5G connections (is that the same as 5G subscribers?) will reach well over 1 billion next year, despite the threat of component shortages hitting the supply chain this Christmas, according to a new forecast by CCS Insights. Total 5G connections will triple this year to 637 million, before more than doubling in 2022 to 1.34 billion, CCS Insight predicts. The market research firm says that China will continue to lead in volume terms, at least for the next few years.
Smartphones with 5G capability have until now largely remained sheltered from component shortages affecting the global mobile phone market.
“In another turbulent year for the mobile phone market, supply constraints in low- to mid-tier segments, paired with weak demand in emerging markets, have dampened sales. But 5G-enabled devices have so far continued to find their way to the hands of people in the world’s most advanced markets, with 560 million 5G-capable smartphones projected to sell in 2021”, notes Marina Koytcheva, vice president of forecasting at CCS Insight. But concerns about the supply of high-end devices, including the iPhone, during the Christmas quarter remain and pose a risk to adoption of 5G, even if that risk is temporary.
Telecom operators in Western Europe, North America, China and other advanced markets in Asia continue to roll out 5G networks, overcoming difficulties posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, uncertainties about the role of Chinese network equipment-maker Huawei, and an unstable macroeconomic environment.
In South Korea, 5G is on track to account for 30% of mobile connections by the end of 2021. Strong mobile phone sales in the run-up to Christmas will help the US achieve 25% penetration, surpassing the Chinese market. Although China was an early trailblazer for 5G, shaky demand for smartphones in 2021 means that 5G is forecast to account for only 24% of cellular device connections by the end of the year.
In contrast, Western Europe is still lagging some other markets, limited by delayed spectrum auctions in some countries, slow government decision-making about the role of Huawei, and weakened demand for mobile phones amid the pandemic. Although the speed of 5G roll-out is improving, this relatively gradual start means that 5G won’t account for more than half of cellular device connections in the region until 2024.
Once the spectrum is allocated and telecom operators start deploying 5G networks, how quickly people adopt 5G depends on their willingness to buy 5G-capable devices. “Things are looking up on that front; the global mobile phone market is projected to recover in 2022, and prices of 5G handsets continue to fall steadily. Our forecast for 3.6 billion 5G connections worldwide by 2025 is still firmly on track,” says Koytcheva.
In addition to mobile phones and related devices such as tablets, CCS Insight has identified two other drivers for 5G adoption: industrial cellular Internet of things devices and fixed wireless access (we agree). Both have strong prospects, despite being projected to contribute only 9% of worldwide 5G connections in 2025. Adoption of 5G in industrial applications is seeing positive momentum in China, and is set to get a boost in the US when carriers start switching off their legacy 3G networks.
Fixed wireless access remains a niche technology for now, mostly complementing fibre broadband, but some network operators are increasingly turning their attention to this opportunity with business users, recognizing that the potential revenue per connection could be significantly higher than that from connecting households.
A summary of CCS Insight’s new forecast for 5G connections is presented in the chart below:
Source: CCS Insights
The publication of nine-month 5G subscriber numbers from two of China’s three mobile operators is quite revealing (if true?).
- China Mobile is adding 5G customers at a rate of around 11 million per month according to its latest financial report. The world’s biggest mobile operator had 160 million 5G network subscribers at the end of September, up from 127 million three months earlier.
- China Telecom, which is due to report on Friday, had 146.6 million 5G package customers at the end of August. A “back of the envelope” calculation by Mary Lennighan of telecoms.com suggests there are more than a quarter of a billion true 5G subscribers in China.
CCS Insight predicts that the U.S. will leap ahead of China in 5G on the back of strong smartphone sales in the run-up to Christmas, giving it 25% 5G penetration to China’s 24%, the latter hit by shaky demand for smartphones this year as noted above.
More details of CCS Insight’s extensive 5G service can be found at: https://www.ccsinsight.com/research-areas/5g-networks
Verizon said it has achieved a 5G upload speed of 711 Mbps in a technology lab trial using aggregated bands of mmWave spectrum. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. provided the 5G network equipment and 5G endpoint, respectively.
Samsung supplied its 28 GHz 5G compact macro and virtualized radio access network (vRAN) and vCore technology, along with a smartphone form-factor test device that used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X65 5G modem-RF system.
