• Despite growing fiber and FWA momentum in their home market, US cable MSOs are still mostly sticking with cable as their current and future network technology.
• This insistence on staying the course is natural, given cable’s “value for money” ratio, but the technological superiority of fiber and flexibility of FWA may increasingly endanger the very core of the MSO’s business.
Recent announcements coming from major US telcos indicate new enthusiasm for fiber and FWA investment. AT&T is forging on with its plan to add 30 million new locations to its fiber network, and has introduced XGS-PON into its network, enabling 2Gbps and 5Gbps services. Verizon has (finally) started offering 2Gbps service on its NG-PON2 network in New York City. Smaller operators like Frontier, Ziply, Vexus Fiber, and Hotwire have mostly jumped on the XGS-PON bandwagon and offer multi-gig services as well.
• NEC and Netcracker wrap their respective professional services and domain orchestration solution around Juniper’s IP networking and ADVA’s open line system for a multi-layer, multi-vendor, and automated 5G Xhaul.
• The cooperation has great potential to increase each of the vendors’ credibility in 5G transport, but must show tangible advantages in functionality and cost savings to uproot entrenched competitors.
The 5G transport market continues to heat up, as operators are gradually waking up to the fact that transport renovation and automation will be one of the key ingredients of their future end-to-end 5G architecture. In that context, accelerated activity by NEC and Netcracker in 5G Xhaul illustrates well the importance of transport for 5G, and the size of the market opportunity awaiting. NEC, Netcracker, Juniper, and ADVA contributed their leading capabilities to their joint solution introduced in September.
The offering ticks several important boxes:
• IP/optical integration to simplify and streamline transport architectures;
• Support for 400ZR interfaces for cost-optimized, high-speed coherent transport;
• Open optical line system technology that can seamlessly support gear from multiple transport vendors;
• Multi-layer service and network lifecycle management to manage increasing complexity that accompany the migration to 5G architectures; and
• Closed loop automation to improve agility and respond more quickly to changing network traffic conditions.
NEC’s 5G Xhaul transformation services will serve both as a key ingredient of the solution and as a differentiator, especially for operators keen on composing technology elements from different vendors but lacking in-house capabilities to do so. The multi-vendor nature of the solution should also resonate well with customers seeking more openness and choice in their transport networks.
Including Netcracker’s Network Domain Orchestration into the offering is particularly significant and will appeal especially well with operators seeking flexibility and advanced capabilities like network slicing lifecycle management in their Xhaul networks. Network slicing functionality support is generally present in most transport networking elements today, both in IP and packet-optical domain. But deploying, maintaining, and decommissioning end-to-end network slices requires multi-layer and multi-domain orchestration, and is far from trivial. Even converged IP/optical networks need multi-layer and multi-domain coordination to successfully provision network slices and match them with services deployed on the network.
NEC’s and Netcracker’s solution enters a highly competitive Xhaul market, with already slanted playing field. Large radio vendors like Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, and ZTE have wide and deep Xhaul offerings, and enjoy the opportunity to bundle their transport with radio access. Historically, this has meant that the attach rate between radio and Xhaul has been significant (50-60%); this significantly shrinks addressable market for any non-radio vendor. However, that could be changing as many vendors look to 5G to alter traditional infrastructure procurement paradigms. NEC’s services offering and Netcracker’s Network Domain Orchestration may provide important differentiators for operators seeking advanced Xhaul capabilities, but the key to success will be to demonstrate the integrated solution’s capabilities in live networks – both in terms of advanced functionality, such as network slicing, and in delivering significant and measurable improvement in terms of underlying network operation economics.
• Fulfilling the Promise of 5G – 5G requires a fully automated and intelligent network infrastructure capable of delivering high speed broadband and new enterprise and industrial network services.
• Taming Complexity – AI and agile cloud-based resources are necessary to deliver a fully digitized and flexible services environment, simplify complex network management and reduce operational costs.
5G network expectations have been well articulated, but meeting these lofty expectations is another matter. Today’s networks are multi-layer, multi-technology, and multi-vendor, which adds to the depth of the challenge at hand. The goal is to deliver new network and application services in a manner that satisfies on-demand user expectations over a network infrastructure that grows more complex over time.
The good news is that automation and AI technologies are steadily ramping up to address the complexity inherent in these multi-X networks; however, before automation and AI can be instrumented, the network infrastructure must be made programmable, a monumental task. The following analysis explores each of the key capabilities needed to establish an intelligent 5G network and note significant advances in vendor solutions. Continue reading “Automation, AI, Cloud, and Services – The Foundation for 5G”→
• Open RAN and virtual RAN (vRAN) ecosystems will continue to develop incrementally in 2021 without dramatic change.
• New RAN activity will heat up in India, aided by national self-reliance goals and Open RAN trends.
A global pandemic and its associated lockdowns, quarantines, and economic impacts made the world glad to say goodbye to 2020, despite the fact that the same forces will continue to shape 2021. In turn, as we try to predict what 2021 will be like in the mobile access networks industry, we can find some indicators in the events of 2020.
• Huawei promoted several new RAN solution launches at an event held in London this month, including a Super Uplink solution for increasing 5G network capacity and radios utilizing 400 MHz of bandwidth.
• Huawei also emphasized the value of both frequency- and time-division spectrum.
At an event held February 20 in London, Huawei updated press and analysts on its latest 5G moves. The vendor cited its ability to provide end-to-end solutions for 5G networks, including RAN, core, and Multi-Access Edge Computing, which helps deliver 5G’s low-latency requirements. This comprehensive approach could also enable more cohesive network slicing, a key capability for enabling 5G’s ultimate value proposition.