’re not, you’re from a bit further away than I am. But coming from Liverpool, the, in the 80s, everything revolved around London, and you had to be in around the home counties to be involved on a national or international scale. Whereas now with decent broadband, you can literally work from anywhere, you can’t do that without decent broadband. And so the, you know, the way politics works, the I guess, the wealthier people, the more articulate people and so on, they’re in a position to influence large companies like BT, and or politicians, like the current government to make sure that broadband is rolled out to suit their needs. And if their needs that they bought a country pile down on the Cornwall, Devon border, then they you know, they can pull the levers to make that happen, more so than when they didn’t care, three or four years ago. So I, you know, long winded answer to your question, I guess, I do think that the proliferation of fibre is going to take place. Everybody almost who wants it, within reason will have fibre to their home by certainly the end of this decade, and probably a lot sooner.
Andrew Grill 13:52
That’s a bold prediction, you to write about the connectivity, the fact that the pandemic has really focused that I reckon in a not too distant future, the zooplus of this world, the sort of house are finding networks, they might even say, what’s the estimated speed broadband speed you’ll get to this home is there fibre in the street because that’s important consideration. Even if you’ve got fast broadband once everyone gets on there, it’s then your home network that suffers some years ago, I moved to a unify system, which is a professional grade wireless network and friends who’ve said I’ve got bad Wi Fi. I’ve actually now installed that in nine different houses, including my parents in Australia, and I remotely manage these nine Wi Fi networks and balance things to get great speed. So I know exactly how that’s increased. And we make that 10 I’d love to help you. Yes. You mentioned the National Broadband Network, the NBN in Australia, and that’s quite an interesting topic because back in 2007, the government of the day I think it was the Labour government said we are going to connect everyone to fibre. fast forward through subsequent conservative and Labour governments. It all became very difficult to do because they realise especially in a country like Australia, connecting every home to fibre is actually quite difficult. The Fast Forward in tech I want to show you the fact it’s now easy to lay fibre. The fact that demand is now there, the fact that we’re doing lots of video calls and we’ve got Netflix and Amazon Prime and the demand on that is so much greater people are now seeing that they need to move and move up to the speed. Do you think having the government mandate that everyone we connected to fibre will help me You alluded to it there with the NBN style system work here in the UK.
Phil Sorsky 15:23
I think first of all that NBN the vision was great. And I fully endorse where the then Labour government in Australia was coming from in terms of the importance and the need to provide fibre to every home. Unfortunately, like a lot of things in life, I think NBN became a little bit of a political football, in terms of whether it was funded, whether it was not as each new government was coming in for election. And the end didn’t know even if it would exist post election because of who you are, they’re gonna be carry on funding. And so and that doesn’t help at all. Secondly, NBN didn’t start with a greenfield opportunity, it acquired various components of what he had some Telstra assets, and some DOCSIS, cable TV type assets, and so on, they kind of had to make the best job of what it had inherited. And of course, if you take DOCSIS over cable TV, that is a way of providing high speed internet into a home. And at the time, if you look at the technology has moved on since 2007, through 2000 and 789 10. Using DOCSIS was probably one of the most affordable ways to provide high speed internet to a large part of the then NBN footprint. So you know if it’s going to cost you 1000 or $2,000, to connect a home versus a few 100, or even just a few 10s of dollars on DOCSIS, you’d go down the lower cost routes to be able to connect more homes quickly. However, in the long run, I would say that was somewhat short sighted and might have been economically wise. And as I say because it’s a political football, it’s you couldn’t criticise anybody in NBN for for how they’ve gone about things. But in the long run, fibre will always win for the simple reason that whether you look at DOCSIS over cable TV networks, or DSL over twisted pair, they’re both copper based. And they were both designed in the case of coax to run TV signals in the case of twisted pair to run voice, human voice. And they did a great job. For many decades, it was only human ingenuity to found a way to transmit high speed data over cable TV cables, and human ingenuity. They’ve invented DSL to run high speed data over an analogue copper cable. But they were never designed to do that in the first place. Whereas fibre was fibre was invented to run high speed data in a cost effective way. So in the end, and when I say in the end, I’m sort of Fast Forward 50 to 100 years from now, they’ll look back at the tweet the Crimson the Victorians if you like when we used to run data over copper networks, because in the end, it’ll all be over fibre, because that’s what it was designed to do.
