The global market for 5G technology is projected to reach USD 5.53 Billion in 2020, reaching USD 667.90 Billion by 2026.The increasing number of IoT devices and edge computing are one of the major drivers for the 5G market.
Due to its technical abilities, faster and more reliable mobility, faster data transfer, 5G is going to disrupt many industries from manufacturing, retail, financial services to media, healthcare, transportation and list can go one.
But the question is how small businesses would be able to take the advantage of this 5th generation wireless networking to improve their competitiveness in the market and deliver a better customer experience.
Berge Ayvazian is a Senior Analyst and Consultant at Wireless 20/20 on 4G/5G Networks and Mobile Internet Evolution. During his 23 year career at Yankee Group, Berge directed more than 100 consulting projects forecasting product and service markets, assessing strategies, and analyzing investment opportunities in the telecommunications, wireless, computer, internet, cable, and broadcast TV industries.
Berge also Angel Investor and has been actively helping the Armenian tech community to connect with the U.S. market and boost investments in the Armenian tech ecosystem.
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- Berge’s journey becoming an expert in wireless networking
- Disruption of industries and the impact of 5G on small businesses
- Data, privacy, and security
- 5G’s impact on businesses in emerging markets like Armenia
- Armenian startup ecosystem and investment opportunities
Thanks for joining me for today’s episode of HyeTech minds.
In this episode, we’re going to discuss several interesting topics.
First, we will talk about 5G and its impact on small business. How exactly this 5th generation of wireless networking can help small businesses to improve their competitiveness in the market and deliver better customer services.
Another topic we will discuss is the Armenian innovation and technology ecosystem, investment opportunities, and ways we can expand the meaningful partnership between Armenian tech communities across the globe.
In this episode, I’m going to sit down with Berge Ayvazyan, who brings 20 years of experience in mobile networking. Berge is my dearest friend and Senior Analyst and Consultant at Wireless 20/20 on 4G/5G Networks.
Berge is also an angel investor and entrepreneur. He has been involved with the Armenian startup ecosystem for many years, helping them with fundraising and market expansion.
So let’s get right to the interview.
Narine: Hello Berge
Thank you so much for joining me today. It’s great to have you on the show. I tried to explain a little bit about what you are doing, but I think you can explain it a lot better than I can, so, can you give us an introduction to what you are doing exactly?
Berge: Sure, good morning, Narine. How are you doing?
A little about me.
First of all, I’ve been in my business for quite a long time.
I got a graduate degree in communications back in 1979, believe it or not. So I’m a bit of a dinosaur. And it was in telecommunications policy.
And I quickly entered the consulting business and moved to Boston from Philadelphia. And ever since then I’ve been working in different areas of communications, depending on what the prevailing technology of interest was at the time. So in the 80s, I worked mostly on cable TV. And help bring cable TV to most of the major cities in the United States and the later period after that, my telecommunications work brought me to travel around the world and helped privatize a lot of the world’s a lot of telecom systems, telecom operators that were government-owned in different countries. So that took a lot of effort. And now these companies are all part of the diverse, competitive telecommunications industry around the world.
And I joined the company called the Yankee Group and spent about twenty-three years with that company and ultimately became CEO. And I started the wireless practice at Yankee Group. And I hired a bunch of experienced people in that industry. Although when we started wireless really meant paging and early stage of analog cellular and eventually it evolved to 2G and then 3G and then 4G was the, let’s say, the penultimate of what we thought the wireless networks could do using LTE technology. But in fact, we are now moving into 5G.
So I’ve spent the last five or six years working with another group, a small consulting firm called Wireless 20/20, and we help operators in their evolution to bring new technology. Now we’re evolving toward 5G. We’re helping them acquire the spectrum to build 5G networks, and we’re repurposing wireless to fill the void, the gaps in the coverage of broadband. In many countries, there are rural areas where people still don’t have affordable broadband. So we’re helping them develop fixed wireless networks using the most advanced technology to give them above baseline performance on their wireless networks.
So we’re keeping quite busy.
Narine: You have a ton of experience in this. Due to its technical abilities, faster and more reliable mobility, faster data transfer, 5G is going to disrupt many industries from manufacturing, retail, financial services to media, healthcare, transportation, and the list can go one. It’s already projected that the 5G market value will reach $667.90 billion by 2026. But I want us today to focus on small businesses. How exactly will 5G improve the operation and performance of small businesses?
Berge: So, you know, in my business, there’s something called the hype curve. And 5G is subject to the hype, and especially now as operators are promoting their 5G networks and technologies. And in fact, they’re describing them as though they already exist and they’re available to everyone. And all you need to do is go buy a phone and sign up and you’re all set. But the reality is we’re at the very early stage of 5G. So I don’t want to contribute to the hype. I want to be very realistic about what it means. But I’ll tell you, 5G is important because up till now, wireless and mobile have been on their path for how they provide service. And the emphasis is on mobile.
