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Cost of ‘intelligent connectivity’ must decline significantly for intelligent world to unfold

TBR perspective

Realizing the intelligent world presented by the mobile industry at Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2019 (MWC19) will require a fundamental change in how networks are architected, including a radical reduction in the cost of providing connectivity. It will also require business transformation for companies tied to the old world, namely communications service providers (CSPs) and their incumbent vendors.

It was readily apparent at the event that technology is advancing at a much faster pace than the establishment of business cases that economically justify deployment of the technology. The reality for the mobile industry is that the cost of building, owning and operating networks is too high and networks are too inflexible to support the business realities of the digital era, whereby connectivity is relegated to a commodity service and the value lies in the platforms and applications that run over the network. The industry has known this for years, but changes have been minimal, until maybe now.

The entrance of Rakuten to the mobile industry could be a game changer and provides a glimpse into what a digital service provider will look like. In what could arguably be the most important takeaway from the entire event, Rakuten’s approach to building and operating a network could signify a paradigm shift in the industry. Not only will Rakuten’s network be agile, flexible and dynamic to provide digital services, it will also enable a dramatic reduction in the cost of connectivity.

The theme of MWC19 was “intelligent connectivity” and centered on how 5G, IoT, AI and big data are coming together to enable the intelligent world. Against this backdrop, Rakuten stole the show with the evangelization of its end-to-end virtualized and cloud-native network, which is being deployed across Japan this year. Rakuten’s network provides a glimpse into what the intelligent network of the future will look like.

Technology Business Research, Inc. announces 2Q19 webinar schedule

HAMPTON, N.H. (March 4, 2019) — Technology Business Research, Inc. (TBR) announces the schedule for its 2Q19 webinar series.

April 10        Progress report: State of the NFV/SDN telecom market

April 17        Channel partner ecosystems will evolve to support digital adoption

April 24        Evolutionary IoT: Starting small and controlling costs

May 1           Obstacles and triumphs on the journey to cloud

May 8           Health IT converges around consumerization, value and ROI

May 15        30 minutes, 3 months, 3 years: Evolution of digital transformation

May 22        Bringing the best: Talent and technology in management consulting

June 12        The makings of the telecom edge compute market

June 26        Where will hyperconverged infrastructure fit in the modern data center?

TBR webinars are held typically each Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

Progress report: State of the NFV/SDN telecom market

Insight’s from TBR’s 1Q19 NFV/SDN Telecom Market Landscape

The NFV/SDN ecosystem continues to advance and leading communication service providers (CSPs) are making progress on their NFV/SDN-related initiatives, but full transformation is still years away as industry challenges remain. Join Telecom Senior Analysts Chris Antlitz and Michael Soper for an in-depth review of TBR’s latest report on the NFV/SDN telecom market landscape.

Don’t miss:

  • Examples of how leading CSPs are progressing on their NFV/SDN-related initiatives
  • How NFV and SDN adoption will impact global CSP capex and opex spend through 2022
  • Why 5G will push CSPs to accelerate and broaden their NFV/SDN-related initiatives
  • Which vendors are outperforming in the NFV/SDN space

 

 

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

CSPs accelerate NFV and SDN investments ahead of the 5G era

Communication service providers (CSPs) are ramping up NFV- and SDN-related investments to realize greater cost savings and efficiencies, according to Technology Business Research Inc.’s (TBR) 2H18 Telecom Software Mediated Networks (NFV/SDN) Customer Adoption Study. This increase in investment will be driven by two underlying factors: CSPs under pressure to realize cost savings as their connectivity businesses remain under pressure and 5G pushing CSPs to pull forward their NFV and SDN road maps.

5G is greatly enhanced when using virtualization, especially when enabling and maximizing the benefits of network slicing and achieving better RAN economics. Though most CSPs intend to initially deploy the non-standalone (NSA) standard of 5G, which tethers 5G radio with EPC, an eventual upgrade to the standalone (SA) standard, which tethers 5G radio to a 5G core, will become a reality in the early 2020s. 5G core is inherently virtualized, and CSPs will be keen to prepare their networks to fully maximize the benefits of utilizing a virtualized network architecture, including, but not limited to, increasing agility, flexibility, visibility and cost efficiency.

