Omdia crowns South Korea as global 5G leader

Research firm Omdia has revealed South Korea is the clear global 5G leader, and unfortunately for everyone else, it doesn’t even look to be that close a race.

Although Omdia stressed 5G progress is not a race between countries, it is very difficult not to measure success between the different countries and regions before deciding on a winner. Like 4G, 5G could inspire economic growth, but this will be disproportionately distributed to those who can cultivate a 5G era more successfully than others.

As it stands, South Korea is the leader in the 5G world, with Kuwait and Switzerland completing the podium, though it is not exactly a close race currently.

“Limited coverage, device availability and cautious launches has limited take-up in other global markets,” said Stephen Myers, Omdia Principal Analyst. “However, expansive coverage rolled out by Sunrise and Swisscom in Switzerland, Ooredoo and Vodafone in Qatar and Kuwait’s three service providers has rivalled Korea for breadth of market coverage.”

The results were calculated by weighting five different elements of the 5G industry; spectrum availability, service launches, network coverage, 5G adoption and the development of a supporting ecosystem. In every area, South Korea has exceeded expectations bountifully, a trend which should continue over the next few years in light of the Government’s intention to make a further 2,640 MHz of bandwidth available for 5G networks by 2026.

Again, this might seem like nothing more than posturing, but there is credibility to the idea of first being better.

The number of subscriptions in a market generally matters very little, though scale does offer opportunity to create, validate and fine-tune 5G-specific products and services. A scaled domestic 5G market offers a springboard to launch into the international markets.

When you consider how profitable Silicon Valley is thanks to domination in the 4G-era, this is so much more than political and technological posturing.

Facebook, Uber, Google, AirBnB, Netflix and numerous other companies benefitting from the US’ early drive towards 4G. These companies underpin growth in the economy today, create future-proof jobs and encourage further investment in the US. Most importantly, however, is these companies had a head start over international rivals to ensure their offering was successful in international markets.

Now, all the profits from Netflix subscriptions around the world, Uber’s journeys, Facebook’s hyper-targeted ad campaigns and Google’s promoted search results find their way back to the US. This compounds investments in new areas, creates new jobs and adds further growth to the US economy with an industry which will only get bigger and more profitable.

4G was a catalyst to compound US dominance on the global economy over the last decade, and a leadership in the 5G era could offer the same economic advantages.

Congress asks FCC to slow down 5G acceleration plans

24 Democrat members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to delay a vote on a Declaratory Ruling which would dilute local Government’s role in 5G.

Although those in the industry will cringe at the thought of another delay, the reasoning behind this one is certainly valid. In short, local Governments have enough on their plates dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Opinions on changes to the bureaucratic process for telecoms network deployment is not something which can be given full attention at this time.

“We are especially troubled by the burden responding to this Declaratory Ruling will place on local governments that are rightfully focused right now on combatting the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” the letter states.

“Likewise, we worry that if this Declaratory Ruling does not benefit from meaningful input from local governments, the result could undermine municipalities’ ability to balance their responsibilities to public safety and community design with their desire to ensure access to affordable wireless networks and the next generation services.”

What remains to be seen is whether Pai and the FCC take this request on board. There have been broader political requests to offer more time and flexibility on consultation periods, but as the FCC is attempting to dilute the power and influence of local Government authorities, does it actually care about the opinion submissions?

The vote in question here, set to take place on June 9, aims to address several areas and ease the bureaucratic burdens which are placed on telecoms companies while upgrading existing networks. There are three areas which will be introduced in this document:

  1. A shot-clock for decision making for the local authorities
  2. Redefining what would be considered ‘substantial change’ to existing infrastructure, and therefore, what upgrades need to go through the application process
  3. Remove requirements for additional environmental impact studies for some work

The idea is to address a pain-point in the telecoms industry; burdensome bureaucracy. Applications and studies will of course always have their place, but there has been a worry too much red-tape has been introduced to the sector. Telcos complain it is time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive. It slows down network deployment, which will have to be accelerated as the country enters the 5G era.

This is of course an on-going challenge for the telecoms industry, and it is by no means limited to the US. Bureaucracy is a challenge all over the world as the balance between state oversight and corporate freedom is found. The FCC has identified this challenge and is attempting to empower the industry.

