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China Mobile: Telecom needs same agility as IT industry

SAN FRANCISCO – In a keynote presentation at the IEEE’s Wireless Communications and Networking Conference, Chih Lin-I, chief scientist of the China Mobile Research Institute, highlighted the need for the telecom industry to embrace the agility associated with software-centric operations.

Chih-Lin I showed slides quantifying the slow down in operator profits, then compared that to the sustained growth of web-scale players like, Facebook, Baidu, Alibaba and others. Operators, she said, “have not been doing very well. Us, for example, not only is our revenue stagnating, but also our profit growth is in the dangerous zone of going negative. Most operators are in a similar situation and this is now news at this point. On the other hand, a different industry that I believe would not be there if there were no operators like us, have been doing pretty well,” posting double- and triple-digit growth.

“We have been observing this for quite some time, so that’s why starting in 2011 we said let’s go green, let’s go soft, for efficiency and agility,” Chih-Lin I said.

Chih-Lin I noted as operators strive for “five-nines” and the Shannon limit, which is the maximum theoretical throughput of a particular channel, “We drive ourselves to the corner. We have been taking a very hard path, very much special purpose hardware with tightly coupled software. As a result, performance was the only [key performance indicator] and so we sacrifice agility. And, on the other hand, the IT industry … it’s by nature soft,” with an emphasis on shared resources, flexible cloud computing and an open source approach.

“They can pool a wide scope and large collection of experts together to upgrade and build,” Chih-Lin I explained. “That’s the open source community. All of this contributes to the softness, the agility, the fast-paced turnaround of this industry.”

She explained that despite a long-time emphasis on information and communication technology convergence, up until recently that has largely remained a buzzword without much associated action.

“There’s many different flavors of ICT that have been espoused since the 80s, but I would say it all stopped at a very superficial level,” Chih-Lin I said. “It was never to the bone. It didn’t happen until very recently. That’s opportunity and challenge we’re facing.”


Sean Kinney, Editor in Chief
Sean Kinney, Editor in Chief
Editor-in-Chief Sean focuses on multiple subject areas including 5G, Open RAN, hybrid cloud, edge computing, and Industry 4.0. He also hosts Arden Media's podcast Will 5G Change the World? Prior to his work at RCR, Sean studied journalism and literature at the University of Mississippi then spent six years based in Key West, Florida, working as a reporter for the Miami Herald Media Company. He currently lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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