 

 

TBR’s Telecom Software Mediated Networks (NFV/SDN) Customer Adoption Studyprovides an in-depth examination of how operators are planning, preparing and executing to succeed in the NFV and SDN market. TBR surveyed 50 people in operations, procurement and IT roles at 25 of the leading Tier 1 telecom service providers worldwide to gain insight into their NFV and SDN adoption plans. The study includes insight into service provider strategy, as well as service providers’ perceptions of supplier positioning and key benefits and obstacles.

5G-readiness spend and migration to new network architectures spur the TIS market to growth in 3Q18

According to Technology Business Research, Inc.’s (TBR) 3Q18 Telecom Infrastructure Services (TIS) Benchmark, the TIS market grew as communication service provider (CSP) investment in areas tied to 5G-readiness increased. CSPs are rearchitecting their networks leveraging NFV, SDN and the cloud as well as implementing new business models, which requires growing spend across a broad range of professional services. Deployment services spend grew slightly, but the market will strengthen as the 5G spend cycle ramps up over the next couple of years, although the spend intensity will be lower than during the LTE cycle. RAN suppliers Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE and Samsung will capture incremental TIS market share as they drive high volumes of services attached to their 5G RAN. This is already occurring to some extent as CSPs densify networks as part of their 5G-readiness strategies. Though 5G will require significant hardware spend, the aggregate amount will be lower compared to LTE, which will drive vendors to explore new market areas, such as Industry 4.0.

The managed services market was flat year-to-year in 3Q18 as a decline in outsourcing was offset by growth in the out-tasking market. Generally, vendors are exercising pricing discipline when determining which outsourcing contracts to take on in an effort to improve margins. Ericsson is currently leading the way in this regard as it evaluates 42 contracts for exit or rescoping. Huawei, ZTE and CCS have been less concerned with price and are focused on consolidating the outsourcing market. Other vendors, including those that are historically hardware-centric with little to no footprint in the managed services market, are increasingly playing in out-tasking as they will manage applications deployed in CSP networks. Ciena (NYSE: CIEN) is an example of this trend.

 

 

TBR’s Telecom Infrastructure Services Benchmark provides quarterly analysis of the deployment, maintenance, professional services and managed services markets for network and IT suppliers. Suppliers covered include Accenture (NYSE: ACN), Amdocs, Atos, Capgemini, CGI, China Communications Services, Ciena, Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), CommScope, CSG International, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE: HPE), Huawei, IBM (NYSE: IBM), Infosys (NYSE: INFY), Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), NEC, Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Oracle (NYSE: ORCL), Samsung, SAP (NYSE: SAP), Tata Consultancy Services, Tech Mahindra, Wipro (NYSE: WIT) and ZTE.

U.S. 5G investment supports non-China-based vendors as Huawei and ZTE face increasing headwinds

Nokia and Huawei are well-positioned to win as operators overhaul architectures in the 5G era, but most of the spend to date is on 5G radios, with Ericsson at an advantage due to market perception of its software-upgradeable Ericsson Radio System RAN. The network must ultimately be overhauled to fully realize 5G’s potential, but it will take CSPs many years to evolve their networks end-to-end, and the current focus — and 5G-related capex spend — will be on 5G radios. In the 5G RAN space, TBR believes Ericsson leads in market share. Nokia and Huawei, however, have broad portfolios that enable them to enter 5G accounts from multiple domains.

Graph showing 3Q18 revenue, year-to-year growth and operating margin for vendors in TBR's Telecom Vendor Benchmark

 

 

The Telecom Vendor Benchmark details and compares the initiatives and tracks the revenue and performance of the largest telecom vendors in segments including infrastructure, services and applications as well as in geographies including the Americas, EMEA and APAC. The report includes information on market leaders, vendor positioning, vendor market share, key deals, acquisitions, alliances, go-to-market strategies and personnel developments.

