5G infrastructure is being installed around the world. At the same time, most people have not yet seen what 5G can offer. What exactly is 5G? How will it improve our lives? What are the concerns that need to be addressed before it is widely adopted?
In our series, called, How 5G Technology May Improve and Impact Our Lives, we are talking to tech and telecom leaders who can share how 5G can impact and enhance our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Nixon.
Mark Nixon is the Head of Telco Industry Consulting EMEA at Teradata. He is an expert in the design and delivery of the digital transformation journey, with more than 30 years’ experience helping organizations across the ICT sector digitally transform and thrive in the new digital economy. Prior to Teradata, Nixon — who has an MBA from Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford — held leadership roles at Huawei Technologies, Nokia and Telefonica.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Ibegan my career in Telecommunications in the early 1980’s when I joined the British Army as a systems engineer in the Royal Signals. I completed a very extensive training program for both military and technical skills at the Royal Signals Technical Academy, where I was given all the relevant knowledge and formal qualifications for supporting the latest military communications systems that are deployed around the world.
I enjoyed the challenges and satisfaction of deploying to far reaching locations, from Western and Eastern Europe, to Belize in the Caribbean for supporting both the British and NATO communication platforms, including the utilization of the very early secure wireless radio networks.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My career has evolved in parallel to the internet, so it’s been quite a journey. There are many experiences from early stages of my career where I witnessed the tangible impact the first mobile networks had on emerging countries, such as delivering humanitarian aid in parts of Eastern Europe and Africa that were embroiled in conflict. The mobile internet brought new financial services to millions of traditionally underserved in Africa with mobile payments, opened up a whole new economy for remote communities, and accelerated the delivery of health and education to parts of the world that would have been set adrift.
As a society, we constantly look to push boundaries, and the internet has brought so much democracy to how we live, driven increased participation and shared knowledge. I’ve always had a strong interest in mobile technology and how wireless connectivity and the internet continue to usher in new experiences to our lives. It’s amazing when you think how 30 years ago we only had the capabilities to make a voice call, which progressed to sending a text, to now being able to completely manage our lives while on the move.
It’s exciting to reflect on the advancements of mobile technologies since beginning my career, and I’m proud to continue that journey as part of the Teradata team that’s helping deliver the next revolution of new AI, ML and Data Analytics Cloud platform for enabling the promise of 5G.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
From my early beginnings in the British Military, I have consistently sought to evaluate and learn how I can continue better myself as a person, soldier, leader and later in life a husband and father.
One specific lesson that was shared with me early in my military history and leadership courses that I continue to hold tremendous value to this day includes the following statement by Dwight Eisenhower, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”
For me, being a leader in the military despite my young age meant that I had to constantly be open, honest, and transparent with my team. The consequences of living these values means that you are able to make the tough decisions, and reconcile those decisions if they sometimes go wrong, and then wholeheartedly look for the lessons learnt.
I have also found this principal has helped me throughout the growth of my career. Technology demands great people and even greater teams to innovate and deliver on its promise. People are the most important asset we have — both personally and professionally.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been very fortunate to work with and alongside some wonderful and inspirational people throughout my 35 years in the industry. I believe that they all have greatly influenced me in different ways and during different stages of my personal journey.
While very difficult to name just one, from a personal perspective I believe my Grandfather was a huge influence on my life, and attribute many of my successes to him and his wisdom. An ex-military man who fought in WW2, he went on to build a successful business career. He always supported and provided me with tremendous guidance throughout all my endeavors, including my early days of sport right through my military career, and into my professional career. He was a strong man with a strong set of ideals based upon endeavor, honesty, integrity, and humility. I still hold these traits very central to myself today after more than 35 years in the industry.
You are a successful business leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I revert to my early leadership development and experience in the Royal Signals and the “Be, Know, Do” leadership model:
- BE: This is all about your character as a leader and is foundational to your ability to lead. It gives you the courage to do what is right regardless of the circumstances or the consequences. As part of BE, you should be aware of your personal core values, as well as your organization’s values.
- KNOW: This is about the knowledge and skill sets you need to be competent as a leader, which cover four areas including interpersonal, conceptual, technical and tactical skills.
- DO: Leaders act. They bring together everything they are, everything they believe, and everything they know how to provide purpose, direction, and motivation. This involves the following three leader actions across influencing, operating and improving.
I have adapted these core values to those of the organizations for which I have served and looked to ensure the context is always central to how I and my teams operate, especially as we look to drive a business strategy in the new digital economy.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects? How do you think that will help people?
While 5G is still relatively early in its maturity, we are seeing digital transformation shift into hyperdrive due to the massive amount of data being produced with the blazing fast speed of 5G and all the new technology it enables. Telcos need the ability to capture and analyze that data at scale.
At Teradata, we are working with global Telco leaders to leverage data analytics for uncovering critical insights that benefit every area of the business, and innovate new use cases across a wide range of industries for meeting current and future connectivity demands.
