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5G-related investment fuels vendor growth; greenfield 5G and Industry 4.0 opportunities emerge

U.S. cable operators and Dish Network are exploring building out their own 5G networks

Rakuten’s mobile broadband network deployment demonstrates that vendors must be aware of new opportunities to deploy 5G networks for customers that do not currently own mobile broadband networks. In November Dish Network selected Ericsson to supply a radio access and core network for Dish’s Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network, which is expected to be completed in March 2020. Dish, which has been closely watching Rakuten’s build-out, is also contemplating a nationwide 5G network, on which it could spend up to $10 billion. Cable operators Comcast, Charter and Altice, which are currently mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) of Tier 1 mobile operators, are contemplating greenfield 5G network builds as well.

Industry 4.0 will drive demand for cellular connectivity within the enterprise, but not for a few years

TBR’s research suggests that Industry 4.0, which includes mass 5G adoption globally, will not ramp up until between 2022 and 2025, at which point business cases will be proven, justifying an increase in market spend on ICT infrastructure. Cellular technologies, namely LTE and 5G, have better uplink and security capabilities, and lower latency than Wi-Fi, all of which are necessary as enterprises begin to use network technology for mission-critical workloads rather than “best effort” communications. Certain vendors, namely Nokia, Huawei and Cisco, are better positioned than others to capitalize on this trend as they sell both directly and indirectly into enterprises, as well as through communication service providers (CSPs). Ericsson, in contrast, plans to go to market almost exclusively through CSPs, which will place it at a disadvantage as many large enterprises will want private networks.

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 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-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.

Ericsson’s turnaround is in process, but sustainability of business is in question

TBR perspective

Though Ericsson’s focused strategy has proved to be a viable approach to stabilize the company, return it to profitability and provide incremental organic growth, the key concern will be how sustainable that stability and growth will be over the long term.

Ericsson’s focus on the wireless access domain tethers the company to the whims of that market, which is undergoing significant disruption as 5G and virtualization take hold and as operators increasingly shift capex budgets from connectivity infrastructure to building digital businesses, limiting Ericsson’s growth potential. Though there is room for Ericsson to take market share, particularly from Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Huawei and ZTE by leveraging its software-upgradable Ericsson Radio System (ERS) RAN gear, Ericsson is not immune to adverse business trends impacting the broader RAN market, namely legacy decommissioning, virtualization, openness, cloud and white box.

Ericsson is betting its ERS will offset the impact of these adverse trends and hasten its shift to a more software-centric entity with a more recurring, license-based software model that carries relatively high, sustainable margins, but this shift will take years to unfold and there is significant legacy business at risk of disappearing in the interim.

With the architecture of the network fundamentally changing to be virtualized and cloudified and communication service providers (CSPs) focused on relentless cost efficiency and TCO reduction, Ericsson will have to carefully balance its shift from the old world to the new reality, whereby forklift RAN upgrades become lower scale and targeted, and innovation and value migrate to the software layer. This has significant implications for Ericsson’s hardware and close-to-the-box services businesses, both of which are optimized to operate at high scale for efficiency and profitability.

TBR notes Ericsson and its close rival Nokia are pursing different paths during the 5G era. While Ericsson focuses on its core business of selling RAN and mobile core directly to service providers, Nokia is taking an end-to-end infrastructure approach and is building out a dedicated business unit with a full suite of resources to directly sell to enterprises. Though Industry 4.0, 5G and digital transformation are underlying themes that find commonality between the two vendors, their divergent tracks are noteworthy.

 

 

Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC) hosted its annual Industry Analyst Forum in Boston, bringing along a range of executives to provide an update on the company’s corporate and business unit strategies, with a focus on Networks, Managed Services and North America. Key topic areas included 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), automation and artificial intelligence (AI). Following the main session, analysts could attend three tracks — Network Evolution to 5G, AI and Automated Operations, or 5G and IoT Industry Innovation — and then participate in one-on-one speed meetings. The tone of Ericsson’s 2018 analyst day was upbeat as the company sees early signs that its turnaround plan is yielding results, evidenced by its 3Q18 earnings results in which organic revenue growth returned and margins improved markedly. Ericsson remains committed to its transformational restructuring and focused strategy, which are key pillars of its turnaround plan.

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.

