“Time to talk strategy” -An Interview with Rudy Leser, VP of Strategic Development at Parallel Wireless

Parallel Wireless   June 20, 2024

Our thought leadership series brought us the opportunity to discuss strategy and forward-looking innovation with Rudy Leser, VP of Strategic Development at Parallel Wireless. Rudy, as a telco veteran and a serial entrepreneur who has founded 3 successful companies in the telecommunication arena, is perfectly positioned within the company as the champion of strategic, collaborative projects between governments, technology vendors, and operators. These consortiums and government-based collaborations are typically formed to explore, test, and ultimately implement new technology into the innovative solutions and products of this industry’s future.

Q: What is a strategic direction and who decides it?
This may vary between industries. In the telecom industry, the timeframe for strategy is usually around 5 years into the future, which is almost a generation of technology. Today, for example, we are looking into 5.5G and 6G mobile telecommunication networks. On the scale of NASA’s Technology Readiness Levels, which indicate how ready technology is for implementation, I am usually introducing projects that focus on development from TRL 2, which means technology and/or application concepts, all the way to TRL 8 and 9, when the project has developed into an actual system that has been tested or proven in the field. In other words, I work on the technology roadmap, taking technology and innovation that is not ready for productization and cultivating it until it is ready to be introduced to the product roadmap.

In our industry, taking bold technological steps to validate ideas and concepts requires a huge amount of capital, which is where government funding comes in. In that sense, you could say that governments have a lot of influence on which strategic directions should be explored. However, at the end of the day, they rely on commercial companies to bear the weight of strategic development, so the pursuit of strategic directions is a true blend of government and private sector interests. That is why these joint projects are so important and useful.


Q: What is the role of government-funded and government-initiated projects as a catalyst for innovation in the industry?
In a nutshell, governments can provide the deep pockets that allow innovative companies to pursue commercial implementations of new technology without shouldering all of the risks that such advanced research represents. In this way, governments can propose or receive proposals for new directions that might be technologically interesting or for other strategic objectives. 

Western governments, alarmed at the market share that Chinese government-backed companies managed to control, take a special interest in open-standard-based initiatives that could wrest some control over the market away from these proprietary vendors. This explains their support of the ORAN alliance and the Open RAN standard, and the funding they provided for research projects to advance the development and adoption of Open RAN. Open RAN opens the door for new players to innovate and deliver new technologies, out of the shadow of the giant vendors. 

On the other hand, government-funded projects also publish calls for proposals to collect ideas for initiatives from the industry. As Parallel Wireless’ representative for such projects in Europe, the UK, and Israel, I have proposed several ideas, some of which have been formulated into projects, to promote promising research and development. These projects take 2-3 years to develop into potential products and solutions. A good example of this is our hardware-agnostic Open RAN-compliant approach to our RAN solutions, which started 3 years ago and was on prominent display in this year’s MWC. It started with a promise we made to the industry that we could run software on different types of hardware platforms with different dimensions to reduce costs, provide procurement and deployment flexibility, and decrease energy consumption. At the time, the industry relied almost exclusively on Intel’s x86 chipset, which is a great general processor with some specific optimizations designed for the telecommunications industry. To achieve true ecosystem flexibility, we started a process supported by the UK government to take all of our software IP and port it to arm processors. This project was broadly supported by the UK government, with significant involvement from BT and chipmakers. The results were truly impressive and have already sparked follow-on projects.

Q: When putting together these projects, how do you gather the right partners to make sure the collaboration bears fruit? Aren’t there conflicting interests?
At the end of the day, the objectives may be different for each partner in a consortium, but if the proposal and guidelines are established correctly, everyone shares an interest in seeing the project succeed and potentially get funded for a follow-up project. It should be noted, too, that the motivations and objectives of each project are unique, which influences the nature of the project and the makeup of the partners. In Israel, for example, there are no projects that are funded purely for the sake of technology; all projects must demonstrate their business potential and how they address a practical pain while creating a business advantage. In European projects, there may be different stakeholders, from operators, who are driven by pragmatic needs, to universities, who have academic goals. Take Project Horizon, as an example, their approach is a bit different; they want to make sure that there is a commercial aspect to the project, but they do not insist on seeing it eventually through to adoption.