For example, in industries such as manufacturing, we’re exploring how delivering PMR (Private Mobile Radio) in combination with data analytics can increase productivity, reduce cost and improve the utilization of sustainable energy sources within a Smart Factory.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the focus of our interview. Like 4G, 5G has many different facets, and I’m sure many will approach this question differently. But for the benefit of our readers can you explain to us what 5G is? How is 5G different from its predecessor 4G?
Significantly faster, and with higher capacity and lower latency than previous 4G and LTE networks, 5G is expected to be more than just a better pipe. It represents a purpose-built technology, designed, and engineered to facilitate connected devices as well as automated systems.
5G will facilitate and accelerate the next industrial revolution, often referred to as Industry 4.0. Applications ranging from industrial automation, tactile internet, robotics, AR/VR, telemedicine, and immersive learning could all ride on enhanced 5G networks as illustrated in Figure 2.
Can you share three or four ways that 5G might improve our lives? If you can please share an example, for each.
The list of industries and opportunities that stand to positively benefit from 5G is endless, and we’re only at the beginning of the journey. I am more confident than ever that the next five years will be defined by 5G, and the next-generation technologies that follow will create a smart revolution for improving the quality of life for a global population that has never been more interconnected.
A few key industries of focus making significant strides in realizing the full potential of 5G include:
- Internet of Things: According to a recent Deloitte study, 5G will extend the reach of the internet drastically. Sensors will become ubiquitous, and will collect data in real time for impacting every part of our lives. Investing in 5G infrastructure today will make our communities safer, more environmentally efficient, and more connected.
- Health care: Imagine a world where a surgeon can operate on a patient from another continent through robotics. With 5G’s real-time speeds, the precision needed for robotic surgery is possible. And, if you’re living in a rural area with limited access to high-quality health care, 5G can potentially allow for remote health care monitoring from the best doctors in the world, as well as the ability to use artificial intelligence (AI) to determine a treatment plan or a diagnosis for a patient. But even more mundane tasks such as downloading imaging files, real-time monitoring of patients and gathering data for preventative care will all be transformed through the new 5G-enabled technologies.
- Farming: As food demand continues to rise, 5G will be essential in helping farmers produce the largest possible crop yield, and get the most out of their land. Farmers can maximize their plethora of data to grow crops using less water, pesticides, and fertilizer, which will have pull through benefits for the environment. Sensors and drones can monitor crop production by collecting real-time data on numerous factors that impact crop growth, including soil quality, humidity, and temperatures. While farmers are beginning to use these technologies now, 5G will greatly increase the speed and connectivity of these devices, ensuring more information is gathered and that the information is more accurate.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this 5G technology that people should think more deeply about?
As we continue to push the boundaries of connectivity, energy efficiency must remain a top priority for the telecommunications industry, especially as enterprises and consumers demand and expect more from their mobile devices and solutions.
Delivering technologies that meet the needs of always-on connectivity can leave a hefty environmental footprint, and so I believe we need to be very cognizant of our power consumption and energy resources as we continue to innovate new use cases. At the device level, power and energy resources for 5G will fall less than today’s existing requirements for 3/4G networks. However, 5G will require the deployment of millions of new small cells and sensors globally to realize the full benefits. Therefore, the industry must focus on reducing energy consumption, and look to be innovative in how it can deploy reusable energy sources such as solar to power the network and its services portfolio.
Some have raised the question that 5G might widen the digital divide and leave poor people or marginalized people behind. From your perspective, what can be done to address and correct this concern?
As an industry and society, we should look to ensure that connectivity is ubiquitous to everybody — especially those who are impoverished or don’t have the resources available that we all take for granted. I have seen the power of the internet, especially the mobile internet, deliver new educational services, health screenings and economic benefits to the emerging world. This should be continued and subsidized where necessary to ensure the digital divide is reduced.
We have seen during the COVID crisis how society has learned to adapt and deal with a pandemic by coming together and finding new ways to work, interact and communicate. As we become more efficient and reduce our costs to deliver services, we should reinvest in our future both at the local and international levels.
Excellent. We are nearly done. Let’s zoom out a bit and ask a more general question. Based on your experience and success, what are the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career in the telecommunication industry? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Passion for the technology and how it can be applied to make a difference in our personal and professional lives.
- A constant drive for knowledge and eagerness to learn. Every day we are exposed to new challenge and problems that can be solved using the technology. It is key that as a person, no matter the role, has to continue to seek new learning opportunities in order to achieve success.
- While technical skills are key, but just as important are the personal skills such as open and transparent communication, honesty and integrity for establishing successful relationships.
- Never be afraid to say “I don’t know,” but always be driven to seek the answer.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Progress throughout my career has been enabled by teams of great people experimenting, trying new ways to improve how we communicate and interact, and learning from those experiments and failures along the way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
To ensure that every child in the world has access to a structured education and the tools necessary to provide the basic knowledge to find his or her way in life.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
About The Interviewer: David Liu is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, an award-winning unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication. Liu is known for his visionary leadership, organic growth strategies, and future-forward technology. Liu is highly committed to achieving a greater purpose with technology. Liu’s business insights are regularly featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Tech Crunch, and more.