Andrew Grill 18:02
showing my age. And when I present, I had a presentation last week to a bunch of lawyers actually. And I explained that I’ve been online since 1983, and asked for a show of hands who in the room was born after that, and there were quite a few people I said, I’ve actually been online longer than you’ve been alive. And I played the dial up tone. And I remember dialling up to a bulletin board system in 1983 at 300, that 300 bits per second, not megabits, not kilobits, 300 bits per second. And that was painful. But I remember when I was at Telstra, and I was an executive, so I got to have two bonded ISDN channels. So I had 128 kilobits a second time, and I thought I was in heaven, could you put a finger on the societal benefits of connection and good, reliable connection, both economically and socially?
Phil Sorsky 18:44
I’m not sure I could put a finger on it. To be honest, the last 20 months have proven that whether it be from a business point of view or career point of view, or from a just a social function, that without connectivity, we would have been in big trouble. I’ve had this conversation many times as society’s opened up and being able to meet friends and so on. And I’ve asked the question, can you imagine what would have happened in the last two years if we hadn’t had broadband. And by the way, the broadband we have today is nowhere near as good as it’s going to be in the next five years. But even with the broadband we have, even if you’ve only got a five or 10 meg or whatever, can you imagine what would have happened to society if we didn’t have that broadband both from a mental health point of view in terms of being able to at least maintain some social contact. But more importantly, from an economic point of view, the fact that a lot of us anybody with as a with a role that can be done via a computer, in the name we could carry on working from home. And if we hadn’t have had that broadband connectivity, then one of two things would have happened either the economy would have collapsed that Allah World War Two sign of collapse, or we would have had to accept a much higher death toll than we had all been. It was awful, and probably too high as it were, but but it would have been a lot worse had we not had broadband because the governments of the day, all of the government’s would have said, either A, you just got to stay at home and do nothing, in which case, economic collapse, or be we’re going to allow you out to do your job on some kind of restricted basis. But more and more people would have caught the virus and more and more people would have passed away. So for me, broadband has literally saved economic collapse and or the health system collapse,
Andrew Grill 20:29
if you look at lockdown, even five, six years ago would have been very different. For those reasons. I hadn’t considered that actually that broadband has facilitated the ability to work from home. And really, if we now fast forward, I’m being asked all the time, what’s the future of work, and everyone’s saying it’s hybrid, people don’t want to go back five days a week. The reason we can even have this discussion is because broadband is there. And it’s a really interesting point, something I hadn’t considered, but it’s so obvious. But another thing I want to look at, we talk about digital divide in terms of haves and have nots, but I want to talk about another thing that’s been introduced because of this working from home and that cybercrime now that more people are at home, I’m seeing the increase of crime being executed online, things like phishing, crypto jacking and general social engineering, are you seeing the same? Yes, I
Phil Sorsky 21:09
think, you know, the bad guys will always follow the money. And if there’s a way to illegally take money off particularly naive or innocent or uneducated, that they’ll always exploit anybody that they can. I think from a corporate point of view, we’re seeing a lot more robustness in terms of security being applied, not just in terms of algorithms, and the right endpoints on a laptop or on an iPad or whatever. But also in terms of behavioural training, you know, I work for a large multinational, and as well as they provide us with all the appropriate hardware, and embedded software within that hardware to keep the bad guys at bay. But they also continually run reality training, where the company itself will deliberately send phishing emails, which you’re expected to recognise as a phishing attempt. And, and hopefully you put it in your junk folder and or report it to it. But if you don’t, if you click on it, then you are taken away to do some refresher training. Don’t forget, there are bad guys out there. So I think, sadly, it is on the increase, I think, you know, we’re hearing constantly have entire companies being shut down for a day or two, because the bad guys have gone in and they’re having to clean things up. We had a company over from the Netherlands, actually, last week, we’re very big in street furniture, where we put antennas at the top of poles and so on. And this particular company is very good at street furniture, as well as manufacturing cars, as well as manufacturing walk in showers. I mean, they do everything in the Netherlands huge company. And they they’ve been shut down for about six weeks, because they had a cyber attack. And it’s all going very quiet internally, they haven’t explained exactly how they’re getting out of it. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, let’s say and they’re all expecting to be back online. Literally in the next few days. What they actually said is if it wasn’t for WhatsApp, we would have collapsed because every system had to be shut down. The bad guys had done a very good job from a bad guys point of view. And it was WhatsApp that kept them all going and they’ve been literally trading with each other inside the corporate on WhatsApp for about six weeks.