“Our mmWave build is a critical differentiator, even as we drive towards massive and rapid expansion of our 5G service using our newly acquired mid-band spectrum, we are doubling down on our commitment to mmWave spectrum usage,” said Adam Koeppe, Senior Vice President of Technology Planning for Verizon. “You will see us continue to expand our mmWave footprint to deliver game changing experiences for the densest parts of our network and for unique enterprise solutions. We had over 17k mmWave cell sites at the end of last year and are on track to add 14k more in 2021, with over 30k sites on air by the end of this year, and we’ll keep building after that,” said Koeppe.
Although carriers have seen 5G download speeds above 1 Gbps, it has been more challenging to achieve fast speeds on the uplink. Verizon believes that faster upload speeds are valuable for both fixed and mobile users.
Applications for faster upload speeds:
Speeds approaching those seen in this recent trial (for comparison, 700+ Mbps is the equivalent of a one GB movie uploaded in about 10 seconds) will pave the way for uploading videos, pictures and data to the cloud, social media accounts, or sharing directly with others in densely populated venues like downtown streets, concerts and football stadiums. Whether using a traditional mobile link or fixed wireless access, these speeds will also allow students working from home or employees in distributed workforces the ability to upload and synchronize massive files, complete simultaneous editing of documents in the cloud, and collaborate with colleagues effortlessly.
Verizon says that ultra fast uplink speeds will also drive new private network use cases for enterprises. For example, faster uplink speeds can enable quality control solutions for manufacturers using artificial intelligence to identify tiny product defects in products visible only through ultra HD video feeds. Other upload-intensive solutions such as multi-location, massive security video capabilities and augmented reality centered customer experiences will also get a boost with these increased speeds.
About the trial:
The demonstration surpassed current peak upload speeds by combining 400 MHz of Verizon’s 5G mmWave frequency and 20 MHz of 4G frequency using the latest 5G technologies, including mmWave carrier aggregation and Single-User MIMO (SU-MIMO). Network technology used in the demo included Samsung’s 28 GHz 5G Compact Macro and virtualized RAN (vRAN) and Core (vCore) along with a smartphone form-factor test device powered by the flagship Snapdragon® X65 5G Modem-RF System.
Snapdragon X65 is Qualcomm Technologies’ 4th generation 5G mmWave Modem-RF System for smartphones, mobile broadband, compute, XR, industrial IoT, 5G private networks and fixed wireless access. Commercial mobile devices based on these Modem-RF solutions are expected to launch by late 2021.
Samsung’s Compact Macro delivers 5G mmWave by bringing together a baseband, radio and antenna in a single form factor. This compact and lightweight solution can be easily installed on the sides of buildings, as well as on utility poles, for the swift build-out of 5G networks. The Compact Macro achieved first Common Criteria (CC) certification against Network Device collaborative Protection Profile (NDcPP), an internationally recognized IT security standard.
“In collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies and Verizon, we are excited to begin to reach these ultra-fast uplink speeds, which will enable differentiated 5G experiences and deliver more immersive mobile services for all users”, said Junehee Lee, Executive Vice President and Head of R&D, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. “Samsung looks forward to harnessing the full potential of 5G through new breakthroughs that will bring truly transformative benefits to people around the world and across the enterprise landscape.”
“Enhancing uplink speeds opens the door to new possibilities with 5G mmWave, in transit hubs, downtown areas, shopping malls and crowded venues, while also powering robust 5G fixed wireless access services in homes and small businesses,” said Durga Malladi, Senior Vice President and General Manager, 5G, Mobile Broadband and Infrastructure, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “Our collaboration with Samsung and Verizon exemplifies how we are collectively driving 5G mmWave commercialization and enabling new and exciting user experiences – everyday.”
Ericsson and Singtel have partnered to accelerate 5G adoption across multiple industries and leverage industry partnerships to develop and deploy advanced 5G solutions in Singapore. The partnership utilizes Ericsson’s networking expertise and Singtel’s 5G network, test facilities and capabilities, and also involves collaboration with global industry partners across various industries such as oil and gas, maritime, pharmaceutical, aerospace, financial services, retail and construction. The global partners are ABB, Axis Communications, Bosch, Bosch Rexroth, DHL Supply Chain, Hexagon, PTC and Rohde & Schwarz as well as Cradlepoint (part of Ericsson and provider of enterprise 5G wireless edge solutions).
Singtel recently announced a ramp up of its 5G roll out across Singapore and to accelerate the adoption of 5G by enterprises.