The quality and capacity and performance of the wireless network has not been the issue. The issue is the mobility and the coverage and the ability to get access to these signals wherever you are. So I can get in my car and I can drive across the United States and I can listen to Spotify connected to the Internet all through that drive. And even though I don’t have a wire hanging out or fiber hanging out of my car, I can keep connected to 4G. And in fact, 4G coverage is very extensive and it’s widely available for everybody. But 5G is at a stage now where it’s being deployed in very specific geographic areas where there’s high traffic. And I’ll tell you, the purpose of 5G is to deliver performance on a wireless network equal to or better than a fixed-line.
So if today we are using fiber optic technology to deliver high-speed broadband.
And, many of us who have become dependent on broadband to do our work because we’re not going out, we’re not going to the office, we’re not going to school, we’re relying on connectivity as how all of our functions are being performed. We will generally prefer a fixed fiber line or if necessary, Culex connected to a fiber line and will rely on that as our source of the Internet, our connection to the Internet.
Though, most people, including me right now, are connected to that fiber or Culex or the router at the end of it by Wi-Fi, which of course is wireless technology. So we treat Wi-Fi as though it’s air or water coming out of your faucet. It’s an unlimited source of high-speed connectivity. And we use it all day long. We use it to watch our TVs. We stream all of our programmings. Even this video conference or audio conference on Zoom is over Wi-Fi, but we don’t have Wi-Fi like performance when we’re not in our home, we have 4G, which can deliver better service than before. The quality is good for most things. We can even stream programming mostly to a small screen, like a smartphone or tablet. But we don’t have HD quality. We don’t have a high resolution. When we’re connected to 4G, 5G will be as though we’re connected to a fiber line. But it’s wireless and their coverage will be limited to where they deploy 5G technology and it will have the capacity to support millions of users simultaneously.
Narine: So in terms of customer experience, can we say that 5G is going to help many small businesses to deliver a better customer experience due to high-speed connectivity and faster data transfer?
Berge: So customers now treat broadband as an embedded function within any function or application they need to perform. So right now we have to treat wireless as a separate step. We have to connect. We have to use apps. We have to rely on them. In the 5G world, high-speed connectivity will be in the background. You won’t have to make any special arrangements for it. You have the connection as part of the overall customer experience in whatever field they’re in.
So I’ll take an example. If I’m a radiologist and I’m not working at the hospital, I’m not in my office, I’m at home or somewhere at a clinic by me to do my job of looking at radiological images in high resolution and to make diagnoses as though I am connected to a fiber-optic network, even though it’s wireless and I don’t even have to think about it. I’m already connected by 5G to my equipment and I’m allowed to perform my job doing that.
Now, as a small business, you can imagine any number of small businesses that rely on broadband connectivity and they need the highest speed connectivity. They want to be able to perform their jobs as though they’re actually on site. But there anywhere they can, they need to be. And it depends on having access to that connection on a wireless network as though they are already on site. So I expect every small business to benefit from 5G in the next couple of years as these networks are deployed.
Narine: I mean, there’s a lot of benefits come with 5G, but also businesses no matter what size and capacity they are will face a lot of challenges like data privacy, and cybercrimes. I understand big companies are in more advantage and can hire entire teams to support their data security. But if you’re a small business with limited financial and technical resources, how should you protect your company from cyber crimes?
Berge: So privacy, data, privacy, and security is a big subject that’s not limited to or specific to wireless networks or 5G. And, for example, the widespread use of Zoom has created vulnerabilities where the so-called zoom crashers can enter a conference or meeting and disrupt it. And they’re able to disrupt using the features of Zoom, not because it’s on wireless, but because there are vulnerabilities that were left when they built the application. And it’s not just applications like Zoom. It’s pervasive. There are hackers. Some people want to find the flaws or the deficiencies in these technologies, in these systems and use it to either disrupt what is going on or make money in that process.
So companies are investing in their privacy and cybersecurity where wireless fits into this. Is that in the 4G domain, there were not very many security features or privacy protections built into the technology. It relied on companies to have separate security around the wireless technology to benefit to protect themselves in 5G. There are specific security solutions that are embedded in the networks that prevent others from disrupting this encryption. There’s already, let’s say, an umbrella around applications to prevent others from abusing them. The operators and the application providers are building into the next generation of wireless the security that hopefully will protect us all because there are bad actors out there that are trying to take advantage and we need to stop them.
Narine: So continuing the cybersecurity issue. So what do you think should small businesses hire private companies to provide for the data protection, or it would be more efficient to have their technicians in place?
