Net Transformation tackles a broad set of topics around operator efforts to evolve and otherwise transform their telecom networks in an effort to reduce complexity, keep costs in check and earn new revenues.
At the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Starlink – with ample financial support from the US and its allies – supplied terminals and active service in the country.
Starlink’s service has proven unparalleled resilience, giving a new set of arguments for further development of low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations.
Since the beginning of the all-out Russian invasion of Ukraine, Starlink has consistently proven its worth as a critical communications medium. The service has been proven resilient, both in its design and operations. The service requires no ground-based infrastructure aside from a user terminal, allowing users to set up internet access quickly. It circumvents terrestrial infrastructure, which has not only been damaged by the ongoing warfare, but has also crumbled under targeted Russian cyber and physical attacks and sabotage. This part of its performance was expected.
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”→
• 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.
Orange’s expansion of its equipment refurbishing efforts to the radio network represents new levels of scale, complexity, and maturity in its circular economy initiative.
Fears that reused radio equipment will not match the improved energy consumption of new units have not been borne out in real-world usage.
In October 2021, Paris-based multinational telecoms operator Orange announced an agreementwith Nokia to increase its use of refurbished network equipment across its entire 26-country footprint. Beginning with radio access network (RAN) equipment, the arrangement will extend to other network infrastructure elements. In taking this step, Orange is establishing an advanced position that it hopes other telecoms groups will follow. Continue reading “Orange and Nokia Push the Circular Economy Forward with RAN Refurbishment”→
The next generation of digital optical pluggable interfaces will have deep implications on traditional optical transport platforms.
The attraction of pluggable form factors, and further standardization, will shape the optical transport market going forward.
When networking giant Cisco acquired optical solutions specialist Acacia Communications in 2019, one of the proclaimed goals of this high-profile move was powering the next stage of IP-optical integration. Mating Cisco’s routers with miniaturized coherent pluggable optical interfaces allows clients to simplify their transport networks and, in some scenarios, eliminates the need for some optical transport network elements in the architecture. This approach works best in metro aggregation scenarios, where span lengths match the capacity sweet spot of the currently available crop of pluggables, like 400G-capable 400ZR. Continue reading “Optical Pluggables Evolution: Higher Performance Brings Extended Usability”→
• In a new report, Vodafone warned that current initiatives underway by the UK government are insufficient to help meet aggressive carbon emission reduction goals, including a 2035 78% reduction target.
• Vodafone and its research partner WMI Economics offered solutions designed to help jumpstart progress on these aggressive goals by deploying 5G and IoT to a host of vertical segments, notably agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation.
UK telecom operator Vodafone warned in September that the UK government has much more to do to meet aggressive emissions reduction targets that call for a 78% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035 and net zero emissions by 2020. The company believes its Internet of Things (IoT) solutions can help.
In a new report issued in conjunction with political communications consultancy WPI Economics, Vodafone pointed to slow progress in important sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, and transport where IoT could potentially deliver important progress. In these three sectors alone, Vodafone estimates that existing IoT technology has the ability to reduce between 11.7 million and 17.4 million metric tons in annual greenhouse gas emissions – at the high-end, that would represent 4% of total UK emissions, or approximately the total emissions in the Northeast of England. The benefits of IoT vary by population density – Vodafone estimates that in city centers, 87% of the benefit would come from smart transportation solutions; by contrast, agriculture would drive 38% of emission reductions in rural areas.
TOTAL POTENTIAL ANNUAL CO2 SAVINGS FROM DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
BY SECTOR AND SCENARIO
Source: Vodafone/WPI Economics “Connecting for Net Zero: Addressing the climate crisis through digital technology” (September 2021)
In order to fully realize these emissions reductions, Vodafone issued a call to action for the UK government. Among its recommendations:
• Set clearer targets and benchmarks for the adoption of digital technology within the company’s 2050 zero net emissions strategy.
• Incentivize adoption of IoT and 5G technologies in key sectors to accelerate emissions reductions.
• Increase the weight given to carbon reduction technologies and vendors’ internal carbon reduction targets in procurement processes.
• Expand the role of UK programs such as Digital Catapult and Connected Places Catapult that are tasked with accelerating digital technology innovation and adoption in high impact sectors of the economy.
• Allocate £500 million of public funding to regional innovation centers focused specifically on IoT and 5G applications that can reduce carbon emissions.
• Enable interoperability among solutions by introducing regulation to drive common security and data standards in IoT devices.
• Introduce a regulatory and policy framework that “creates the right signals for investment” in mobile networks across the UK.
For all the focus on the lead-up to COP26, the next annual UN climate change conference happening in Glasgow, Scotland in November, Vodafone also offers another, less altruistic rationale for focusing on 5G-based digital solutions to reduce carbon emissions: jobs. According to the September report, Vodafone estimates that 5G could add £6.3 billion to the value of UK manufacturing by 2030 and create 175,000 additional jobs across the economy.
Through midyear, U.S. network operators have performed as expected on capital expenditures, posting a modest increase in spend over last year’s COVID-dampened investment. T-Mobile USA stands out with a large year-to-year increase as it embarks on aggressive 5G buildout plans.
H2 2021 spending appears likely to also be up slightly compared to 2020; however, as evidenced by revised AT&T guidance, looming supply chain challenges could stymy some plans, particularly in fiber deployment.
A GlobalData analysis of U.S. operator financial results based on mid-year 2021 earnings releases shows capital expenditures (CapEx) spending increased just over 7% compared to COVID-impacted H1 2020. In total, the nine publicly reported carriers spent $38.5 billion in CapEx. GlobalData estimates that the big three operators that account for nearly 70% of total U.S. CapEx – AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile USA – spent just over $26 billion, up 6.1% from H1 2020. Continue reading “H1 2021 CapEx Up Modestly for U.S. Operators, but Supply Chain Challenges Loom”→