Bill Chang, Chief Executive Officer, Group Enterprise at Singtel said, “We are always looking for ways to stimulate conversations and drive even more innovation to encourage more 5G adoption by enterprises. Our partnership with Ericsson have been key to our 5G roll out and offers us a unique opportunity to come together to build an open platform for enterprises to ideate, co-create, test and eventually go-to-market. We have seen some encouraging outcomes from our early trials and key to that success is our common goal of transforming the future of business operations by harnessing the power of 5G. These trials are the springboard to more innovation and we welcome more enterprises to come on board with their ideas.”
“We have seen some encouraging outcomes from our early trials and key to that success is our common goal of transforming the future of business operations by harnessing the power of 5G. These trials are the springboard to more innovation and we welcome more enterprises to come on board with their ideas.””
The ABB single-arm YuMi® cobot used in a 5G setup. Photo Credit: ABB
With large scale applications of 5G as the end goal, Singtel and Ericsson are working with Hexagon on rolling out large scale autonomous shop floor measurement with 5G connection that can have potential benefits in the aerospace, oil and gas, construction, automotive, shipyard and wind energy industries. With a laser tracker device, non-contact, 3D precision measurements can be done easily, quickly and accurately on large pipes and aerospace parts, with the measured data then transmitted to the control center. The laser tracker device is connected to 5G for remote measurement and this allows for accurate measurements even in hard-to-reach areas and provides stability when measuring a freeform surface. With a more significant bandwidth, 5G technology also enables faster and more extensive measurements to be done.
Advances in technology are reshaping security capabilities and Axis Communications is leveraging 5G technology to innovate for a smarter and safer world. Trials have started using high performance Axis devices and cameras connected through Singtel’s MEC network. The trials demonstrate the ease and cost-effectiveness of deploying Axis devices with edge-based analytics for cities in areas that have previously been off-limits or too costly to do so, ultimately making cities safer and providing a better living environment. The new 5G network will also facilitate Axis Communications deployment of advanced analytics together with our devices in hard-to-reach places and enhancing security and protection in hitherto inaccessible areas.
Building a robust 5G ecosystem and shoring up capabilities
The partnership builds on the joint 5G initiatives rolled out by both companies in the past year. These include achieving Singapore’s fastest 5G speeds of 3.2 Gbps at Singtel’s unmanned pop-up retail store UNBOXED, using Ericsson’s high bandwidth, low latency 28 Ghz mmWave technology as well as Singtel’s GENIE, the world’s first portable 5G-in-a-box platform powered by Ericsson to enable enterprises to experience 5G’s capabilities and trial use cases in their own premises.
According to an Ericsson report – “5G for business: a 2030 market compass”, the total digitalisation revenue in Singapore is forecasted to reach US$17.41 billion by 2030, with 5G-enabled revenue estimated at US$6.48 billion. As a regional economic, business and technology hub, Singapore is an ideal launchpad for 5G-empowered industry 4.0 solutions including robotics, Augmented/Virtual/Mixed Reality, Artificial Intelligence and IoT which require fast speeds, high capacity and low latency connectivity.
Martin Wiktorin, Head of Ericsson Singapore, Brunei and Philippines, says: “As a global ICT leader with 97 live networks deployed worldwide, we are also pioneers for research in 5G for industries. Today, digitalization is a top priority for businesses, and 5G will enable a further shift towards digital transformation, accelerated by the current Covid-19 pandemic. With an extensive network of international partner engagements spanning a multitude of different ecosystems, this collaboration is built on the longstanding relationship we hold with Singtel and all global industry leaders. Together, we aim to further accelerate the 5G enterprise ecosystem and enhance Singapore’s leading edge as one of the world’s most competitive nations.”
On-going trials for industrial applications
A total of three trials are ongoing, with ABB, Axis Communications and Hexagon among the first companies to have started their trials. The trials span across advanced manufacturing, logistics, smart city development, analytics and industrial automation.
ABB has successfully tested the potential of 5G in the industrial manufacturing space, supporting the low latency operation of an ABB collaborative robot. The test was conducted in ABB’s workshop, where ABB’s single-arm YuMi® cobot was connected to Singtel’s 5G GENIE to access an on-site Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) platform.
Singtel’s 5G NSA and 5G SA network offerings:
Singtel had initially launched its 5G non-standalone (NSA) network in September of 2020, using spectrum in the 3.5 GHz frequency as well as existing 2.1 GHz spectrum.
