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Lessons 2021 Taught Me

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By Asha Keddy, Corporate VP, Intel

When I sat down to write my final blog post for 2021, it took me a bit to articulate how I felt about this year. 2021 was a year of transition and profound realization. The pandemic has definitely taught us how important it is to connect through our data networks, but it wasn’t until this year that we really started to accept that we’re in a new era with new rules and a “New Normal” that helps us to continue to live, learn, work, and play as safely as possible.

From a purely industry perspective, I came away from 2021 with two primary lessons for our industry, both of which I shared in my recent keynote at the 2021 IEEE Globecom Conference.  

Maintaining global standards and global ecosystems (the need to avoid geo-fragmentation) is critical to all our success

As our lives transformed, we found ourselves relying even more on our wireless connectivity.  And our wireless networks stood up to the challenge and performed well. This was possible thanks to the dedication of our service providers but wouldn’t have been possible without an ecosystem and technology that is global and harmonized.  I cannot understate how important the process of standardization is to the development of world-changing technologies. The global success of mobile networks and services have enabled unmatched connectivity around the world.  This thriving ecosystem is based on the strength of global standards and global cooperation in the standards-setting process.

We must continue to foster global standards and avoid market fragmentation.  It is crucial as we work towards global success for 5G-Advanced, AI, 6G, and whatever is to come next.

This is particularly critical as the networks that underpin 4G and 5G wireless performance transform to become increasingly virtualized, software-defined, programmable, agile, and scalable–benefiting from cloud economics that began in the data center. This transformation recently hit a tipping-point, with more than half of all core network workloads becoming virtualized earlier this year, with significant momentum growing to virtualize the RAN.


Open RAN and other open source and open network efforts, in collaboration with major operators, are further transforming the network to function as a software application platform. These open source frameworks foster innovation and accelerate development. Critical to these efforts are the global industry consortia that are guiding their development including the Open RAN Alliance, the Telecom Infra Partnership, the Open Network Foundation, and the Open Network Automation Platform.


In support of this work, Intel is a leading contributor to the wireless standards efforts in 5G and Wi-Fi and network transformation and are engaged with the industry at-large. We are working with groups like OPAF that aim to help manufacturers move to open, interoperable, and smart factory systems. Additionally, we are collaborating with academics, think tanks, and governments that are doing research, setting vision, and building consensus on what can and should be considered for the next generation in wireless ‘beyond 5G.’

The Next G Alliance in the U.S., Hexa-X in Europe, and the IOWN Global Forum are a few forums leading this work across the globe ahead of the formal standards process.

The takeaway here is that support for global standards and ecosystems are what got us here and we need to continue to support these efforts into the coming decade and beyond.

We must continue the work to integrate AI/ML into 5G and beyond

The use and creation of data has grown astronomically. PwC and the World Economic Forum told us that global data consumption grew more than 30% in 2020 and is expected to grow nearly as quickly as we near the end of 2021.The additive nature of today’s technology megatrends including 5G, AI, IoT, Edge Computing, and the Cloud is fueling the need for computing and communications to converge into one intelligent, resilient, and distributed networking fabric. In fact, early indications are demonstrating that 6G is as much about the future of compute as much as connectivity. This integration is critical to enabling AI, big data analytics, real-time intelligence, Internet of Things, and the ability to move cloud computing into the enterprise–to the network edge. As a result, we need to continue our work in integrating AI into these wireless networks.

Why? Because over time, Artificial Intelligence will be a fundamental part of nearly all data. It unlocks value from data, delivering actionable insights we can immediately use. This enables networks to become more capable and generate new business models and experiences that, in turn, drive the need for even more data. For example, the amount of compute used in the largest AI training runs has been increasing exponentially since 2012, doubling every 3.4 months. That equates to a growth of more than 300,000 times over that period.


When combined, 5G and Artificial Intelligence are projected to generate enormous economic impact–to the tune of 17.9 trillion dollars in global GDP by 2035, including direct, indirect, and productivity value.


This is because 5G and wireless technologies beyond 5G will connect the world’s data to computing resources and AI like never before–allowing AI to reach every corner of society.


In the same way that smartphones ignited the app economy and changed how we live, the next generation of wireless networks will make AI applications accessible to any connected device or enterprise need–unlocking new and enhanced services, use cases, business models, and economic growth.


Looking to next year

We will have to check back this time next year to see if the lessons I learned still have merit. I know that as recently as last week, I had my network connection fail me in the middle of a webinar with an analyst I greatly admire, Maribel Lopez. I had to quickly switch to a personal wireless connection to continue but was just barely able to do so. I certainly needed a more resilient network! Or maybe an AI-driven and an intelligent network that could have sensed the problem and immediately switched me from one connection to another? The pandemic has made clear how critical being connected, and connected well, is for all of us. No matter what happens, it’s just about guaranteed we will see a year of change and innovation as once forward-looking technologies like 5G and AI become more and more mainstream. Speaking for myself, I’m excited to put these lessons to work in 2022.

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About the Author
Asha Keddy has 25+ years of experience at Intel as a patent-holding engineer and technology futurist building enterprise systems and defining policies that transform working and living environments. Ms. Keddy continues to serve as a pivotal force at Intel in the creation of the multi-trillion dollar 5G market opportunity. In this role, she has executed incubation efforts, product development, industry forums, standards creation, ecosystem enablement, and policy governance. Building on her experience as Intel’s 5G exec sponsor, she currently serves as Corporate Vice President and General Manager for Intel’s Next Generation Systems & Standards business unit. Keddy leads global efforts to build the next generation of distributed intelligence and advanced connectivity including 6G, the latest class of Wi-Fi technology, and more, thus empowering the creation of transformative and sustainable opportunities beyond Intel’s current playbook. Keddy is a highly networked industry thought leader, and a global spokesperson providing insights to government agencies, the media, analysts, academia, and investors. She has served as a representative before Congress and international government agencies including testimonies to the senate on 5G. Keddy helped establish Intel as a leader within key wireless, industrial and edge standards bodies, and multiple industry fora, such as the 3GPP, IEEE, Wi-Fi Alliance, ETSI and Open-RAN. Keddy is a founder and advisor to Innovative Optical Wireless Network (IOWN GF) and has served or serves as long time director on the board of directors of Wi-Fi Alliance, 5G Americas, and CTIA. In April 2022, she joined Smith Micro Software (SMSI)’s as an independent Board Director. Keddy holds a Master of Science in Computer Science from Clemson University and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from the University of Mumbai. She is an alumna of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business as part of the Intel Executive Accelerator Program. She is an avid advocate for women and minorities in technology. Residing in Portland, Oregon, Asha is an avid enthusiast for sustainability and the great outdoors. She enjoys kayaking, hiking, and spending time in nature with her family.