Andrew Grill 23:20
That shows you that single point of failure. If you get hacked, it can be incredibly dangerous. I do a public service announcement and love my talks about password managers and two factor authentication. I do a stand up I say stand up if you’ve got two factor enabled and I get annoyed with audiences that don’t turn it on. For those listening. If you go to to F A dot directory, it shows you all of the different sites that have got two factor enable I turn on for absolutely everything. And if listeners do nothing else today, I’ve listened this podcast, please please please go and turn on two factor. So we’ve both been in the telco space for a long time I cut my teeth with one G adopters and two g at Telstra in the late 90s. Like you’ve also been attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona for years. And each year when we’re there, the promises whatever g we’re on would be a revolution. So now we’re up to 5g, will we see an acceleration in use cases as the networks get rolled out?
Phil Sorsky 24:08
Both with 4g and 5g, the use case seem to be just faster speeds for the for the human 3g was okay, but it was a bit sluggish. Let’s be honest. Whereas 4g, I find to be generally acceptable for most of the things that I need to do as a human being. Because my brain can’t work any anywhere near as fast as a as a processor can. So everything I need to do 4g is probably fast enough. And 5g I think has begun. It’s like really as turbocharged 4g. When you really sit down think well, what can a human consume? Beyond 4g? There’s not that much other than perhaps certain applications with 5g where you’ve got the benefit of low latency, then yeah, maybe gaming, for example, that low latency is something else that the human can perceive. But for me, we’re finally getting into the speeds where it’s only the IoT world the Internet of Things world Whether I think they are something quite powerful like a laptop, or something very simple, like a security camera or whatever, we’re reaching the speed where it’s only the devices that can really exploit the network, whether it’s the ultra reliable low latency aspect of the network, the high security aspect of the network, or just the sheer speed that you’re going to get from 5g. So for example, things like augmented reality, when I was at Cisco, we were just getting into broadband at the very beginning, DOCSIS 1.0, was taking off in the beginning of DSL, and a colleague of mine who was a visionary. He’s an extra MIT guy who’s strategist for Cisco. He said to me at the time, Phil, it’s all about video, that’s what’s going to be the exponential kicker for bandwidth consumption. Because initially, you know, we just did email and then we had the static picture. And even a static picture will take two or three seconds to download, then came video. And at that time, I guess 2g, the mobile internet just wasn’t fast enough to use video. So that was, what 2021 years ago. Now, we’ve got Netflix, Amazon Prime sky, all using the internet as its main distribution mechanism. So for video, the internet has finally become robust enough, including the the wireless internet, as in 4g, but as we get into technologies, like augmented reality, like a hologram meetings, whereby you and I, rather than being on this, this zoom interface, we actually have a holographic experience where we feel we are almost in the same room together, those kinds of applications will consume enormous amounts of bandwidth. And it’s a chicken and egg. For most of my career, the software writers have always assumed there was more bandwidth. And there was really so as soon as you took it away from a wired connection, it didn’t work, because the people or Microsoft, or wherever, hadn’t realised how much bandwidth their app was going to consume. Whereas now I think the tables have turned completely. We’re about to get into a world where there’s so much bandwidth, the software guys don’t know what to do with it, because we’ve got more bandwidth than any current application needs. But I would use the analogy of electricity. And when Faraday first figured out how to generate electricity, it was 1931 or so. And it was nearly 50 years later, before the light bulb was invented. So I think we’re in a similar situation, I don’t think it’s going to take 50 years, by the way, but I think we’ve now invented superfast Internet, whether it’s fixed your home, or it’s wireless with 5g, everybody’s gonna get access to that over the next two or three years. And now the challenge is for the application people to write the apps that will exploit that bandwidth. But believe me, they will, because humans are very innovative. And I’m sure that although at the minute, we don’t quite see the need for a personal need for 500. Meg’s wherever you are, I think over the next couple of years, we’ll look back and say yeah, we found a way to use that bandwidth.
