• 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”→
• 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”→
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”→
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”→
CableLabs and SCTE/ISBE signed a letter of intent to combine, with the process likely to be finalized in December with the expected endorsement by thousands of SCTE/ISBE members.
The move marks yet another sign of cable industry consolidation, itself a product of impending cable MSO technological transformation.
The two largest R&D engineering houses focused on innovations for cable operators announced plans in November to join forces. CableLabs, whose membership comprises only cable system operators in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Australia, announced it will align with the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers/International Society of Broadband Experts (SCTE/ISBE), which represents both operators and vendors. In point of fact, the two bodies have complemented each other’s work for a long time. The merger is supposed to bring the two constituencies closer together and accelerate the pace of commercialization of new standards – primarily the impending introduction of symmetrical 10 Gbps services (or 10G for short). After the combination, SCTE/ISBE will become a subsidiary of CableLabs on January 1, 2021. The activities of the two organizations will continue virtually unchanged though, and SCTE/ISBE will continue to offer memberships to potential members not affiliated with CableLabs. The combination signifies that the already insular cable industry is coming even closer together. However, as the technology landscape outside of the cable ecosystem changes rapidly, further focusing of the cable sector might not be the most important change the industry needs. A number of technical and non-technical challenges will continue to loom: Continue reading “CableLabs and SCTE/ISBE to Merge as Insular Cable Industry Consolidates”→
The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) has launched a ‘Software-Defined Radio Access Network’ project aimed at developing open-source RAN solutions using an ‘app store’ model for network optimization features.
This effort will be helped by the open RAN (ORAN) and virtual RAN (vRAN) movements now gaining steam, but it will also confront some of the same hurdles facing open RAN – including opposition from incumbent major vendors.
• Dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) can improve the coverage and capacity of 4G/5G networks by allowing both technologies to efficiently share the same finite, licensed spectrum.
• Spectrum-sharing goes beyond 4G/5G, including 2G and 3G and potentially Internet of Things technologies, increasing its value and diversity.
As the 5G era dawns, a technology known as DSS has become a hot topic. DSS allows operators to use the same spectrum bands simultaneously for different radio access technologies. Specifically, the industry’s 3GPP standards enable using 4G and 5G in the same spectrum. It’s “dynamic” in that the network is continually re-evaluating user activity and reallocating spectrum to 4G and 5G traffic as needed – sometimes as often as every millisecond. Continue reading “Dynamic Spectrum Sharing: It’s Not Just for 4G and 5G”→
Enterprise RAN vendors CommScope and Dali each won damages in countervailing patent infringement cases last week, but an injunction against two Dali products may be of interest to the broader industry.
That injunction is suspended pending appeal. It may be rendered moot by expiring patents, and its impact may be mild even if upheld. Still, additional suits could foster lingering uncertainty in this space.
A legal battle over patent infringement between enterprise RAN vendors CommScope and Dali Wireless came closer to resolution last week, but a key aspect – an injunction that would prevent Dali from selling two primary products – remains uncertain. A Dallas judge upheld a jury verdict rendered last year that awarded damages to both companies in a patent infringement suit and related countersuit. CommScope was ordered to pay almost $9.5 million, plus additional interest, and Dali was ordered to pay about $6 million, plus interest. Continue reading “After the Dali Wireless-CommScope Court Fight, Legal Uncertainties Linger in the Enterprise RAN”→
• In their first round of quarterly results since the widespread outbreak of COVID-19, network operators provided few specifics on the true impact of the pandemic on 2020 outlooks.
• Most operators remain hopeful that a fuller picture of the impact of the disease will emerge in time for Q220 earnings releases, but that is likely to vary significantly by region and country.
With most of the world’s largest network operators now having chimed in on Q1 2020 earnings, what is clear is that little remains clear in terms of how COVID-19 will impact them this year. Most operators have withdrawn full-year guidance and have indicated that a reliable picture will not emerge until the true trajectory of COVID-19 becomes clear. Since that answer can vary significantly from country to country, region to region, and city to city, most operators lack the tools to provide reliable guidance. Continue reading “COVID-19: Operators Kick the Can Down the Road in Defining Impact to FY2020 Results”→
• Nokia has been excluded from the latest wave of 5G RAN rollouts by major Chinese mobile operators
• Though Nokia has strategies to overcome this obstacle, the underlying trends of geographic polarization don’t bode well for the industry.
Reporting its Q1 2020 earnings today, Nokia acknowledged that it has essentially been shut out of the Chinese 5G RAN market – the largest such market in the world.
This news didn’t come as a shock to anyone who had seen recent reports that – despite a fresh deal to supply China Unicom with a 5G core platform – Nokia was not named as a supplier in the latest wave of 5G RAN contracts awarded by China’s three major mobile operators. As usual, these procurements went mostly to China’s two major equipment vendors, with Huawei earning the lion’s share, and ZTE’s much smaller share still towering over that awarded to Sweden-based Ericsson. Continue reading “Nokia Left Out of China’s 5G RAN – Another Sign of Growing Polarity in the Global Ecosystem”→