The request for a delay to the vote will not be well-received by the industry, however. The US might have been one of the first countries to launch 5G services, it is very debatable who was actually first, but it has since slipped down the pecking order. If it is to retain a leadership position, this will have to be corrected, and at some point, the US telcos will have to react to the aggressive deployment strategies from Chinese counterparts.

UK government reported to be tapping up NEC for 5G network help

As part of a general rethink of the Huawei situation, the UK government seems to have decided it needs to do more than merely set vendor share thresholds.

The gossip comes courtesy of Bloomberg, via the SCMP. Having chatted to people who reckon they know a thing or two, the report claims “Officials spoke with Japanese technology company NEC Corp in May as part of efforts to diversify the range of telecommunications equipment providers for the UK’s 5G mobile networks.”

The rest of the piece goes on about political pressure from the US resulting in many parts of the government losing their nerve and wanting to do what whatever it takes to place Trump and co. It goes on to claim that no single company can currently step in to replace Huawei entirely, which seems to be the justification for government intervention.

That last claim is just wrong. There are no parts of the 5G network served by Huawei that don’t have Ericsson and Nokia equivalents and you have to wonder how Bloomberg thinks the US is coping without Huawei in any part of its networks. It feels like Bloomberg was fed that factoid by its ‘sources’ and has replicated it uncritically.

There is no need for the government to pick a winner when it comes to 5G kit. If it wants Huawei out then it simply has to mandate that. Operators are far better qualified to pick the best tech for the job than the state could ever be and if any of them fancy taking a look at NEC then they will. Hopefully the UK government is not planning to tell operators who they can work with, as well as who they can’t.

This story does coincide with a remarkable rise to prominence for NEC as a 5G player. Yesterday disruptive Japanese operator Rakuten revealed NEC as the primary vendor partner for its 5G core, having cultivated that relationship for a while. Over the course of a few months NEC has gone from being a bit-part player in mobile networks to everyone’s 5G secret weapon.

It’s far from contentious to assume the UK government is tapping up NEC for political reasons. It will be able to say to the US and its own MPs that it’s being proactive about the Huawei situation and is up to speed on the tech side. None of this has anything to do with the technological and commercial facts on the ground and we would expect UK operators to thank the government for trying to help, then ignore it and get on with the day job.

Road to successful digital transformation: Platform, Ecosystem, and Continuous Reinvention

There aren’t many telecom operators in the world that have not yet realised the importance of digital transformation. However, too often we have seen piecemeal measures being taken, which almost invariably lead to unsatisfactory results.

To succeed in digital transformation, telecoms industry stakeholders need to collaborate and embrace a holistic approach, building from platform up, reaching out to partners beyond the conventional telecoms domains to develop an ecosystem that can address changing market demands, and continuously delivering the most up to date solutions to enable customer value creation.

It is a valid statement that every telecom operator is different from the next one, because the customers they are serving are different, by geography, by segment, or by demographics, often by all of these factors. On the other hand, there is also strong commonality between operators, because the fundamental requirements to support digital service provision that most of the customers demand are the same. These include data collection, storage, governance, and cross-domain data analysis, frictionless handling and delivery of content and service, accurate billing, payment settlement, and many more.

This makes it a classic scenario where the 80:20 principle should apply. In other words, about 80% of a typical customer’s demand to power their digital services can be satisfied by a strong unified platform. Such a platform should be able to satisfy most use cases, carry out common tasks like network planning, construction, maintenance, optimisation, and operations, and should be equipped with the full AI suite, including AI algorithm engine, one-stop AI development environment, and AI service operation.

The platform should also have the flexibility to enable partners to develop or customise their own use cases. This is where the other 20% of customer requirement should be addressed. Despite the strong commonality between operator demands, no single platform can satisfy all the different requirements, and these are better served by a vibrant ecosystem gravitated towards the platform. Such a “pull” effect can be achieved with the platform’s capability to enable, to certify, to support, to incentivise, and so on.

When it comes to incentives to attract more partners to the ecosystem, different revenue sharing schemes can be implemented. For example, if the customer’s demand can be satisfied by a partner’s standard solution, in other words, if the partner does not need to customise its solutions for the customer, revenues may be split equally between the platform and the partner. In cases where partners need to customise their solutions to meet customer needs, the partners should have a bigger share of the revenues. The platform can also set up an “application marketplace” to host apps developed by partners. In such cases, dominant revenue sharing models used by leading consumer and business application stores, for example Salesforce AppExchange should be applied.