Andrew Grill 27:56
I’ll have 500 Meg’s wherever I am, thank you very much. I’ve got a 5g MiFi and I everywhere I do the same thing. I do speed tests. I think on Vodafone in central London, I’ve got 350 meg down, and about 75 meg up so Vodafone left again because I want 350 up as well. But I’m you know, I’m a Futurist, you mentioned 5g about speed. But I just want to look at another use case, which is you mentioned IoT. And actually IoT is not about speed. It’s about scale. So if you’ve got billions and billions of connected devices, you might have a device that sits in a laboratory to show whether the door is open or closed. And if you then fit every door with one of those devices, you can then do predictive cleaning, because you can then see how often the laboratories are used, those actually may only transmit at 200 bits per second and mainly transmit every five minutes. So they don’t need the speed. But if you’ve got a billion devices in central London, you need a system that can connect permanently. So my argument is for IoT use cases, it’s about scale, not speed. No, I would
Phil Sorsky 28:51
wholeheartedly agree. But if you if you look at some of the other functionality out of 5g, such as network slicing, it’s quite feasible that Vodafone or E or whoever could slice part of their network, and wholesale that out to a security company or a cleaning company that has got those IoT devices. But because the IoT device doesn’t, it’s not important, as you’ve closed the door for that information to go back to the control centre, that very millisecond, if it takes two or three seconds, even a minute, it doesn’t matter, because it’s a cleaning company that we act in minutes and hours, not not in milliseconds. So they can slice that part of the network and sell it to that particular application. But at the same time, there are other applications that do require extremely low latency such as maybe some kind of telemedicine application, whereby if you were for argument’s sake, literally a remote health worker having to do something with a patient that’s a long way away, then it’s very important to have that low latency. And so you slice the network accordingly to provide that superior service. And in that context, it makes it more afford Will the operators to dissect their networks, and therefore accelerate the whole rollout of all these different types of technologies. But in an affordable way,
Andrew Grill 30:08
the issue is spectrum, that spectrum is finite, and it has to be licenced, and it’s very expensive. And I remember someone talking yesterday about the bragging rights on 5g. So the three network here in the UK got a contiguous 100 megahertz allocation, which makes life a lot easier than having to chop things around. So I think it’ll be he or she who can spend the most on spectrum will win the game at the end, back to the home setup. I’m not sure if you remember the promise of Femto cells. Femto cell is essentially a base station, the home three 4g base station connected via internet, I had one from Vodafone in my basement flat some years ago in London, because I had bad mobile coverage. Whatever happened to them,
Phil Sorsky 30:43
I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure other than I’ve got one here in my home office, because where we lived our lay at reasonably decent broadband, but the wireless signal is awful, the carrier kindly gave me want to connect to my broadband, and it seems to do the job. So as far as I’m aware, from a consumer point of view, they’re still being used. And they still fill that niche where the wireless signal is poor. And you need a voicing, although I don’t know about you, what I’ve noticed is, throughout the pandemic, I’ve used my cell phone less than less. And I’ve been a lot more on Zoom calls on teams calls on WebEx calls and so on, both internally and externally, everybody quickly adapted to the new paradigm. And I found that my laptop and my iPad, that become the preferred mechanism to talk with people. And the mobile phone gets used now and again, but not a lot, certainly compared to pre pandemic.