Super 7 webscale total capex spend will reach $123B in 2022

Infographic showing webscale "Super 7" capex forecast for 2017 through 2022

 

Data center builds and expansions as well as AI investment drive growth

According to Technology Business Research, Inc.’s (TBR) 3Q18 Webscale ICT Market Landscape, webscale ICT capex for the “Super 7” will grow at a 26.2% CAGR from 2017 to 2022 to more than $69 billion as these top webscales aim to future-proof business-critical infrastructure and map network capacity to data traffic growth, which is expected to increase exponentially through the forecast period.

Webscales are investing tens of billions of dollars in new data centers, either to support their core businesses or to increase the scale of their cloud services businesses. Capex spend is spiking in 2018 as many of the Super 7 build new facilities on land they acquired in 2017. Amazon’s 30.4% year-to-year ICT capex growth rate in 2018 is noticeably lower than that of its peers, which is largely due to its leading presence in the cloud services market. Challengers Microsoft, Alphabet and Alibaba will grow 2018 ICT capex 73.6%, 100.3%, and 101.6%, respectively, year-to-year in a bid to catch up to market leader Amazon Web Services.

The OEM landscape is being upended as webscales embrace ODMs and open-source technology. A growing number of ODMs aim to take share from incumbent hardware vendors such as Cisco and Dell EMC. Webscales often possess the talent necessary to design their own equipment, then outsource production to an ODM. In these instances, the software is disaggregated from the hardware and the code is written by webscale software engineers. This threat gives webscales negotiating power over incumbents. Some vendors, such as Cisco, mitigating the threat from ODMs with acquisitions, strong customer relationships and litigation.

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

Data center builds and expansions, along with AI investments, will drive webscale ‘Super 7’ ICT capex to $69B by 2022

HAMPTON, N.H. (Sept. 6, 2018) According to Technology Business Research, Inc.’s (TBR) 3Q18 Webscale ICT Market Landscape, webscale ICT capex for the “Super 7” will grow at a 26.2% CAGR to over $69 billion in 2022 as these top webscales aim to future-proof business-critical infrastructure and map network capacity to data traffic growth, which is expected to increase exponentially through the forecast period. Webscales are investing tens of billions of dollars in new data centers, either to support their core businesses or to increase the scale of their cloud services businesses.

“Capex spend is spiking in 2018 as the Super 7 build new facilities on land acquired in 2017. Amazon’s 30.4% ICT capex growth rate in 2018 is noticeably lower than its peers, which is largely due to its leading presence in the cloud services market,” said Michael Soper, a senior analyst at TBR. “Challengers Microsoft, Alphabet and Alibaba will grow 2018 ICT capex 73.6%, 100.3%, and 101.6%, respectively, year-to-year in a bid to catch up to market leader Amazon Web Services.”

The OEM landscape is being upended as webscales embrace ODMs and open-source technology. A growing number of ODMs aim to take share from incumbent hardware vendors such as Cisco and Dell EMC. Webscales often possess the talent necessary to design their own equipment, then outsource production to an ODM. In these instances, the software is disaggregated from the hardware and the code is written by webscale software engineers. This threat gives webscales negotiating power over incumbents. Cisco is mitigating the threat from ODMs with acquisitions, strong customer relationships and litigation.

TBR’s Webscale ICT Market Landscape tracks the ICT-related initiatives of the seven largest webscale companies in the world, known as the Super 7, which includes Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon, Baidu, Facebook, Microsoft and Tencent. The report provides a market assessment, deep dives into company strategies and analyzes capex trends, particularly as they pertain to ICT. Vendors are also covered from the perspective of relative opportunities with webscale companies as customers.

For additional information about this research or to arrange a one-on-one analyst briefing, please contact Dan Demers at +1 603.758.1803 or [email protected].

ABOUT TBR

Technology Business Research, Inc. is a leading independent technology market research and consulting firm specializing in the business and financial analyses of hardware, software, professional services, and telecom vendors and operators. Serving a global clientele, TBR provides timely and actionable market research and business intelligence in a format that is uniquely tailored to clients’ needs. Our analysts are available to address client-specific issues further or information needs on an inquiry or proprietary consulting basis.

TBR has been empowering corporate decision makers since 1996. For more information please visit www.tbri.com.