5G will be an evolution, not a revolution

Insights from TBR’s 2019 Telecom Predictions

Communication service providers (CSPs) are focusing on network transformation, which is a key component of their broader digital transformations. CSPs will leverage 5G and other next-generation technologies, such as virtualization, artificial intelligence and automation, as part of their network transformations to reduce costs and build a foundation that can enable and support new business models.

Join Chris Antlitz as he provides TBR’s leading-edge thinking on where the telecom industry is heading and how the digital era will impact stakeholders in the telecom ecosystem.

Don’t miss:

  • 5G will be an evolution, not a revolution.
  • CSP spend on NFV/SDN will ramp up.
  • Wireless will begin to disrupt the traditional fixed broadband business model.

 

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed at anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

NFV/SDN prepares operators to support 5G-era use cases

Infographic explaining how nfv and sdnwill prepare operators to support 5G-era use casesOperators are under pressure to invest in these technologies

Operators will further adoption of virtualized network solutions by capitalizing on 5G use cases and strengthening security capabilities. Integrating NFV and SDN technologies will enable operators to more effectively support network technologies that will become prevalent in the 5G era, including network slicing and edge computing, which will play a pivotal role in supporting 5G use cases such as advanced Internet of Things (IoT). The flexibility and agility of network slicing will enable operators to remove unnecessary functionality (e.g., sunsetting a noncore service) while launching services on command. Edge computing will allow operators to support 5G use cases that require ultra-low latency, such as augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR).

Operators are under pressure to invest in NFV and SDN to reduce total capex and opex spend as well as introduce new services and stay competitive as they prepare to offer 5G services and search for new network use cases. The flexibility and scalability offered by NFV and SDN is particularly appealing to operator enterprise customers, which are expanding their operations and are undergoing digital transformation initiatives such as utilizing multicloud environments, incorporating IoT solutions, and integrating digital customer service and sales portals. Software-mediated network services are enabling businesses to deploy applications and provide connectivity to new branches more quickly, which is particularly important to customers in verticals that frequently add new locations, such as retail.

The shift to software-defined network architectures is extremely disruptive to the vendor community. Incumbent network vendors are under increasing pressure to move up the network value chain, from hardware to software and software-related services. They are increasingly disrupted by the adoption of white-box hardware and the utilization of ODMs as operators search for avenues to reduce network costs. Deploying white boxes provides significant cost savings for operators as well as greater flexibility by allowing carriers to deploy the most appropriate virtual network functions for their environments without being limited by the constraints of propriety hardware. Though the ODM threat has not manifested in the telecom operator customer segment to the extent it has in the webscale segment, incumbent vendors must remain on alert and attempt to mitigate this threat. TBR believes the best course of action is for vendors to embrace the movement of value in the network from the hardware layer to the software layer. This could include embracing open-source code and layering in proprietary software to differentiate. For most incumbents, scaling quickly through acquisition is preferable.

For more information, contact Senior Analyst Michael Soper at [email protected].

5G drives network transformation

The shift from connecting people (pre-5G era) to connecting everything (5G era) will require an architectural overhaul of telecom networks. A true 5G network will not only leverage new radios but also be inherently cloud-native, virtualized, programmable and automated and provide near-limitless capacity at ultra-low latency. This will require transformation across the entire network, not just at the access layer.

Network transformation moves from industry buzz phrase to reality

The telecom industry has discussed network transformation for years, though its amorphous meaning is beginning to take shape and materialize. TBR is seeing communication service providers (CSPs) transform into digital service providers (DSPs) propelled by ICT convergence, NFV/SDN, cloud, 5G, big data and analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. These trends and technologies are helping operators evolve their networks from being rigid, slow, static, reactive and closed to being flexible, fast, dynamic and open.

Some of the trends contributing to this shift include moving from on-premises/physical networks leveraging black boxes to cloudified/virtualized networks leveraging white boxes. Hardware-defined networks were capex-driven, whereas the future of the network is software-defined and opex-driven. This evolution allows operators to more quickly and easily launch offerings for new revenue streams and reduce network costs over time.