Governments have a real interest in the tech roadmap of the different players. It helps them to understand what they should anticipate and also what they need to do to prepare themselves. At any given time there is a broad range of technological initiatives across a range of industries, so taking part in these projects helps governments keep track of which directions might be winners and also understand what strategic advantages might be gained from them.

For operators, participating and sometimes taking a leading role in these projects helps them de-risk their future. Decisions on future technologies and standards have substantial financial implications. Operators, who are the main beneficiaries of such potential advancements, lack the budget and the resources to conduct thorough research effectively. The Open RAN is a classic example of this. It can provide a mobile network that is based on standardized interfaces, takes advantage of cloud computing, and is self-optimized.  It can apply AI-based self-learning and auto administration, switching components on and off, and managing spectrum and traffic in between cells. This is potentially a dream for an MNO, and through government-initiated collaboration projects, they can not only test the practical applications of these new technologies but also identify vendors with whom they can partner to pursue them. MNOs need to know that technologically, the telecom industry is taking advantage of the most advanced developments. Government projects allow them to gain hands-on experience to figure out the potential of new technologies, and the knowledge of collaborating with vendors on defining expectations rather than accepting predefined roadmaps.

Operators understand that, when it comes to leading-edge technology, they cannot expect to receive a complete, fully formed solution. Their vendor selection is not just about the solutions they are being offered, but about the vendor’s commitment to collaborate, develop, and improve that solution and the technology roadmap and vision that they present. 

Meanwhile, as a technology vendor, such collaborations are very useful. The projects we take part in are huge, resource-intensive initiatives. Instead of clawing away resources from core projects and working on them unilaterally until they are ready to be unveiled, I identify projects that can serve or influence our current roadmap and partner with a large operator to ensure that the innovation we envision has some future product-market fit. Together we can piggyback on the project funding to take big technological leaps forward. Our role, as a company, is to move the operator’s “cheese” (in reference to the bestseller by Spencer Johnson), and to move it far. We are not satisfied with being “just another vendor”, we want to interest them in the possibilities that are on the horizon. 


Q: Can you describe a project’s journey from funded exploration to industry adoption?
One recent example is our GreenRAN suite of solutions. The call for a “Green revolution” in telecommunications is not hype, it is an acute pain for many operators and therefore it qualifies ‘reducing energy consumption’ as a strategic objective. After all, energy costs are the 2nd highest budget item for MNOs after payroll. Governments see the importance of energy-efficient networks, in the context of their overall net zero emissions objectives, since mobile networks are responsible for a significant portion of the overall energy pie. As vendors, we realized that only once we solve the 5G energy consumption issue, MNOs will be willing to roll out new mobile networks that are true 5G. Many of the most dramatic improvements of 5G do not impact current consumers as much as they are important for “new” applications such as IoT devices and autonomous cars, which today represent a small fraction of the MNO’s revenue. So the business model does not support such a rollout without a dramatic reduction in costs. That is why Open RAN, with its open-standards interfaces, disaggregated software, and the freedom to select the optimal hardware platform is so important. So thanks to “research projects” that started years ago, we can field a solution for mobile network operators today. 

Q: How has Parallel Wireless’s innovation and reputation influenced its collaborations and future direction?

Thanks to a determined strategy, Parallel Wireless has made great strides over the last 3 years and today is recognized worldwide as an innovator in advanced telecommunications technology, perhaps even as a disruptor. Our reputation landed several government and organization invitations from both developed and developing markets to collaborate on different technology developments. These collaborations are sure to open the door and welcome the next wave of innovation. 

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