Berge: Well, security as a service is becoming a very important way to protect yourself rather than invest in technology that may become obsolete quickly and you have to replace it and you’re constantly having to be an expert yourself. Service companies who have taken the position of a service provider are probably a more efficient way, particularly for small businesses to manage their security.
But again, I believe the security issues go way beyond just the 5G or wireless connectivity. They have to do with application security, computer systems, security, and wireless is one dimension of that. But the fact that the signal travels over radio waves over the air means that it’s subject to being intercepted and disrupted, blocked. If somebody comes and jams my Wi-Fi right now, you and I will stop talking.
Narine: Right. What about 5G’s impact on businesses in emerging markets like Armenia. How quickly is 5G likely to be adopted in emerging markets? These markets have quite challenging geographies – so how will deployment work out for those countries?
Berge: So first of all, 5G is being deployed primarily in developed countries. The most developed leaders right now are Korea and Japan and some countries in Europe, as well as the United States and soon after the United States and Canada. But, most of the emerging markets, most of the countries that are not at the forefront of implementing new technologies are a bit delayed in when they’ll see 5G coming along.
Armenia itself has three operators and they are advancing toward 5G. But right now the focus is on extending the coverage of 4G networks and the highest form, the most advanced 4G networks to the remote areas of a small country like Armenia. So that people in villages, people in small towns, or anywhere traveling can gain access to wireless service. I know myself from having traveled there. Coverage is not very good and you lose coverage very quickly.
But in cities like Yerevan or perhaps Gyumri, we’ll start seeing 5G networks that will roll out starting in 2021. And I think we already know several startups in our media that are trying to apply their expertise, their software development skills, their app skills to helping operators with various problems and 5G, whether it relates to security, whether it has to do with media and streaming, or whether it’s even specifically to optimize connectivity and help these networks perform the best.
So I think Armenian software companies, like any advanced startup environment, will be at the forefront of what 5G has to offer. We just want the mobile operators in our media to catch up and deploy 5G so they have it available to them in the country and they can use that service to their advantage.
Narine: You have been involved with the Armenian tech community for many years – Boston, Yerevan, Silicon Valley. It’s fascinating to see how many people know you. Whomever I talked to, most of them knew you. So a lot is happening in Armenia in terms of technological advancement. I’m calling the technology renaissance of the Armenian tech ecosystem. What do you think can technology and innovation be those two catalysts to expand the relationship between homeland Armenia and Diaspora? To nurture this relationship and take to the next level?
Berge: Sure. So my work in our technology for Armenia goes back more than 10 years. I am one of the aspirin’s who helped form an organization to support the technology initiatives in Armenia. And it’s gone through lots of changes.
And certainly, along with that path, you meet a lot of people. People get to know who you are. Podcasts like this help expose people, but I think it’s much more to do with the specific accomplishments rather than just being well known. And, you know, unfortunately, in my business, you tend to spend a lot of time talking and not doing as much. So I try to focus on what we have accomplished. So in the early days, we were bringing foreign investors and companies, multinational companies, to establish businesses in Armenia to build a branch or to establish their R&D. And that was successful because a lot of the companies in the specific areas had no access to the market and had good talent but didn’t have the revenue to support their growth.
So by bringing Synopsys to the country or others that could help consolidate those resources and make good use of them, we accomplished a lot in that period. In the middle period, it was all about getting employment and getting the training and the skills and talent necessary, developing that skill set so that we could continue to grow as demand wanted access to these resources.
So, you know, when you’re competing with India or other countries which have huge talent pools, a small country like Armenia has to have the best education system, has to have the best training programs, et cetera, and the best talent.
And then the third stage, which is where we are now, is to take that talent. and rather than have it trapped inside large companies, which already view workers as a commodity rather than as an asset, is to create unique companies that are on an up on a path to develop their business and impact the global market, not just the domestic market.
So we’ve seen in the startup arena in Armenia tremendous growth, both in terms of the number of companies, but more importantly, in terms of the expansion of those companies to be able to have an impact on large markets. We already have several companies that are unicorn’s and although they’re not publicly traded, they’re highly valued. They’ve raised a lot of funds and they’re growing rapidly. They’re employing lots of people. And in fact, several of them have not just a workforce in Armenia, but may be based or at least partially based in the US or other countries. And we’re seeing that happen more and more.
So I have been an advisor to many of these companies. I continue to promote the startup movement and we are also supporting investor groups like Smart GatesVC and others to help invest and grow these companies, incubate them, etc..
So it’s been a very important thing.
I know our current Prime Minister Pashinian and President Sarkisian, they both value the role of the private sector and in fact, the role of high tech in keeping Armenia from being, let’s say, overwhelmed by regional conflicts. The economy depends heavily on employment in the tech sector and keeping access to new technology. So we’ll continue to work on that. And I’m happy to report back later on our next set of accomplishments.