Singtel had announced their 5G SA network in the country this May. Singtel had partnered with Samsung to launch 5G SA. The 5G SA sites use 3.5 GHz spectrum.
Singtel said it plans to intensify its 5G SA deployment across the island state in the coming months as handset manufacturers progressively roll out 5G SA software updates for existing 5G handsets and launch more 5G SA-compatible models in Singapore later this year.
The Asian telco said it is using 28 GHz mmWave spectrum, in addition to the 3.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands, to boost its 5G deployment in Singapore.
Nokia and MediaTek today announced that they have achieved a world’s first by successfully aggregating 5G Standalone (5G SA) spectrum using 3 Components Carrier (3CC) aggregation. This increases the sub-6Ghz 5G spectrum utilization by combining 210MHz of FDD and TDD spectrum more efficiently to reach 3.2Gbps peak downlink throughput. The move will enable communication service providers to deliver higher throughputs and better coverage to more customers.
- Successful validation test achieves first 3 Component Carriers sub-6GHz carrier aggregation combining FDD and TDD spectrum; Utilizes Nokia’s AirScale 5G Standalone Carrier Aggregation solution with commercial hardware and software
- The test combined 210MHz of spectrum from three component carriers to achieve 3.2Gbps downlink speeds
To achieve this performance, Nokia supplied its latest AirScale equipment including its AirScale 5G SA architecture powered by its energy-efficient ReefShark System-on-Chip (SoC) technology as well as its cloud-native 5G core. MediaTek provided its new M80 5G modem which combines mmWave and sub-6 GHz capabilities onto a single chip as well as the user equipment testing platform.
Carrier Aggregation (1st specified in LTE Advanced) combines frequency bands for higher rates and increased coverage, delivering superior network capacity by maximizing the spectral efficiency of 5G networks. Frequency division duplex (FDD) in 600MHz (n71) is a lower frequency band that provides a wide coverage area, improving cell edge performance. Time-division duplex (TDD) in 2600MHz (n41) has higher bandwidth and capacity. The combination of these spectrum bands supports a range of 5G deployment scenarios including indoor as well enhanced outdoor coverage. The high-band sub-6Ghz spectrum bands support high-capacity and extreme mobile broadband capabilities.
While claiming a ‘world first,’ the press release is a bit light on specifics. We’re told at least one of the carriers was in the 600 MHz band, using FDD technology, while at least one other was in the 2600 MHz band using TDD. A total of 210 MHz of spectrum were used but we’re not told the split. Our guess would be 10 MHz of the 600 band and 2×100 MHz of the 2600 band. The idea seems to be that this combo offers capacity when the higher frequency is available but can still fall back to a minimal level of coverage when it’s not.
JS Pan, General Manager, Wireless Communication System, and Partnerships at MediaTek, said: “This test demonstrates the importance of carrier aggregation in enabling mobile operators around the world to deliver best-in-class speed and capacity to their subscribers. The combination of Nokia’s AirScale portfolio and our technology boosts the possibilities of spectrum assets and 5G networks. We look forward to continuing to partner with Nokia to advance the 5G ecosystem.”
Mark Atkinson, SVP, Radio Access Networks PLM at Nokia, said: “Nokia continues to drive the 5G ecosystem by delivering new and important innovations. This validation test demonstrates how mobile operators can maximize their spectrum allocations and deliver enhanced coverage and capacity to subscribers. Nokia is committed to pushing the boundaries of 5G and delivering industry-leading performance. High-capacity Carrier Aggregation combinations can be achieved in both 5G Standalone (SA) and Non-Standalone (NSA) based on our scalable Airscale Baseband architecture.”
Mr. Bicheno commented:
It’s still not clear what the ‘world first’ claim refers to. Is it the aggregation of three carriers? Is it the combination of FDD and TDD in one transmission? Is it the total bandwidth achieved? It’s as if they’re trying to provoke journalists by failing to substantiate hyperbolic claims made in the headline. After all, that’s our job.
Yes, it is your job Scott and we are all grateful for that. Sadly, few other journalists (except a few like yours truly) hardly ever scrutinize a press release or news announcement.
T-Mobile US Vice President of Technology Neville Ray provided an overview of the carrier’s 5G network during his “Building 5G for All” keynote presentation at the Wireless Infrastructure Associations (WIA) Connect X event. The association represents the nation’s cell tower owners and others in the wireless industry.