Andrew Grill 31:37
Yeah, someone rang me yesterday, it was a phone call. And I thought, what’s that I’ve never thought for a while. So back to CommScope. And what you’re doing, what new innovations will you or are you developing that will help operators drive new services. On the fixed
Phil Sorsky 31:49
side, we’re a big player in fibre infrastructure, as we said at the very beginning. And the problem that the telcos have now got with rolling out fibre everybody’s woken up to fibre and realised it is the way forward, whether it’s because of government prodding, or they just come to that conclusion anyway, that fibre is very much in vogue. And like any mass rollout, you need people to make things happen. And the fibre rollout is a massive civil engineering exercise, if you like you mentioned earlier about people dying in the street near you and for them, and so on, that’s going on throughout the country and throughout the world. So a you need civil engineer to do the digging, a little digging, but then you need telecoms engineers to start to connect the exchanges to the nearest cabinet, and then the cabinet into your building or your apartment block, and so on. And there are only so many of those engineers to go around. Just like there are only so many people to pick brussel sprouts for Christmas or whatever. What we’re doing is we’ve developed devices whereby you can connect things in the field much more rapidly than generation one if you like, with Generation One it like imagine your job is installing televisions, on behalf of a large retailer. If when they ship the television, the television comes with a power cord and just to bare wires. And your job as the installer is to take it into somebody’s house, get it in position, and then fit the plug and plug it in and make sure it works. That would take a lot longer than if the manufacturer puts a plug on the end in the first place. Because you could just put your position plug in or where you go. Well our hardened fibre technology is similar. It’s made in the factory in a way that the field installers can plug and play very rapidly and then move on to the next piece of their day. Whereas generation one fibre tends to be much more about terminating fibre in the field with the appropriate tools where you got to be super clean and super careful, very accurate in terms of the finish and so on. And that takes a lot of time. So what we’re doing is helping fibre based operators roll these things out much more quickly, with a limited labour pool. On the wireless side. We’ve had a lot of conferences lately with all the big wireless players. And they say that 5g is as much about civil construction as it is about technology. And the reason for that is the the tower loading in places like American Australia, they tend to go more for big towers, which are devices almost like mini Eiffel Towers, if you like that in concrete on the ground and docile on the highway or or in the city in Europe, because of space, they tend to be a lot more rooftop type environments where the antennas are on the roof. But either way, all of these locations have typically been designed with 2g, 3g, 4g in mind, where the loading of the top of the tower or the top of the roof was less in terms of physical weight of units. And in terms of wind load, because you can imagine a group of antennas at the top of the building in high winds acts like a kite. There’s a fair bit of stress goes on to the steel substructure. And they have to pass the local council safety tests and so on and so forth. So as we get into 5g, you’ve got Very heavy new antennas and new radios going up. And that creates a civil engineering challenge in terms of beefing up the rooftop or the or the tower on the highway. And what we’re doing is creating new antennas, passive antennas that will allow you to still offer the services, you’re offering a 4g and 3g at the various specs, whatever spectrum allocation you’ve got, as an operator, you can still operate those. And at the same time behind our passive antenna, in a kind of a ghost footprint, if you like, you can have the active antenna from your OEM, depending on who the the active side of your ideas, for instance, Ericsson or, or Nokia or whoever. And so by putting in this overlap type of capability, you’re reducing the wind load and the weight at the top of the structure, and therefore minimising the amount of steel reengineering that you’d have to do to roll out 5g. So from our point of view, we’re accelerating the rollout of 5g by having to do less civil engineering than you would, if you did what we’ve done with two, three and 4g, which is just more antennas on the top of the tower,
Andrew Grill 36:08
you might just explain for our listeners, what the differences between active and passive antennas, not that it’s important, I will be testing people. But I’m intrigued as to what the difference is
Phil Sorsky 36:15
all the way up to 4g. The antennas at the top of the tower are similar to the antenna that you might have used in the old days to get a TV signal. It’s just a device for capturing the signal. And dare I say if you touched it, you wouldn’t be electrocuted, it’s a passive device, there’s no, there’s no power going to that unit, the latest generation of antennas for massive MIMO are active. And they are part of the whole base station infrastructure. They’re controlled by the same software that controls the route. And they can they can pump through tremendous amount of data. They’re tremendously efficient, but they’re pretty expensive. And they consume a lot of power. And they’re pretty heavy. So you would typically use them in downtown London, in South Kensington near the station, for instance, or in Piccadilly Circus and so on. And in those dense locations per bit, they become more efficient in terms of per bit carried through the network. In lighter load scenarios, such as more remote parts of even London or certainly parts of Australia, you’d say, Why am I powering something for 24 hours a day, when there’s only three cars a day go past here, I’ll go with a passive antenna, and the passive antenna will do the job if the traffic load as well. And where we fit in is say we bring the legacy 3g 4g is to the same site as the new 5g. And it’s the the 5g active antenna in a busy city centre location that you would typically get from your OEM. And the passive side would complement that on the passive side and marry the two together so that from a whim point of view, it looks like one antenna, when in fact, you’ve got two quite different technologies in a way sitting in exactly the same footprint.