Narine: That would be awesome. I would love to have you back. So you have been helping Armenian startups with fundraising and market expansion. You are an angel investor yourself. What is unique about the Armenian startup ecosystem? What startups you’re looking for in particular to invest in?
Berge: Well, certainly as an angel investor, I’m very selective in what I put my own money in, but I also help many other companies to refine their pitch and describe their business to others so that they can raise money, or perhaps more importantly so that they can get customers and generate revenue so they can become self-sustaining.
And what I tend to look for in a startup company is a business plan and execution of that plan in a manner that isn’t just spending money, but it’s also making money and generating revenue, which ultimately becomes profits, which ultimately then can continue to grow the company.
A lot of startups are based on an idea or a technology and rely on having a long runway to develop the, let’s say, the underlying technology for the business. It’s more of an R&D play, and it’s hard to tell what the means would be for that company to move from being funded by angels and venture capital to being self-sustaining, to being attractive to other companies to acquire them or to then go public or continue to grow and be on their path.
So I look for companies to present to me a business plan right where the revenues they can generate, the technologies they’re going to develop, they have technologies which themselves have proprietary nature so that they’re not easily duplicated and copied. And they have the talent pool that is clear that they are retaining their employees. They have a way of attracting the best talent and they can continue to grow that business so that as an investor, I’m not just donating to a charity, but in fact, I’m expecting a return on that investment.
Narine: I think Armenian tech talent is a critical factor to expand the Armenian tech ecosystem and nurture the relationship with Diaspora tech communities. So one question I want to ask all my guests is what would you like to change in Armenia? What is this one thing that if is changed in Armenia, you think can help to stimulate this innovation and technology ecosystems, make relationships better with Diasporan Armenians?
Berge: So our technology ecosystem was on a very rapid growth trajectory until the pandemic started in the spring and it has had a big impact. People can’t travel. People are having difficulty raising money. At this stage. All the fundraising was ground to a halt and even the activity in the market has been disrupted.
Overall, we’re in a recession, if not worse, in the world. So it’s a difficult time, not just in Armenia, but throughout the world.
Recognizing that we’re not necessarily going to be rid of this pandemic very quickly.
I have suggested that we use the pandemic to our advantage and we try to have in Armenia the ability to incubate various technological means to address the new pandemic lifestyle.
We all have to deal with the realities of not only wearing masks but having been tested and having been cleared to enter a building or a school. The healthcare industry is very rapidly becoming pandemic centric. Right. So I’m having my doctor’s appointment on a video chat. All of my services and health care are highly dependent on applications and connectivity. So I’m looking for Armenia to take this whole health care approach to address the challenge of the pandemic and turning it into an incubator for startups.
So we’ve never had a health care sector in Armenia that was technologically advanced.
But, if we were to harness the forces of this pandemic to create a vibrant healthcare technology sector with Armenian companies at the forefront of that, it would be a tremendous opportunity. The government can play a role, but we need to build a big ecosystem around this.
So let me give you an example. I’m working with partners right now to develop a comprehensive set of services for the most vulnerable populations that are facing the pandemic. And that has to do with people who are aging, people who are in the most vulnerable risk categories over 65 and perhaps have pre-existing conditions. And they are either likely to have covered or will be susceptible when it comes to their neighborhood or family or whatever. So how do you manage this gerontology geriatric population and give them services, particularly in remote areas?
This is going to be a need around the world. And if we can incubate the solutions and the technologies that can be applied to this problem in Armenia, we can have a huge impact because this is not going to go away very quickly and even then it will continue to evolve. We’re going to have to live a pandemic lifestyle for some time to come.
Narine: What an excellent point to have more technology-based health care. I grew up in Armenia. We still have an old Soviet healthcare system in place. Although a lot of good things have been done in recent years. So Armenia still has a long way to go in terms of improving its healthcare institutions, and medical services. Although a lot of progress has been done in a recent couple of years.
Thank you so much, Berge, for finding the time to join me today. I’m confident your insights and expertise are valuable leads for many businesses and founders. You are also a valuable voice in the Armenian community and I’m proud to know you. So I’m hoping to catch up with you sometimes very soon. So stay safe.
Berge: Thank you, Narine
Thanks for joining me for this episode of “Hye Tech Minds.” I hope you learned a lot of important insights that can be useful for your business success.
If you would like to learn more about this podcast or get the full transcript of this interview, go to our website www.hyetechminds.com
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I’m wishing you a safe weekend and hope you’ll join me on the next episode<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">I’m Narine your host and thanks for listening to Hye Tech Minds