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5G Predictions For 2021 By Boris Renski 

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Boris Renski, CEO and Founder of FreedomFi shares his predictions for 2021.

He predicts:

  • Continued democratization of LTE and 5g spectrum.
  • More choices for end-users with things like eSIM
  • More open source in telecommunications space

Swapnil Bhartiya: Hi, this is your host Swapnil Bhartiya. Though we don’t hold a crystal ball in our hands, we still want to talk and kind of look into what things will look like in 2021. And today we have with us our regular Boris Renski, now CEO and founder at FreedomFi. Boris, first of all, tell us a bit about what FreedomFi is all about?

Boris Renski: FreedomFi, in a nutshell, helps companies build 5g and LTE networks that are extremely cost-efficient by delivering solutions that are based on open source software, commodity hardware, and usually shared or the regulated spectrum.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Now let’s talk about the predictions you have for 2021.

Boris Renski. I think, going into the future, specifically the next 12 months, we’ll see a few interesting things happening. First, we will see the continued democratization of LTE and the 5g spectrum.

Historically, a spectrum was very hard to get and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. But in the last couple of years, and starting this year, specifically, we saw programs like CBRS come online where people can basically get their spectrum grants with an API call and just you know, $10, $15, $20 for CBSD. And I think that going into the future we’ll continue to see an acceleration of this trend.

FCC is already talking about opening up 200 megahertz of spectrum directly underneath CBRS. But potentially using the same shared model, there are a lot of interesting conversations going on with other regulatory bodies like Ofcom and this trend will accelerate.

Now the second is, just like we see with the spectrum, I think that we will continue to see more user choices and freedom with respect to the specific devices or phones that they use. So, to explain a little bit more concretely, if you think back to when the whole mobile network industry started, pretty much all phones were locked to a provider. You would get a phone from Verizon, and you’ll have the Verizon phone. Not only can you not switch a phone, but you also can’t even switch the phone number to another provider. Then during the last 10-15 years, we’ve seen a continued liberalization of it, starting with a phone number belonging to the person and you can switch between providers. Then you started to see the industry of phones being unlocked and being able to buy an unlocked phone and actually having multiple carriers on the phone, etc.

So, I think this coming year, a lot of that is going to get dramatically accelerated by the introduction of eSIM. The eSIM is something that people have been talking about for a long, long time. But this year we actually see most of the tier one phones coming out with eSIM and dual SIM capability. Today, particularly in the US, people still don’t even know that they have an eSIM. But this opens up a huge opportunity for smaller carriers, neutral host networks to start introducing their offerings and making it possible for an end-user to choose that they can have Verizon as their primary network and something else as their secondary network for data. I think that we’ll start seeing a lot of that happening.

The final prediction and this is again tied directly to what we’re doing at FreedomFi, because of those two things because of liberalization of the spectrum and because of more freedom visa-viz the providers you can choose enabled by things like eSIM, we will see a lot more open source coming into the telecommunication stack and being used in production. Up until now, open source has been largely limited to like testing and initial experimentation and R&D. But because of this democratization happening both from the spectrum side and the consumer side, there is an opportunity for more innovative greenfield operators coming in and introducing new interesting business models and that will kind of pull in with Open Source just the way we saw the Internet pulling Linux that enabled a lot of new business models.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Boris, thanks for sharing these predictions. Now, let’s talk about the focus of FreedomFi in 2021.

Boris Renski : This year was spent doing a whole bunch of customer pilots and proving out the technology. Our main product is basically an opinionated distribution over an open source project called Magma, which we deliver as a combination of two things, something called the FreedomFi Gateway, which is what you would deploy at the cell site and plug-in your small cell into it, as well as a via the SaaS piece, which is basically hardened version of Magma orchestrator.

This year, we spent a lot of effort in just making sure that this model works and that the market is receptive to this type of opinionated approach of packaging via Open-Source magma distribution. I think we’ve gotten quite a few proof points that it does. We launched the product about a month ago into beta.

Next year is really going to be about moving into the next stage. The first stage was to prove the model and get a dozen customers using it. Next year is going to be about scaling the business and growing the team. A lot of the pilots that we did this year are looking to scale into thousands of sites next year, which will require a completely different degree of rigor and maturity of a support organization. So that’s what we’re going to be focusing on primarily next year.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Boris, thanks for sharing these predictions. I think we might see each other this year. If not, we will see each other again next year. Thank you.

Boris Renski: Yeah. If we don’t, Happy New Year.