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Mr. Nozomu Watanabe

5G Digital Transformation & Open Architecture

Mr. Nozomu Watanabe is a Senior Executive with NEC Corporation based in Tokyo, Japan. Nozomu recently sat down for an interview where he explained some of his recent work on 5G technology and his opinions on how next-generation mobile connectivity will drive Digital Transformation across industries and society. He also shared both his and NEC's vision for the future and gave some insights into his personal working philosophy.

He explained "This is the 5G era, and digital transformation of society and industry is accelerating. Expectations are high for greater capacity and higher speed of communication networks, but they are also required to ensure safety and reliability as key infrastructure." In mobile network deployments for previous generations of mobile broadband technology, Communication Service Providers (CSPs) traditionally used a single vendor integration model, which is still the norm to this day. But he also explained 5G is also bringing a great change in terms of how CSPs procure their equipment in that there is now growing momentum for CSPs to adopt open architecture. This in turn allows them to have significantly more choice and flexibility when selecting telecom network hardware, software and services and that NEC has long been a pioneer in this space.

NEC is working to realize a reliable 5G infrastructure for the Digital Transformation of society as a whole by working together with various partners to create new business models.

Nozomu also mentioned 5G will play an important role in tackling many societal issues, a trend he is already seeing in Japan. He mentioned "In Japan, commercial 5G services were launched in 2020. Autonomous driving and remote healthcare based on such advanced networks, are anticipated to drive new social and industrial structural reforms, accelerating Digital Transformation for the entire industry. NEC is working to realize a reliable 5G infrastructure for the Digital Transformation of society as a whole by working together with various partners to create new business models."

Nozomu believes one of the core NEC philosophies helps the company overcome its challenges is that it believes in creating new services and applications together with customers as opposed to having a purely technology-driven approach to its solutions. He further explained "It is important to think how to help users in using services and applications, rather than just developing them from a technical perspective. Therefore, we place value in developing technology while bearing in mind the value proposition to end users."

We believe that the integration of IT and networks will eventually lead to "beyond 5G" , the realization of a society in which the entire society can enjoy the convenience of advanced networks.

Nozomu explained NEC's 5G technology plays a large role in the company's larger vision which he described as "NEC intends to accelerate the digital transformation of society by safely and flexibly connecting various services and data, using its accumulated knowledge and experience in network technologies and related solutions. To achieve this, we will actively promote the development of 5G equipment that are highly competitive on a global scale." Going further Nozomu said "on top of this reliable network, a variety of services will be used to provide new services that go beyond industry boundaries, including technologies such as electronic Know Your Customer (eKYC) that provides secure authentication without providing mobile terminal authentication information to the network." NEC is already starting to look beyond 5G technologies and Nozomu stated "we believe that the integration of IT and networks will eventually lead to "beyond 5G" , the realization of a society in which the entire society can enjoy the convenience of advanced networks." Ultimately "NEC envisions enabling customers to create such new social values, under the brand name NEC Smart Connectivity".

In terms of his personal philosophy, he believes the 5G era will bring many significant changes to the industry which will require a new management approach. Therefore, Nozomu has changed the way he gathers information about the market as he now takes a much more collaborative approach with his customers. He explained "through co-creation activities which create opportunities such as interviews with customers related to issues and shared verification testing, we consider and propose appropriate solutions, and the accumulated repetition of this process supports my current identity." NEC has already helped many 5G customers in Japan evolve their business models in a number of industries from a traditional B2C, B2B or B2G approach to a more sophisticated B2B2X approach. Doing so requires a much higher degree of coordination and collaboration among multiple stakeholders, but fortunately NEC's core competency as a system integrator has well prepared the company for this shift in business operation.

Nozomu's personal journey in NEC has always been focused on mobile communications, and he appreciates the company's long history in the field which have spanned "from the first generation all the way to the current fifth generation." Therefore, Nozomu has had the benefit of being mentored by colleagues with deep experience in the industry and he recognizes the importance of passing on his knowledge to the next generation of NEC employees.

He also feels NEC's corporate culture has been a large factor in his career development due to its openness which he believes has proven to be a successful incubator for innovative NEC products and services. He describes NEC's corporate culture as "an atmosphere of free communication with senior employees and supervisors, enabling staff to think freely without various restrictions and holding back. I was able to apply that freedom to my product development. I feel this corporate culture is connected to the handing down of superior techniques and creation of new innovation at NEC." Recognizing this, Nozomu hopes to continue this practice going forward as he tries to empower and motivate future generations of NEC employees.

Nozomu also recognizes the importance of work-life balance and still makes time for personal hobbies and as such he stated "I am in no way a skilled sportsman, I take tennis lessons on the weekends to maintain my health and refresh myself. My lessons are only once a week, and improving my play is not really a goal I have, but since I am able to work out a good sweat moving around in the outdoors and enjoy a variety of communication with other students, coaches, and the students working part-time at the school, it's a great feeling for me." Nozomu also enjoys spending time with his family outside of his busy schedule and in fact he stated "I also try to prioritize spending time with my family on the weekends as much as possible. I'm not a particularly good cook, but I try to help out with all the other housework. Joining my wife on long shopping trips isn't a pain for me. In fact, I enjoy it more than shopping for myself."

Overall Nozomu also enjoys being part of a greater cause at NEC as he said "Although I'm not a major factor in the process, it makes me happy to think that I'm able to personally contribute to the provision of mobile communications infrastructure that has achieved this evolution, making society easier for people to live in. It goes without saying this is something one person could never do on their own." Nozomu feels being a part of the NEC 5G team can have a large and lasting impact on society and is looking forward to the widespread deployment of the technology, which he hopes NEC will play in increasingly larger role in the development of. He described his experience as "within the NEC company structure, I have met numerous colleagues and we were able to achieve this by making efforts together. The new era of 5G is an opportunity to contribute more widely to the lives of people all over the world. In addition to NEC's network technology, I hope to leverage our strengths in IT technology as well, making efforts to expand our business to the global market." Nozomu takes great satisfaction in being part of the overall development of mobile broadband technology and is very much looking forward to the 5G era and beyond.

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