One operational characteristic that has separated internet companies from conventional telecom operators is that internet companies would undergo continuous delivery of new features and functions while telecom operators’ networks and services are more static. This needs to change if telecom operators’ digital transformation is to succeed. Such continuous reinvention is not limited to functions and technologies of the digital platform either, it should also continuously improve the enablement of the ecosystem that the platform orchestrates. Equally important is that such continuous delivery of improvement should not only be frequent but also discreet, without interrupting customers’ business operation.

As we can see, successful interaction between the three key elements, the platform, the ecosystem, and the continuous operation, to create values for customers relies heavily on the strengths of the platform.

Source: Huawei

Huawei’s General Digital Engine (GDE) is such a unified big data platform. It is built with the company’s expertise accumulated and refreshed from over three decades’ experience of serving telecom operators and other customers around the world. Such expertise has been with our engineers but with the GDE platform, it is now digitised and can serve all the customers in a broad range of service scenarios. It is also equipped with Huawei’s artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to help customers cope with and predict market and business demands that go beyond the capability of manual calculation.

Such expertise and capability are continuously being updated, to make the platform more powerful and able to meet more customer needs, therefore simplifying the transformation, shortening the time to market, and optimising lifetime total cost of ownership. Huawei will keep updating the platform, at least twice a year, to enable partners to deliver customisation more easily.

The platform is also the anchor point of a broader ecosystem, working with operator customers to first engage qualified existing partners, then to recruit new partners.

Moreover, the platform, the ecosystem, and the continuous operation mode all live by these values:

  • Agility: always ready to adapt to new market and customer needs and opportunities
  • Openness: open-minded approach to new technologies and new approach to solve problems
  • Equality: treating all partners in the ecosystem equally and fairly

Nokia signals its technology virtue

Finnish kit vendor Nokia has been getting involved with liquid cooling 5G base stations and dynamically refarming loads of spectrum.

Ericsson might be having a good run of 5G deal wins, but can it liquid cool its base stations? Well, Nokia can. The proof of the pudding is in its deployment by Finnish MNO Elisa, for which the new tech is helping reduce the potential energy expenses of its base stations by 30 percent and CO2 emissions by approximately 80 percent. This is apparently the first commercial deployment of this sort of thing.

Base stations produce a fair bit of heat, most of which is dissipated into the air around them. By using liquid cooling, that heat can be repurposed, although it’s not immediately obvious what for. Liquid-cooled sites are silent, we’re told, they require zero maintenance, and can be 50 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter than standard active air conditioning units.

“Nokia was first to introduce a liquid-cooled base station with the 2G, 3G and 4G base stations with Elisa in Finland,” said Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia. “Now we have demonstrated the world’s first liquid-cooled AirScale 5G base station in commercial operations, making liquid cooling a reality for all network generations. This innovative solution supports operators in their quest to be more environmentally responsible while allowing them to achieve significant cost savings.”

“Elisa has set a clear target to be carbon neutral at the end of 2020,” said Sami Komulainen, EVP of Production at Elisa. “We also want to maintain our 5G leadership and continue to be amongst the top operators in the world to offer the wide benefits of this new technology to our customers. Innovations such as Nokia’s liquid cooling 5G base station demonstrate how 5G can help drive sustainability.”

Save a few euros and get to do some eco virtue-signalling at the same time, seems like a double win to us. Meanwhile Nokia has helped Vodafone Idea to complete what they claim is the world’s largest Dynamic Spectrum Refarming deployment. As the name implies, DSR technology enables MNOs to allocate spectrum to different radio technologies on the fly, which should make the transition from one generation to another more smooth. The two also collaborated over some massive MIMO gear.

“At a time when connectivity is so crucial, the deployment of DSR and mMIMO will help Vodafone Idea enhance network capacity and improve the experience for their customers,” said Sanjay Malik, Head of India at Nokia. “We are committed to helping mobile operators around the world strengthen and optimize the efficiency of their networks through innovative solutions so that they can fully utilize all available resources.”

