The COVID-19 pandemic could accelerate investment in wireless solutions for the digital, ‘big data’ transformation of enterprise verticals sometimes called ‘Industry 4.0.’
Changes made in response to both social distancing and recession-induced workforce reductions could last long after the threat of the virus subsides.
The COVID-19 global pandemic is already expected to transform society in fundamental and irrevocable ways that we can’t yet fully predict. One effect of this transformation may be to accelerate initiatives to deploy cellular network technologies, such as LTE and 5G, to fundamentally reorder industrial operations across a range of enterprise verticals. This trend is already underway, as enterprises investigate the benefits of wireless networks that provide more reliability, and lower latency, than WiFi. However, the sudden and severe disruption that COVID-19 has wrought could force near-term changes among enterprises that lead to lasting practices. For example: Continue reading “COVID-19 Could Accelerate Wireless Industry 4.0”→
• The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase demand for fixed wireless access (FWA) solutions to fill gaps in fiber broadband networks.
• 5G FWA has a mixed reputation but is improving; meanwhile, LTE-based FWA may be useful for serving some immediate needs
The COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in a sudden and widespread explosion in telecommuting, as countless employees who can work from home now do. In many cases, these new telecommuters are using live videoconferencing tools that are sharing home-broadband bandwidth with children who have been sent home from school. The result is a sharp increase in home broadband needs. Where residences have access to fiber, these capacity needs may not be hard to meet. But fiber doesn’t reach every residence; any number of obstacles – including geographical or regulatory ones, or even sheer distance – might get in the way. Thus, demand is likely to increase deeply for fixed-wireless access solutions to fill in the gaps in fiber broadband networks. Continue reading “COVID-19 Could Spur Demand for Fixed Wireless Access – Both 4G and 5G”→
• 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.
The UK government has proposed limits in how much Huawei 5G RAN gear mobile operators deploy.
Exactly how operators will implement those limits is unclear, raising several questions.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the UK’s technical authority on cybersecurity, made big headlines this week by issuing recommendations for UK operators regarding how to honor national security concerns in selecting 5G network suppliers. But, beyond the headlines – primarily regarded as a win for Huawei, since the NCSC allowed a role for Huawei in UK 5G networks despite pressure from the U.S. – the NCSC’s actions raise plenty of questions about how UK operators will source, plan, and deploy their 5G radio access networks (RANs). Continue reading “New 5G Network Recommendations Complicate UK Operators’ Rollout Plans”→
GlobalData recently published its comprehensive set of 2020 predictions across mobile and fixed access, transport and routing, and telco software and services.
The predictions here represent some of the most intriguing industry trends that vendors and operators will need to track closely in the coming year.
Standalone 5G Rollouts: Mobile operators will begin to deploy standalone 5G, which doesn’t rely on an LTE core. Because the first wave of 5G, non-standalone, heavily incentivizes operators to simply add 5G to their existing 4G infrastructure, some operators will use standalone 5G as an opportunity to trial new suppliers and architectures, including virtual core suppliers and Open RAN architectures. The timing of deployments will depend in part on how quickly operators can transition their voice services, since 5G won’t offer a circuit-switch fallback option, as 4G did.
Proving 5G Value: Mobile operators will continue to struggle with proving the value of 5G mobile broadband to consumers, as indicated by recent reports of unimpressed 5G customers thus far in South Korea. At Mobile World Congress 2020 (the year that has been hailed for most of the previous decade as 5G’s arrival date), vendors will once again, for at least the third year in a row, emphasize that 5G is ‘here’ and ‘real.’ At the same time, they will also concede that the enterprise use cases at the heart of the 5G value story are still at an early stage of development.
• At this year’s analyst event, Huawei provided additional background on its approach to 5G core.
• Looking at the measured pace of 5G deployment expected from many operators, and the continued importance of VoLTE, Huawei has wisely stressed long-term LTE support alongside the new 5G core.
Huawei has devoted significant focus the last few months to providing the details about the architecture underpinning its common core solution, originally launched in February at MWC 2019. At its annual analyst conference last month in Shenzhen, China, Huawei provided additional details on the underlying architecture. While GlobalData has not yet rated emerging 5G core portfolios (watch this space), it appears at first blush that Huawei’s core-related R&D has resulted in a robust 5G core platform that focuses on the “three Cs”: “Cloud + Connectivity + Computing.”
All of these “Cs” are vital to the 5G core of course. A cloud-native architecture enables stateless operations and facilitates control/user plane separation. A 5G core platform must flexibly support multi-edge computing (MEC) and strike the right balance between placing computing power at the network edge and at the core. And – perhaps most importantly – the 5G core must support all of the other Gs – including 4G/LTE, 3G, and even 2G. (Ironically 2G support may emerge as more significant than 3G support as many operators appear likely to decommission 3G while maintaining 2G connectivity to support legacy M2M deployments.
Ultimately, the most important aspect of Huawei’s approach to the 5G core comes from the fact that it correctly recognizes that – for all the current 5G hype – 4G/LTE is and will continue to be the workhorse for most operator networks for the next five years. GlobalData estimates that 4G/LTE will grow to a majority of total wireless customers this year, and will continue to grow to nearly 2/3 of the total customer base by 2023. We expect that the 2G customer base will still be larger than the 5G base in 2023.
GLOBALDATA MOBILE BROADBAND FORECAST (March 2019)
One other important feature that stands out is its robust support for voice – and specifically voice over LTE. Operators of all stripes are quick to point out that, despite 20 years of speculation that voice is “going to free” – customers are still willing to pay for reliable, high-quality voice services. Eventually, that will mean 5G voice (voice over NR) but considering that 5G is likely to be deployed in a much more limited fashion than LTE for most operators, VoLTE will be the primary vehicle for most operators to transition away from circuit-switched voice services. This in turn means that IMS will continue to play a vital role in the carrier network for the next five to ten years to support VoLTE deployments.
Huawei’s strong foundation in VoLTE and IMS support plays to one of its strengths. GlobalData ranks Huawei as Leader in IMS, citing a solid customer base and success in offering virtualized IMS deployments supporting VoLTE. This should provide a solid base of customers looking to balance the desire for new 5G services with the need to maintain solid 4G core support for the foreseeable future.
WiFi continues to enjoy near-ubiquitous penetration of smartphones, tablets, and laptops. However, improved cellular speeds enabled by LTE may be creating an inflection point.
In looking at how 5G and WiFi are evolving to face emerging market requirements, significant changes are likely that will strengthen 5G’s value proposition in a number of use cases.
Two conferences offering significantly different visions for the future of ‘local’ wireless are poised to take place the week of May 21. In London, the Small Cell Forum will be showcasing a largely cellular-centric view focused on 5G densification and the regulatory challenges implied therein. In Atlanta, the Wireless Broadband Alliance will hone in on the role of WiFi 6 within the 5G era. The simultaneous timing of these two conferences, while unintentional, certainly underscores the increasing questions being asked by operators and network equipment vendors on the optimal role of WiFi and 5G technologies. Continue reading “Cellular and WiFi Figuring Out Their 5G Identities”→