Though NFV and SDN adoption has been slow, some Tier 1 operators are progressing with their plans and reaping benefits. Integrating NFV and SDN capabilities will enable operators to more effectively support network technologies that will become prevalent in the 5G era, such as network slicing and edge computing, which will play a pivotal role in supporting 5G use cases such as advanced Internet of Things (IoT). Operators are under pressure to invest in NFV and SDN to reduce total capex and opex spend as well as introduce new services and stay competitive in the data-driven digital economy, which is increasingly dominated by webscale and over-the-top players.

5G is taking up greater mindshare as commercial deployments begin

Operator networks must ultimately be overhauled to fully realize the potential 5G has to offer, though it will take operators many years to evolve their networks end-to-end. In the meantime, the current focus, and 5G-related capex spend, will be on 5G radios. The potential cost savings offered by 5G is spurring operators to accelerate their deployment timelines, pulling them forward by as much as two years. Efficiency gains remain the main driver to deploy 5G, as a viable business case for operators to grow revenue from 5G has yet to materialize (with the exception of fixed wireless broadband). 5G, which is expected to provide between four- and 10-times greater efficiency on a cost-per-gigabyte basis compared to LTE, will enable operators to more cost-effectively add network capacity to support the prevalence of unlimited data plans as well as continued connected device additions.

There are myriad ideas for new network use cases that 5G could enable, but ROI remains suspect. The most economically viable use case thus far for net-new revenue generation from 5G is fixed wireless broadband. In 2020-2025, which TBR believes will represent the “renaissance” phase of 5G, there will be a plethora of new use cases for the network, particularly in the areas of augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR), smart city, IoT and robotics.

Realizing the full benefits of 5G requires significant investment across the network, not just in the access layer. Operators will invest in fiber, spectrum, massive MIMO (multiple input and multiple output), carrier aggregation, NFV/SDN and cloud RAN (C-RAN), which will provide opportunity for vendors. Though positioned well in key early 5G markets, incumbent vendors are threatened with disruption from NFV/SDN-centric firms, particularly firms in the areas of virtual RAN and mobile core. TBR estimates over 85% of 5G capex spend through 2020 will be driven by operators in four countries: U.S., China, Japan and South Korea. Most Tier 1 operators in these countries have aggressive 5G rollout timetables and intend to leverage the technology for fixed wireless broadband and/or to support their mobile broadband densification initiatives.

TBR covers these topics in depth in its operator, vendor, 5G, NFV/SDN and webscale research streams.

Telecom vendor revenues trend upward as operators pull forward 5G investment

According to Technology Business Research, Inc.’s (TBR) 2Q18 Telecom Vendor Benchmark, revenue growth improved for the largest vendors as they capitalized on early 5G investment but saw reduced spend in China. Operators, particularly those in the United States, are pulling forward investment in 5G and deploying small cells to densify networks. However, the RAN market will decline in 2018 as operators in China reduce spend significantly following the conclusion of LTE coverage deployments.

TBR believes Ericsson has staked an early lead in 5G, but Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and Huawei can leverage their end-to-end portfolios to regain share. In 4Q17 and 1Q18 Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC) aggressively priced its Ericsson Radio System (ERS), which is software-upgradeable to 5G, undercutting competitors to gain market share ahead of commercial 5G build-outs. Nokia and Huawei remain well positioned in 5G due to their ability to leverage end-to-end portfolios as a one-stop shop for network transformation in the 5G era.

ZTE was banned from sourcing components from the U.S. for part of 2Q18, which drove the company to essentially cease operating, leading to drastically lower revenue and a deep operating loss. The company is once again operating, but its reputation was tarnished, particularly in Western markets.

Graph showing 2Q18 revenue, operating margin and year-to-year revenue growth

 

TBR’s Telecom Vendor Benchmark details and compares the initiatives and tracks the revenue and performance of the largest telecom vendors in segments including infrastructure, services and applications and in geographies including the Americas, EMEA and APAC. The report includes information on market leaders, vendor positioning, vendor market share, key deals, acquisitions, alliances, go-to-market strategies and personnel developments.