“Dynamic spectrum refarming provides us with more network capacity and data speed to enable us to deliver best-in-class network experience to our subscribers,” said Vishant Vora CTO at Vodafone Idea. “Vodafone Idea was the first one to trial the DSR and I thank Nokia for the close partnership. Similarly, we have the largest deployment of mMIMOs in India and our investment in mMIMO technology significantly helped us in meeting the growing data demand during the COVID-19 crisis.”

So, Ericsson got to show off yesterday, today is Nokia’s turn, but things are strangely quiet from Huawei. Come on, you’re not going to let a bit of aggro from the US keep you down are you?

Rakuten takes first step towards a hybrid operator/vendor telco

Rakuten and NEC will develop a containerized standalone (SA) 5G core network, which will become one of the first products available on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP).

Although any news or developments coming out of Tokyo are of interest to the world nowadays, there are two very distinct elements to this announcement. Firstly, the creation of a containerized SA 5G core network, and secondly, the emergence of a hybrid telco model, where Rakuten is an operator but also a vendor, selling products to other telcos who want to embrace the open revolution.

“We are very excited to collaborate with NEC on the development of our standalone 5G core network,” said Tareq Amin, CTO of Rakuten Mobile.

“Our partnership with NEC represents a joint collaboration to build an open, secure and highly scalable 4G and 5G cloud native converged core, that will also become a key feature of the highly competitive services we will offer to global customers through the Rakuten Communications Platform.”

The containerised SA 5G network core will be built on software source code developed by NEC, powering the standalone network launch in 2021 (theoretically). Although the product itself is not exactly revolutionary, the concept has been discussed for years, the selection of NEC is a notable one.

NEC software will be the brain of Rakuten’s network, one which is build on OpenRAN technology and virtualised components. This is a vote of confidence in the Japanese vendor, a mark of credibility in an ecosystem which is still in its embryonic days. The inclusion in one of the industry’s most ground-breaking projects certainly gives it an advantage over rivals, many of whom are attempting to justify their existence in the Open ecosystem.

The Rakuten overarching mission is one which has captured the imagination and interest from telcos around the world; an attempt to build a network entirely with ‘open’, non-proprietary technologies. Should it work, it could be a gamechanger when it comes to the telco supply chain.

The promise from Rakuten is to deploy a network cheaper than via traditional means, but also to slash operational costs. The executive team has already said it envisions a network operations team of hundreds, as opposed to thousands as per normal, which could result in saving millions each year. If these savings are transferred through to lower data tariffs, there could be a disruptive force on the horizon.

Should this gamble pay off for Rakuten, there will be considerable interest in the ‘open’ ecosystem, with NEC collecting much of the plaudits but the likes of Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Altiostar, Red Hat, Cisco, Innoeye and Netcracker all benefitting. These companies are of course very interesting, but it is the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) which is a more dramatic shift.

Rakuten has not been shy about his intentions to sell its ideas. It is an interesting move, as few telcos would want to sell their family jewels, and this is what the Rakuten ‘open’ network would be. This is the secret recipe, a competitive edge over rivals, but Rakuten wants to monetise this.

With all the innovation taking place in Rakuten’s network deployment strategy, the opportunity to monetize these ideas by selling to potential rivals is certainly a new approach. Few other telcos would want to take this approach, but few other telcos can implement this strategy in earnest, perhaps explaining why it is open to selling the secret recipe.

Rakuten’s network is greenfield, while most others are brownfield. Rakuten can implement these new ideas everywhere, whereas rivals can only consider elements here and there. Rakuten will always have an advantage taking a wholesale approach, whereas others can only take the bit-part route.

This is a new dynamic, a new business model for the telcos, creating a blended operator/vendor hybrid company. Should this work, it will be interesting to see how many other telcos embrace such a collaborative mindset, one which is very counterintuitive to attitudes today.

Ericsson’s having a good day, adding a 5G win with Bell Canada

Swedish kit vendor Ericsson has celebrated two 5G deal wins today, with the latest indicating it took some share from rivals Nokia and Huawei.

There isn’t much detail other than the fact that Ericsson will be one of the 5G RAN partners for Bell Canada. This apparently builds on their existing partnership, which included some 4G provision, but the canned quote from Niklas Heuveldop, Head of Ericsson North America, indicates the vendor may have a bit more of the action in this deal.