Andrew Grill 38:01
So final question, before we go to a quick fire round, what new products and services do you expect to produce as a result of the pandemic? What have you learned and how well have you adapted,
Phil Sorsky 38:10
we haven’t stopped innovating now in terms of smaller and faster fibre connectivity. So we have a whole new range of products, the novick’s brand, which will accelerate the speed of fibre rollout, and we see the fibre demand way off into the horizon. This isn’t a 12 to 24 month thing, this is at least 567 years ahead. So smaller, lighter, more nimble on the fibre side. And then on the on the wireless side. You mentioned earlier on that some operators were lucky enough to get contiguous spectrum and their antenna design contend to be easier because you’re only having to apply to a whole chunk of spectrum or next to next to each other if you’d like. Whereas most operator histories like roads in Europe, they weren’t planned in a grid like fashion. Like in the in the US. They just grew over history. And most operators have got a historical acquisition of spectrum where every time they bought more spectrum, they got different bits of bandwidth versus the time before. And that requires specialist antennas. So for us, it’s more and more about working with bespoke antennas with each and every operator and each and every country which does a lot of heavy lifting to do that. But it’s the only way that the operators are going to be able to provide full 5g To as many people as they can in whatever that geography is whether whether spectrum licences so it’s continued innovation on that antenna design.
Andrew Grill 39:36
So almost out of time. Let’s go for a quick fire round to find out more about fill iphone or android iphone PC or Mac
Phil Sorsky 39:44
Andrew Grill 39:46
What’s the app you use most on your phone?
Phil Sorsky 39:49
Oh, you stumped me. I was gonna say WhatsApp, but actually I think Twitter or what’s
Andrew Grill 39:55
your Twitter handle
Phil Sorsky 39:56
the source Good.
Andrew Grill 39:57
What’s the one thing you won’t be doing again post pandemic
Phil Sorsky 39:59
and worrying too much about the future?
Andrew Grill 40:03
Or it’s the opposite of me, I have to worry about the future given my job. What are you reading at the moment?
Phil Sorsky 40:08
I’m actually reading a book. It’s fiction, but it’s based on reality about Mexican drug wars.
Andrew Grill 40:13
How do you want to be remembered?
Phil Sorsky 40:15
I guess as a fair individual, Respect for others. Love my family generally have a cheerful disposition.
Andrew Grill 40:23
As this is the actual whole futures podcast, what three actionable things should people be doing now to get themselves ready for 2022? When it comes to digital and communications technology? So three
Phil Sorsky 40:33
things I would say firstly, check your local telcos and tensions regarding future broadband speeds. And if they’re not offering at least 100 Meg, you might want to consider moving house. Secondly, I would say you need to check your security situation, both from a electronic security in terms of software that can protect you, but also password security. I think Andrews cognitively wrong, we’re absolutely spot on. And thirdly, I guess, from a device point of view, we You ain’t seen anything yet. We were already up to the iPhone 13. I think, take a keen interest in new developments from a device point of view, because AR is just around the corner. Augmented reality is just around the corner. And I think there’s a whole new world, we’re going to be able to
Andrew Grill 41:22
fill some great tips there. How can people find out more about you and your work?
Phil Sorsky 41:26
That’s easy. Either check me out on LinkedIn and just feel source get on LinkedIn, or www commscope.com.
Andrew Grill 41:35
Fantastic. A great discussion today. Nice to speak to another fellow geek who’s been involved in telco as long as I have. Thank you so much for your time.
Phil Sorsky 41:43
It’s been an absolute pleasure on your readers.
Thank you for listening to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast, you can find all of our previous shows at actionablefuturist.com, and if you like what you’ve heard on the show, please consider subscribing via your favourite podcast app, so you never miss an episode. You can find out more about Andrew and how he helps corporates navigate a disruptive digital world with keynote speeches and C suite workshops delivered in person or virtually at actionablefuturist.com. Until next time, this has been The Actionable Futurist® Podcast,