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”→
Both 4G and 5G will co-evolve in mobile operator networks for years.
Even standalone 5G will coexist alongside 4G/5G networks, as operators further monetize 4G investments.
For some time now, the telecom industry has been heralding the dawn of the 5G era, the time when operators are deploying 5G networks and launching 5G services. But, it would be more accurate to say we’re at the dawn of the 4G/5G era, as this is what operators are actually deploying. Both technologies will co-evolve in operator networks for years. And as operators ramp up 5G network investment, they can’t neglect LTE. Continue reading “We’re Not Entering the 5G Era; This Is the Age of 4G/5G”→
• A robust ecosystem is driving 5G deployments to support enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA) use cases, which sets the stage for sophisticated 5G applications requiring low latency and high reliability.
• The 5G device ecosystem is being driven by timely investment in new chipsets and terminals to support new services and drive opportunities – the 5G device ecosystem includes multiple form factors and end user devices, which are ready or near ready for commercial deployment.
The Well Developed 5G Device Ecosystem, Simplifies and Accelerates Deployment:
There is a clear correlation between the maturity of the device ecosystem and the time it takes for the market to deliver on the goals and business objectives. For example, the 3rd generation (3G) buildout, required five years to build a sufficient supply of affordable devices, and the 4th generation (4G) buildout, required just two years. The availability of 5G devices now, enables the market to mature in concert with the underlying infrastructure buildout. Continue reading “The Vibrant 5G Ecosystem is Shortening Adoption Cycles to Two Years”→
• Common telco transformation goals of efficiency, agility, and customer experience obscure a variety of interim approaches and roadmaps.
• Vendors must be prepared to support each telco’s diverse product, operations, and procurement strategies.
Telecommunications vendors talk a lot about digital transformation, mostly in similar terms: Customer experience must improve; OpEx must fall; cloudified 5G networks must be planned, built, and automated; services must get to market more rapidly; and organizational culture must become more agile. Worthy goals all, but after 20 or so meetings at Mobile World Congress or similar industry gatherings, they can seem like a catechism instead of a roadmap. Every telco is in a different position, and needs to set its own plan for transformation.
Often network and IT vendors rely on their global services departments to help customers transform, so services events are good places to see the actual work that telcos are doing. One recent example was Huawei’s Operations Transformation Summit, held the day before MWC. Four operators presented to the vendor’s Open ROADS community: Axiata Group, China Mobile Pakistan (doing business under the Zong brand), Sunrise Switzerland, and Viva Kuwait. All have made progress toward automated, efficient, and agile operations and great customer experience, but each is taking a different path. Each operator also exemplifies one or more real results that telcos can achieve today:
• Agility enabled: Digital transformation must slash any new offering’s time to market and opportunity cost. Doing so requires a combination of technology and process work: in Sunrise’s case, process automation and resource modularization combine with a new abstraction layer between back-end systems and customer channels to enable scrum-based service development. Like cloud-native OTT players, Sunrise now provides frequent feature updates rather than aggregating changes into infrequent point releases.
• APIs and ecosystems: For a few years now, it’s been an article of faith that telcos will someday use a platform ecosystem to bring more services to market a la Salesforce.com or Google. Axiata started in 2012. It began with the long tail, publishing simple APIs and using crowdsourcing to introduce 3,000 apps between 2012 and 2014. It then industrialized its APIs into a single hub and cloud-native architecture to accommodate larger partners, other telcos, and more complicated services, resulting in 11,000 ecosystem developers, 200+ service partners, and 17,000 apps developed. Just as important as the technological components is Axiata’s governance model, which requires code reuse, microservices, documentation, and APIs that can be exposed externally.
• AI-assisted investment: Artificial intelligence is aiding improvements in both traditional capacity planning – where it can forecast cell-level traffic and performance three months in advance – and in prioritizing investment. Zong is one of the operators that uses AI to help it prioritize upgrades in a very low-ARPU market by analyzing which cells will be most used by high-value customers.
• Procurement efficiency. Although rarely mentioned in industry discussions, procurement is the subject of renewed focus as traditional cost management procedures and per-component RFPs run up against software-style licensing models and the need for transformation partnerships. The improved planning we mention in the previous bullet combines with standardized equipment definitions to enable efficient capital use via just-in-time procurement: Viva noted that purchase order processing has gone from 15 to five days, while Zong has seen its contract approval time drop by 59% and its implementation time drop by 53%.
These are just four examples from one event, but they underscore the diversity of operator approaches: even if their goals are similar, a full-service vendor must be able to aid each operator on its unique journey. A comprehensive services approach is essential to handle this diversity.
ZTE has completed a 5G New Radio (NR) field test with China Mobile in the Chinese province of Guangdong.
This tests demonstrates ZTE’s readiness to supply large-scale 5G rollouts and take advantage of the unique opportunities posed by standalone 5G in particular.
Network equipment vendors have been promoting their progress in 5G for years. So, when a vendor announces the completion of yet another 5G field test in early 2019 – many months past widespread industry pronouncements that “5G is here!” – it’s easy to casually disregard. It’s also easy to miss the real significance of this activity. Continue reading “ZTE’s 5G Field Test with China Mobile and Why It Matters”→
As the telecom industry gathers at this year’s Mobile World Congress, we’re sure to hear that “5G is here!” and “5G is real!” – just as we have in previous years. But as the real-world challenges of 5G deployments draw nearer for operators, RAN vendors will need to devote some messaging to assuaging operators’ fears. In fact, this has already begun, and it takes the form of RAN vendors emphasizing 5G benefits that are, in fact, more like remedies to problems posed by 5G itself. Continue reading “MWC19: 5G Promises to Solve the Problems Caused by, Um, 5G”→
• The wireless industry prepares to converge once again in Barcelona at MWC19.
• In addition to new 5G product and service launches and customer wins, political and financial concerns will serve as significant backdrops this year.
MWC19, the wireless industry’s largest event of the year, kicks off February 25 in Barcelona.
For network infrastructure vendors, MWC19 will serve as a launch point for a host of new products and services. Expect a number of 5G “plumbing”-related announcements from a host of vendors, including:
• Massive MIMO advancements
• Solutions designed to allow operators to support both 4G/LTE and 5G on a common core
• Similarly, flexible and programmable transport solutions that can support a host of to-be-developed 5G network slicing use cases
• Advancements in IoT platforms designed to help network operators do a better job of bringing the “connected X” proposition into a host of enterprises.
However, while 5G will obviously take center stage, as it has for the past three years, politics and financial concerns will serve as significant backdrops for this year’s event.
Huawei has endured a U.S.-backed campaign against it over the past year that has threatened its 5G prospects across the UK, Australia, Japan, and elsewhere. It will need to announce 5G-related deals at this year’s event to signal that it still has the support of a critical mass of the industry to thrive in the 5G era. Given the current urgency around this issue, Huawei will need to address security concerns more directly in its MWC19 messaging. Continue reading “Political Battles and Ongoing Restructurings Serve as Backdrop for MWC19”→