“We are proud to have earned Bell’s trust to be selected as one of their key partners and significantly expand our existing relationship to accelerate the transformation of their network with 5G mobile and fixed wireless technology,” said Heuveldop. “With our industry-leading 5G product portfolio, Bell will be able to provide Canadian consumers, enterprises and the public sector with innovative experiences and services whether they are on the move or at home, regardless if they are in urban or rural areas.”

“Bell’s 5G strategy supports our goal to advance how Canadians connect with each other and the world, and Ericsson’s innovative 5G network products and experience on the global stage will be key to our rollout of this game-changing mobile technology across Canada,” said Mirko Bibic, President and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada.

“Investment and scale in leading-edge networks is critical to national competitiveness, economic growth and resiliency, highlighted by the important role that Bell’s wireless, fibre and broadcast networks have played in Canada’s response to COVID-19. With the support of Ericsson and our other 5G partners, Bell looks forward to ensuring Canada remains at the forefront of the next generation of mobile communications.”

Earlier today we reported that Ericsson had scored some 5G core action with Telefónica Deutschland. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal seems to have decided that Ericsson is the 5G leader, thanks in part to US victimization of Huawei. So on the whole it has been a pretty good day for Ericsson and we’d say the drinks are on them. Mine’s an aquavit, Börje.

US path to mid-band spectrum not as simple as some make it seem

Despite many proclamations and posturing during the development years of 5G, mmWave is not living up to expectations, but securing valuable mid-band assets is becoming an increasingly complex project.

As it stands in the US market, T-Mobile US has access to 2.1 GHz spectrum to deliver 5G services. These assets were accessible due to the recently approved merger with Sprint and offers a significant advantage over Verizon and AT&T, both of whom are still operating in the high-frequency airwaves, the mmWave, which delivers high-speed and low coverage for an overall substandard experience.

Over the next 12-18 months, theoretically, more mid-band spectrum should be made available to the likes of Verizon and AT&T, as well as Dish as it expands its offering, through three separate spectrum auctions. However, there is still plenty which can go wrong in the meantime according to Chris Pearson, President of 5G Americas.

“If history shows us anything it is that we have not been very successful at co-operation,” Pearson said during a call with Telecoms.com.

What Pearson is referring to here is collaboration between private industry and public organisations to either harmonise spectrum usage or clearing the bands to offer more power to the mobile service providers. There are success stories, clearing the 1700-2100 MHz airwaves is one, but these outcomes are seemingly more the exception rather than the rule.

The issue with spectrum is simple. High frequencies offer exceptional download speeds but very poor coverage, while at the other end with low-frequency bands a telco can offer excellent coverage, but the download speeds and latency will be woeful. This is why mid-band assets are so important, it is a more palatable compromise between speed and coverage, a mobile experience which can be sold as an upgrade to customers.

When we asked Telecoms.com readers about how important the mid-band airwaves are 68% said without these assets it is impossible to deliver an attractive 5G service. Only 3% said the industry should be paying more attention to mmWave, and 8% believed mid-band spectrum is critical for the moment but its importance would fade behind mmWave eventually.

“Can we move along without it,” Pearson said. “Absolutely. But for the long-term we will need more spectrum.”

As Pearson highlights, there are three spectrum auctions on the horizon which are worth paying attention to. At the end of July, the ‘CBRS’ band at 3.5 GHz will make 150 MHz of spectrum available to the industry. In December, the C-Band airwaves (3.7-4.2 GHz) should be cleared up to make an additional 280 MHz of spectrum available. And the NCIA (NATO Communications and Information Agency) is currently producing a report to free up more assets in the 3.1-3.55 GHz range.

Theoretically, there should be plenty of spectrum available for the mobile network operators to deliver a comprehensive 5G solution, though this is under the assumption that everything runs smoothly.

Firstly, the ‘CBRS’ auction has already been delayed once. It should go ahead of course, but there is always a risk.

Secondly, the C-Band auction, scheduled to take place in December, is currently under threat from legal action. Several smaller satellite broadcasting companies who are being asked to vacate and/or move operations in these airwaves are kicking up a fuss. The aim is to shift the satellite operators in the 3.7-4.2 GHz range into a consolidated 200 MHz block, which would offer plenty of room for the telcos to play around it, but there are dissenters.

