US Operators Signal Higher Capex in 2021 After a COVID-Dampened 2020

John Byrne, Service Director

Summary Bullets:

• Despite the impact of COVID-19, capital spending by US network operators was down relatively modestly in 2020, falling by around 4%.

• 2021 guidance from these operators shows a return to roughly similar levels as 2019. Continued demand for additional network capacity along with new 5G imperatives clearly remain.

An analysis of US operator financial results based on Q4 2020 earnings releases shows that while COVID-19 did slow capital investment, it could have been worse. Thanks to a flurry of activity toward the end of the year, the nine publicly-reported carriers, all of which spent in excess of $1 billion in capex, accounted for just over $67 billion in spending. That was down by approximately $3 billion, or 4.2%, compared to 2019. GlobalData estimates that the big three that account for nearly 70% of total capex – AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile USA – spent roughly $46 billion, down 6.1% from 2019. However, the bulk of the decline was attributable to AT&T. Continue reading “US Operators Signal Higher Capex in 2021 After a COVID-Dampened 2020”

MWC2021 Organizers Insist the Show Must Go On

John Byrne – Service Director, Global Technology Telecom and Software

Summary Bullets

• GSMA is moving forward with plans for an-in person MWC Barcelona event, though roughly half its normal size and with numerous COVID-19-related precautions.

• Despite moving the date back four months to June 2021, there are still many obstacles to overcome before an actual event will even be feasible.

After the GSM Association (GSMA) made the difficult decision to cancel Mobile World Congress (MWC2020), the largest mobile event in the world, last February, it spent months working with exhibitors on a revised package of discounts to future events. For most exhibitors, the compromise package meant agreeing to forego any cash refund. Instead, these companies agreed to a series of rebates on future events, including a 65% credit on MWC2021, a 35% credit on MWC2022, and a 25% credit on MWC2023.

The event, held annually in Barcelona, was originally scheduled for this week. However, last September the GSMA agreed to postpone the event by four months to hedge its bets, just as Europe was heading into its second wave of COVID-19 infections. The question now is whether even the additional four months will be enough time to carry off a physical event. Continue reading “MWC2021 Organizers Insist the Show Must Go On”

Mobile Operators Are Looking to Incubate Their Way to 5G Success

John Byrne – Service Director, Global Technology Telecom and Software

Summary Bullets

•T-Mobile US introduced a new incubator program designed to foster 5G innovation. Operators and networking vendors are increasingly in the business of seeding 5G innovation.

•The growing number of 5G innovation hubs highlights the growing challenge facing mobile operators hoping to monetize expensive 5G network buildouts.

Mobile operator T-Mobile US announced a new “5G Connected Future” incubator program in February that combines technology, academia, “Curiosity,” and seed money, in a bid to foster new revenue-generating 5G applications.

T-Mobile will collaborate with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) on the program, which represents an expansion of T-Mobile’s Accelerator program. T-Mobile reports it has worked with 67 startup companies that have raised over $50 million in funding since participating in the Accelerator program, all focused on building immersive 5G-based applications such as augmented/virtual reality applications, holographic displays, and robotics. Continue reading “Mobile Operators Are Looking to Incubate Their Way to 5G Success”

2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in Fixed Access This Year

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • Fixed access deployments will continue in the accelerated tempo brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 10G and symmetrical connectivity will become the new gold standard, but not the norm.
  • The rift between the Chinese and Western vendors around future PON technologies will continue to drive leading broadband access markets on diversifying paths.

10G Adoption Accelerates, Benefiting Vendors with Mature and Market-Ready Solutions

Fixed broadband access has for a long time been a relatively stagnant market, due primarily to two factors: increased consumption of mobile connectivity and poor adoption of services that were to ‘fill up the pipes’ of residential broadband and generate bottom-up demand for faster internet. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have practically obliterated these two limiting factors, driving consumption of streaming video, two-way video communications, and general capacity demand stemming from online gaming and large file downloads. With multiple home-bound users using one home broadband for work, education, and entertainment at the same time, home broadband technologies stemming from designs deployed since the 1990s are quickly showing their weak spots. This has generated increased demand for 10G-capable fiber technologies like XGS-PON. This, in turn, accelerated finalization of the DOCSIS 4.0 standard, which is designed to enable cable operators to provide 10G services as well. Continue reading “2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in Fixed Access This Year”

2021 Predictions: Four Things to Watch in Telco Ecosystems and Operations This Year

Andy Hicks, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • Carriers will increasingly incorporate the public cloud into their infrastructures, requiring their partners to help them with hybrid and multicloud management as well as edge capabilities.
  • Greenfield transformation champions Rakuten, Dish, and Jio will have to show results in 2021.

