Analysys Mason Open Network Index: survey of 50 tier 1 network operators

Open networks apply proven cloud concepts to the networking domain while enabling components to be sourced from a broad ecosystem of vendors. Open networks boast high levels of automation and programmability and are built around the concept of utilizing a common, horizontal cloud platform that supports cloud-native network functions from multiple vendors and from multiple network domains. Network operators can enhance the flexibility, agility, composability, innovation and operational efficiency of their networks by implementing open architectures and open operating models.

According to a survey conducted by Analysys Mason, ninety percent of global telecom service providers believe open networks are critical to their survival. However, only 20% have an open network strategy in place.  Analysys Mason surveyed 50 leading Tier-1 operators worldwide between December 2023 and January 2024.

The analysts then benchmarked operator progress from a vision/strategy perspective and a technical perspective to form the first iteration of Analysys Mason’s Open Network Index (ONI).  The survey and report were commissioned by Dell Technologies, but Analysys Mason says it does not endorse any of the vendor’s products or services.

The market research firm defines open networks as those based on non-proprietary technologies and standards, including open hardware and software developed by open communities, as well as software technologies that individual vendors are exposing, typically through open application programming interfaces (APIs), to anyone who wants to use them.

“Operators need to urgently develop an openness strategy and ensure that they approach openness in the right way,” the report authors said.

The analysts said that overall, survey respondents displayed a strong willingness to align themselves with open networking principles. But the technical implementation of open network architectures remains challenging.

The survey results partitioned the 50 network operators into four distinct categories:

  • Openness leaders have a deep commitment to open networks and are supported at the highest levels of the organization. This category includes a higher proportion of operators from developed Asia–Pacific (APAC) than in any of the following categories.
  • Openness followers are implementing aspects of open networks, but they take a more tactical approach because they lack the strong level of senior executive support that the openness leaders enjoy.
  • Openness emerging adopters are operators that are just starting their journey. The category includes operators from developing markets that have a vision but have not yet started to deploy the architectures. The category also includes cautious adopters with lower ambitions for open networks.
  • Openness late adopters do not have a clear concept of what an open network is, and they have not yet started to formulate a strategy for achieving openness or to win senior executive support. They have a low appetite for risk and perceive significant risks associated with moving away from incumbent vendors.

Many operators have strong engagements with well-established telecoms industry bodies such as the GSMA and the TM Forum. These bodies have traditionally aimed to improve standardisation and foster multi-vendor interoperability, but their activities in the areas of open cloud platforms and open operating models have been somewhat peripheral. Operators should deepen their involvement with initiatives such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Nephio and Sylva, which champion open infrastructure and open operations, and support the fundamentals of horizontal cloud platforms.

In addition, operators should engage with the O-RAN Alliance (which is NOT a standards body/SDO), which is leading multi-vendor Open RAN interface and interoperability standards, with these standards leveraging distributed, cloud-native-based architectures. Participation in these initiatives facilitates knowledge sharing, enables operators to shape future standardization efforts and empowers operators to exert greater influence over their vendors.


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