PSSI Global Services has filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia arguing the FCC is crippling the entire industry by forcing through the changes in this spectrum band. Should this legal challenge gather momentum or spin-off into different directions, it could impact the availability of assets in the C-Band range, and subsequently delay the auction.

The final area is another very difficult issue to manage. The report which is being produced for the 3.1-3.55 GHz range has only completed one of six sections. This report is supposed to shed light on what the spectrum is being used for, by whom and ways which it can be rationalised to add more available spectrum for mobile operators. But Pearson highlighted that progress has been sluggish.

The issue seems to be that it is difficult to understand what the spectrum is currently being used for, the incumbents are not being the most helpful as there are confidentiality hurdles to negotiate. No-one officially knows what this spectrum is actually being used for which usually means it is something to do with the military or intelligence services.

Without co-operation from the incumbents, it becomes very difficult to audit these airwaves and create a logical strategy to move forward.

To understand the importance of mid-band spectrum, it is worth looking at the experience being delivered without access.

According to OpenSignal’s most recent analysis of the US market, Verizon is delivering speeds few other international telcos can compete with over mmWave, but this digital dream is only accessible to 0.5% of its 5G subscribers. Elsewhere, for example in the UK where mid-band spectrum is being utilised, there is a speed upgrade (albeit nowhere near as much) but 12X more users are able to access the 5G airwaves.

What is critical about 5G right now is not delivering gigabit speed over the air, there are no applications which require this today, but demonstrating 5G is an upgraded service. Speed and latency improvements are a must, but if the users cannot access them the money spent on 5G networks are a complete and utter waste of time.

The US does of course recognise this situation, Pearson highlighted there is momentum gathering in support of the telcos in Washington, however it is far from an ideal situation. This is a pain point, though there is plenty of risk on the horizon to acting as a blocker for the solution.

Why the COVID-19 5G slowdown is only temporary

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Angela Logothetis, Chief Technology Officer at Amdocs Open Network, looks at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global 5G rollout.

We’ve all heard about the “race to 5G.” Since 2019, companies have wanted to claim the first, best and biggest 5G network. The industry reached the milestone of 100 devices from more than 40 vendors by August last year.

Then, COVID-19 happened. 5G rollout has temporarily slowed as service providers focused on network stability.

Nevertheless, COVID-19 has impacted consumers and involuntarily pushed them into the digital-first, connectivity-centric ecosystem that 5G will epitomise. However, some are still questioning if they need it or can afford it.

The industry should take a fresh look at what precisely consumers require from 5G, because in a year from now, we’ll see the pace of innovation grow around it tremendously.

COVID-19’s impact on 5G’s future

While 5G rollout will slow for now, the rise in virtual work and digital communications only highlights the need for more vigorous 5G and advanced Wi-Fi adoption worldwide. When service providers can bring their focus back to the rollout later this year or early 2021, there will be pent up consumer demand for devices, connectivity and innovative services.

Why? Because consumers will want the experiences they so seamlessly enjoyed indoors and to take them anywhere, anytime. Yes, these tasks can all be handled over Wi-Fi, but COVID-19 has reset consumer expectations about how people will interact wherever they are.

Younger generations are especially invested in 5G’s future. Our research found that of those consumers who would consider buying a 5G smartphone or device now they are working at home, 62 percent were Gen Z or millennials.

COVID-19 has shown there is a proven demand in areas such as remote work collaboration, from any location. Even before the pandemic, our research found that 61 percent of consumers thought 5G would create more opportunities to work remotely with ubiquitous access. Additionally, 35 percent believed the technology would lead to better video conferencing options.

Looking into 5G’s crystal ball

With all its intelligence and potential, consumers still speculate 5G’s worth and cost, especially given the current economic downturn caused by COVID-19. From a device perspective, adoption-friendly 5G handset prices will be the key to widespread uptake. With the 208 5G devices on the market today, we expect to see more affordable options.

This moment in time is also demonstrating the potential of new business models as a jumping-off point into 5G. For example, young school children who struggle to engage on video conferencing will have a more immersive experience using AR technology. Artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology will add context to video conferences. And that’s just the beginning. 5G-enabled robots will also be used to greet and triage people in hospital reception or quarantine facilities enabling better social distancing in high-risk areas. We may already be shifting towards a remote life, but there are many aspects that can be greatly enhanced by 5G technology.

