• Advances in reduced capability (RedCap) technology could help operators monetize 5G by enabling IoT use cases.
• RedCap commercialization is set to increase in 2023 on both the network and device side, establishing the ecosystem needed to support new businesses.
As a marketing term, ‘reduced capability’ technology may not sound inherently enticing, but the technology is designed to help bring to life a diverse array of IoT use cases that could bring much-needed monetization possibilities to 5G networks.
• Radisys, a RAN software provider owned by India’s Reliance Industries, is acquiring Mimosa Networks, which supplies fixed-wireless gear to Reliance’s mobile operator Jio.
• Both private and public investment dedicated to securing India’s telecom independence is surging in India as the country rolls out 5G.
Roughly four years after it acquired the company in late-2018, radio access networking (RAN) vendor Airspan recently announced it has agreed to sell Mimosa Networks, its fixed-wireless unit, to Radisys, a RAN software provider owned by Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, for $60 million. In 2022, Mimosa reported about $25 million in revenue.
• Intel’s new system-on-a-chip (SoC) features integrated accelerators, which help close the performance gap between virtual RAN (vRAN) and traditional RAN. Thus far, accelerators have been offered as separate hardware cards.
• Rakuten Symphony’s plans to offer a vDU based on the new SoC, following the availability of Qualcomm’s new accelerator and Juniper’s recent move to give away its RAN Intelligent Controller, show vRAN momentum building.
Recently, vRAN vendor Rakuten Symphony revealed plans to produce a virtual distributed baseband unit (vDU) based on new Intel SoC, due in 2023, whose accelerator is integrated with the CPU rather than being offered as a separate hardware card. This represents a departure from the status quo (accelerators as separate hardware cards), but the two vendors say it also addresses a key obstacle that has been holding vRAN back.
After a COVID-related decline in CapEx in 2020, US operators returned almost exactly to 2019 levels in 2021, in line with guidance provided at the beginning of the year.
Operators are planning to increase CapEx by double digits in 2022, with the increase being driven by midband 5G deployments and increasing appetite for fiber from both large and small operators.
An analysis of US operator financial results based on Q4 2021 earnings releases shows that CapEx in 2021 came in nearly identically to 2019 levels after a COVID-driven dip in 2020. The nine network operators shown below – all of which spent more than $1 billion in CapEx – spent $70.6 billion in 2021 CapEx, up 5.2% from 2020 and nearly flat from 2019. GlobalData estimates that the big three that account for nearly 70% of total CapEx – AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile USA – spent roughly $49 billion, up 7% from 2020. Continue reading “Midband 5G and Fiber Drive Increased 2022 CapEx Guidance from US Operators”→
• With $65 billion in federal funding up for grabs, states in the U.S. will now have to navigate a set of complex regulatory hurdles in order to get projects off the ground.
• Two industry associations plan to introduce a playbook to help speed up this process. In the process, they hope to make the case for fiber as the best deployment option for many rural broadband scenarios.
With visions of government funding dancing in their heads, two U.S. fiber advocacy groups announced plans in December to publish a “Broadband Infrastructure Playbook” next month. The playbook is designed to help educate state governments spending some of the $65 billion in deployment funds allocated in the infrastructure bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Biden in November.
The two groups – the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) and the NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association – are preparing the playbook to help demystify the complex and convoluted funding mechanisms laid out by the newly-formed “Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment” (BEAD) program that will require each state to implement its own plan. While final awards will vary widely, each state will receive a minimum of $100 million in funding for broadband infrastructure development. The near-term catch is that every state is required to coordinate with local governments and submit a five-year action plan in order to qualify for funding.
Compared to most other countries (including the UK, many EU countries, Australia, and India) in which the central government directly administers subsidies, or funds wholesale national broadband networks, the U.S. plan vastly overcomplicates matters through its state-by state process. While including state governments into the process may have been necessary for passage, it risks delaying the process of subsidy distribution and broadband deployments and may open the way for more political horse trading and lobbying on behalf of various interest groups. In that context, the Broadband Infrastructure Playbook should be seen with two lenses: 1) as a badly-needed information source to help states navigate a complicated funding process, and 2) as an opportunity for the FBA and NTCA to influence the process in favor of fiber deployments.
The playbook will provide a detailed overview of the statutory requirements associated with the new broadband infrastructure law and offer recommendations for how states should structure their broadband programs. Templates will also be provided to help accelerate the process of creating state funding applications and competitive bidding evaluations.
Specifically, the FBA and NTCA have indicated the playbook will provide recommendations in the following areas:
• Overall program plan, sequencing and timing of activities
• Recommendations on how states can best incorporate federal grant programs
• Key process and information requirements (e.g., in the mapping of underserved areas, the management of the award process and post-award monitoring)
• Organizational structure, scale and distribution of responsibilities
• Interfaces with other state government departments and external bodies
The FBA and NTCA are also calling for both states and broadband network providers to participate in the research for the playbook and share lessons learned from earlier funding programs. The two associations plan to issue the playbook in early 2022 in order to give states the opportunity to have systems in place in tie for the announcement of final funding awards, expected in May 2022.
While the playbook should provide an important tool in addressing the digital divide, the motives of the FBA and NTCA are of course not entirely altruistic. The FBA in particular represents dozens of telecommunications infrastructure vendors eager to break ground on a host of government-funded rural broadband contracts that are likely to extend well through the remainder of this decade. Rural broadband can come in many flavors, notably fixed wireless, and the two groups are keen to steer many of those investment decisions to fiber. The to-be-released playbook can play a vital role in that regard.
Verizon will exceed its 2021 plans of adding 14,000 ‘5G Ultra Wideband’ cell sites that operate at mmWave frequencies.
While mmWave buildout will continue, Verizon signaled that its 2022 5G buildout plans will center around the C-band spectrum it obtained at auction earlier in 2021.
U.S. operator Verizon announced in December it has already exceeded its previously announced 2021 target of building 14,000 ‘5G Ultra Wideband’ cell sites using so-called millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. However, the company also left a clear signal to the industry that it is ready to devote more attention to providing 5G in midband spectrum in 2022 and beyond. Continue reading “Verizon Turns 5G Spotlight to Midband Spectrum in 2022”→
SoftBank plans to issue a sustainability bond to help fund its high-altitude platform station (HAPS) project designed to enable Internet service in currently hard-to-reach locales.
Investors may be reluctant to invest in the new bond because of the long timeframe to commercial viability, lack of a clear path to profit, and emerging competition from LEO competitors like Starlink and Project Kuiper.
Japanese investment management conglomerate SoftBank Corporation announced it will issue a sustainability bond to fund its novel HAPS project designed to enable Internet service in currently hard-to-reach locales. Sustainability bonds are becoming an increasingly popular way for telecoms operators to fund environmental initiatives; however, investors may be skeptical of SoftBank’s plans to use a sustainability bond to fund development of its still-unproven HAPS model. Continue reading “SoftBank Sustainability Bond Plans May Face Skeptical Investment Community”→