5G, Cisco, The Important

The Important

  • Do the fortunes of 5G rest on Enterprise solutions?
  • Which vendors are best positioned to execute on Enterprise solutions?
  • These are the kinds of questions scenario planners should be asking

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I’ve worked with a couple of editors in my time. The most aggressive of them want that perfect title that demands people read whatever has been written. Sometimes as a writer you cringe. Maybe you cringe because the title is salacious, maybe because it does not reflect the content, maybe both.

On June 11th, sdxcentral landed themselves one of those great titles. In this case, the biggest kid on the block brags  ‘We’re the Most Important 5G Vendor’. Specifically, Jonathan Davidson, SVP of Cisco’s SP business. Having enjoyed many years working with Mr. Davidson (feels funny calling him that), I was reluctant to blog on the quote until I thought about it a little. I also wanted to consider if there was anything important in this story. There is.

Putting aside the need for Cisco to be careful how they word such statements, lest they be accused of implied threats, the central pont Mr. Davidson is making, is Cisco’s long and deep relationship with Enterprises. That is hardly a controversial statement. It is about as factual as facts get in today’s world. But the really important question that statement raises is whether 5G fortunes depend on consumer solutions or Enterprise solutions, only the latter strongly supports the statement made by Mr. Davidson. If 5G fortunes depend on residential solutions, Cisco could still make the statement they are the most important vendor, but it would not carry as much weight, and it would be debated.

Cisco has alluded to the need for vertical solutions, and this has drawn some comment / criticism. If we look at the IoT ecosystem for example, we see great diversity of technology and requirements across different verticals. So I would not dismiss, out of hand, the need for vertical solutions across the Network Edge. This whole IoT, Edge Computing, 5G, SD-WAN thing is probably going to be a little messy for a few years. And companies with a little solution muscle may be leaned on heavily by Enterprises.

If Cisco can execute on these solutions, and if Enterprise is where it is at, then Cisco is for sure going to be one of the important players in the ecosystem. That is a couple of “Ifs” of course. Strategists will have to consider what they make of those “IFs”.

Given all the pieces of the 5G ecosystem, including radio, there would naturally be debate about who is really the most important vendor in 5G, especially after a couple of weeks where multiple industry voices spoke up to say Huawei has the best 5G technology. I’m not going to deduct brownie points for a little hyperbole. If I did, I would be doing it all day, with many vendors, service providers, enterprises, and politicians. I might even engage in a little hyperbole myself sometimes 😉

The important is does the 5G ecosystem depend more on innovation and growth in consumer or Enterprise solutions, and which vendors are best positioned to execute on those solutions. Strategy scenario planners should be considering such questions. Half of strategy is being in the right market. The other half is framing the right questions and pursuing answers / beliefs that drive execution and have impact. Mr. Davidson’s statement may have been made for Cisco’s own benefit, and to draw attention to one of Cisco’s strengths, but nonetheless, it should lead strategists to brainstorm some important framing questions about 5G.

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