5G private enterprise networks will also enable advanced applications on-premise or at the edge. Medical centers and hospitals could have dedicated local networks rather than needing to rely on heavily congested public mobile and broadband networks. Manufacturing companies could use video monitoring and AI to remotely check the quality of production lines rather than sending people to the site.

Refocused business models and partnerships

We’ll also see reignited discussions between service providers and OTT players on two-sided business models. This is to ensure streamers have the capacity needed to stream content without compromise during times of heavy traffic.

Major streaming video providers were asked to reduce video quality to standard definition to battle congestion during the pandemic. Expect to see streamers working with communications service providers on solutions that allow consumers to access content in high definition during such times.

Now more than ever, service providers must create the right 5G experiences – and COVID-19 is showing us what might connect with consumers. As the race continues, COVID-19 is potentially the push the big players needed to get their work from the experimental phase, to the product phase, to the future world consumers will come to expect.

 

Angela Logothetis is the Chief Technology Officer at Amdocs Open Network, where she has worked for ten years. She is also a non-executive board director of EXFO, the global leader in fiber optic test and measurement, and a technology advisor to an ecosystem of technology companies.

China leads the way as mobile network core market proves resilient

With the difficulties presented by COVID-19, the 5G roadmap might not have progressed as planned, but growth has remained steady for mobile core deployments.

There might be a few vendors nursing headaches as RAN deployments have not scaled as some would have expected, but some consolation can be found in the network core segment. Over the last twelve months, the segment grew 10% to nearly $8 billion with several high-profile deals inked, most notably in China.

“Our outlook has become more positive, especially since the Chinese service providers accelerated their plans for 5G Core deployments,” said David Bolan, Senior Analyst at Dell’Oro.

“China Mobile and China Unicom have completed their 5G Core tenders, and plan to launch 5G service early in 3Q20. We expect other Chinese service providers will follow very soon. This has raised our outlook to an anticipated growth of 14 percent year over year for the trailing four quarters ending in 1Q21.”

In April, China Mobile selected Ericsson, ZTE and Huawei to deploy 5G network cores across the country, while Nokia saw a minor victory by securing a contract for core deployments with China Unicom. With China Telecom and China Broadcast Network, the newly created fourth telco, undergoing their own tenders, there could be some PR wins on the horizon.

While China is surging forward with its network deployment strategy, it is not alone. In Germany, some activities might be inhibited by the on-going coronavirus pandemic, however Telefonica Deutschland has awarded the contract to deploy its own network core to Ericsson.

“As a network operator serving the most mobile customers in Germany, we have a special social responsibility to provide secure networks,” Telefonica Deutschland CEO Markus Haas said.

Work should be completed on the network core during 2021, with the team targeting network slicing and edge computing services.

“With our cloud compatible 5G core network, we are entering a new technology era,” said Mallik Rao, CTO of Telefónica Deutschland. “Gigabit data rates, real-time communication and massive IoT – these visions are now becoming reality.

“We have a clear plan for the further development of our network infrastructure towards a standalone 5G network that can handle the massive data streams of the future and open up new digital business models for all our customers. In doing so, we are relying on the latest network technologies that the market has to offer.”

Similar to other European nations, German telcos have made the decision to remove Huawei, and other vendors who would be deemed high risk, from network cores. Interestingly enough, this trend does not seem to have had too much of a material impact on Huawei’s business. Dell’Oro estimates Huawei and Ericsson combined for over half of the market, while Nokia, ZTE, and Cisco more than 25%.

Although the network core elements of 5G is not the most financially rewarding for the infrastructure vendors, it is a very good sign for the industry. Although widespread installation of 5G base stations are an easy boast, 5G services cannot be delivered in earnest without a 5G network core, enough fibre in the ground and a dispersed cloud network where enough attention has been given to the edge.

Progress in the core is progress for 5G as new services, such as network slicing and automation, can be more effectively delivered. It might not be the most profitable part of the industry, but perhaps a more material indicator of 5G progress. 5G RAN offers a speed upgrade, somewhat of an aesthetic benefit, but the core offers the opportunity to deliver services which were not realistic in the 4G era.