2020 turned out to be a bye year in the predictions game. Having painstakingly teased out the incipient trends for the year, analysts watched as COVID-19 upturned everything, forcing telcos to reallocate their network CapEx and vendors to scramble to add cloud capacity, develop new analytics, and adjust their deployment services. While 2020 sped up operators’ moves toward cloudification, it also delayed non-essential projects as well as work on the standards that will help mobile carriers to monetize their extensive investments in 5G infrastructure. While the coronavirus will continue to affect telecoms transformation in 2021, it is now baked into telcos’ plans, allowing – we hope – more certainty about the events of the coming year. Continue reading “2021 Predictions: Four Things to Watch in Telco Ecosystems and Operations This Year”

2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in Optical Transport This Year

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • The impact of 5G will start showing in optical transport revenues in earnest in 2021, and the ensuing capacity increases will translate into accelerated upgrade cycles in the metro packet-optical domain.
  • Vendors competing in coherent solutions will put more emphasis on overall fiber capacity and spectral efficiency and present their capabilities across several dimensions, reducing focus on maximum wavelength capacity as the industry currency.

5G Transport Needs Will Shape Packet-Optical Access and Metro

The impact of 5G on the CSP network technology ecosystem beyond the radio access will be substantial, and transport is the first domain where this has become evident. Beyond capacity requirements an order of magnitude higher than was the case with 4G, 5G also needs stringent timing and synchronization and defines very low-latency system-wide latency budgets, which translate into very strict requirements for each network element in the communications link. As opposed to 4G, where most deployed base stations were macro, 5G architecture is much more versatile and opens the way for significantly more disaggregation between different elements of radio access. This directly translates into a much greater role for fronthaul and midhaul that need to seamlessly connect these disaggregated parts of radio network access. Taken together, the new speed, precision, and latency requirements of 5G have already led most operators to renew and augment their mobile x-haul portfolios. Additionally, the continually increasing volume of new connections and the need for flexibility to support functions like network slicing have brought on a realistic and urgent need to deploy automation and orchestration solutions across the transport networks. Continue reading “2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in Optical Transport This Year”

2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in the CSP Transport & Routing Sector This Year

Glen Hunt, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • Orchestration of IP infrastructure resources will become mainstream, replacing fragmented element and network management solutions to reduce complexity and operational cost.
  • 5G private network initiatives will go global as operators position to capture lucrative new 5G network opportunities and address the needs of multiple vertical markets.

Resource Orchestration Matures

5G services and applications are driving more routed IP traffic into the network, with the traditional role of switched Layer 2 Ethernet traffic being sidelined and replaced by more dynamic routed IP flows. This is prevalent in the mobile transport and business Ethernet services domains, which were the last frontier that could claim a cost and simplicity advantage by remaining at Layer 2. The maturation of SDN, which supports a centralized control plane and distributed data plane, has been augmented with simplified routing protocols such as segment routing and Ethernet VPN (EVPN), which minimize the need for complex node-based management and control intelligence. It is painfully clear that the telco infrastructure must be fully automated in order to avoid being crushed by its own weight. Continue reading “2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in the CSP Transport & Routing Sector This Year”

2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in the Mobile Access Sector This Year

Ed Gubbins, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

• 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.

Here are our three best guesses for the mobile access networks space in 2021: Continue reading “2021 Predictions: Three Things to Watch in the Mobile Access Sector This Year”

Mavenir’s In-House Radio Units Show Open RAN Ecosystem’s Growing Pains

Ed Gubbins, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • Despite its software-centric vision and hardware partner ecosystem, Mavenir offers its own radio hardware.
  • This can be seen largely as reflective of a young, still-growing ecosystem and Mavenir’s mission to prove out the vRAN/Open RAN model.

Mavenir may have surprised some attendees at its annual analyst event last month when it touted an array of new hardware-based mobile access products: three new macrocell radio units (RUs) and an enterprise small-cell solution with its own distributed radio units. That’s because Mavenir has long been focused on virtual RAN (vRAN) and Open RAN – running RAN software on general-purpose servers and using RUs from an array of other vendors. It is committed to a vision of being a software, not hardware, provider. And at the same event, Mavenir noted it currently has 11 partners supplying Open RAN radio hardware. Continue reading “Mavenir’s In-House Radio Units Show Open RAN Ecosystem’s Growing Pains”

SD-WAN for the Cloud Era: Enterprise Priorities and Telco Opportunities

Emir Halilovic, Principal Analyst

Summary Bullets:

  • SD-WAN adoption is growing and the number of vendors in the market stays high, but the architecture of SD-WAN mimics legacy WAN infrastructures, not necessarily aligning with public cloud adoption trends and evolving traffic patterns in the enterprise.
  • SD-WAN solutions need to evolve by adding capabilities that align with enterprise ‘cloud-first’ priorities and allow operators to use their edge infrastructure as a competitive differentiator.

The history of SD-WAN started with the first solutions designed to offer enterprises a way of building secure and controlled WAN environments, without resorting to costly and often scarce telco services like MPLS. The market has grown to dozens of vendors, and most telecommunication operators offer one or more SD-WAN solutions in their portfolio. But the development of the market so far has brought to light two main shortcomings of most SD-WAN solutions, affecting enterprise users and telco operators, respectively: Continue reading “SD-WAN for the Cloud Era: Enterprise Priorities and Telco Opportunities”