Ray said T-Mobile’s 5G standalone (5G SA) network, deployed nationwide using its 600 MHz spectrum, is “the future of wireless.” He said applications like connected vehicles, industrial robotics, mixed reality, and “supercharged IoT…can all be built on this foundation. It gives us a massive opportunity to work with partners on developing advanced 5G services.”
“We are seeing incredible growth in 5G data usage,” Ray said, referring to the average data usage among customers on T-Mobile’s new Magenta Max unlimited data plan, the operator’s most expensive unlimited data plan. Ray also reiterated many of the data points on Magenta Max that T-Mobile published last month. He said that T-Mobile’s Magenta Max customers typically stream 39% more video, use 36% more data for social media and use twice as much mobile hotspot data than other T-Mobile customers. “Our customers love this plan,” Ray said.
T-Mobile’s five-year, $60 billion investment into its 5G network seems to be paying off for the telco. The effort involves building thousands of new cell towers around the country in part to allow T-Mobile to broadcast speedy 5G signals on the 2.5GHz mid-band spectrum it acquired from Sprint. T-Mobile says that over 50% of its Magenta Max customers use a 5G smartphone.
T-Mo is planning to use 5G to offer fixed wireless access (FWA) to homes and offices. T-Mobile this week said it would reduce the price of its fixed wireless service by $10 per month in a direct challenge to wired broadband ISPs.
Furthermore, Ray said T-Mobile is also working to develop new 5G businesses around augmented reality (AR) services and other advanced offerings directed at 5G-based enterprise applications and use cases. To progress that initiative, T-Mo has partnered with companies working on video-streaming drones, with Sarcos Robotics on industrial robots, and with Fisk University. The latter project involves pre-med and biology students using a 5G-enabled headset to study human cadavers.
T-Mo is also working with Taqtile and Timberline Communications Inc., giving Timberline’s field technician headsets that can support instructional AR-overlays and other relevant content, and remote support from experts. The techs, in turn, use the headsets, connected to T-Mobile’s 5G network, to perform maintenance and other work on T-Mobile’s 5G network.
“AR and VR applications are going to transform virtually every industry,” according to Senior Director of Network Technology Erin Raney. “We are so excited to see how T-Mobile’s 5G network with that low latency and high bandwidth is going to fuel these great innovations.”
Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technology is a key area of focus at T-Mobile for 5G use case development and it is applicable to so many industries from healthcare to manufacturing, agriculture and more. Enterprises today have complex machinery, a shortage of skilled workers, and customers with no patience for downtime, making sophisticated training and technical support capabilities more important than ever. With T-Mobile’s low-latency, Ultra Capacity 5G network, we are seeing businesses boost productivity and speed as technicians use augmented reality for immersive training, and then to collaborate and fix problems fast.
Taqtile, a recent graduate of the 5G Open Innovation Lab co-founded by T-Mobile, is a company doing fascinating work building AR solutions for frontline workers. Timberline Communications Inc. (TCI), a communications infrastructure company, is using Taqtile’s AR solution running on T-Mobile 5G to perform cell site upgrades and maintenance on our network. With Taqtile, TCI’s technicians use AR headsets to view virtual service checklists and troubleshoot using remote assistance. AR solutions such as this enable frontline workers to improve their skills and perform complex tasks from anywhere exploring objects such as machinery in 3D from all angles.
T-Mobile quarterly all-hands team meeting using holographic telepresence
WIA recently joined the National Spectrum Consortium (NSC) to increase industry collaboration on the research and development of 5G and 5G-based technologies.
“In order to effectively address our country’s most pressing needs for wireless infrastructure, we must deliver unified solutions. WIA is looking forward to working with the Consortium to transform communications and bring next generation technology to our defense sector and communities across the U.S.,” said WIA CTO Dr. Rikin Thakker.
Frontier Communications and Ziply Fiber have secured more funding for their respective fiber optic network building projects and network upgrades.
On October 4th, Frontier announced that it intends to offer, subject to market conditions and other factors, $1.0 billion aggregate principal amount of second lien secured notes due 2030 (the “Notes”) in a private transaction. This offering comes approximately five months after Frontier emerged from bankruptcy armed with a multi-year plan to upgrade millions of residential and business locations in its footprint. Frontier plans to deploy FTTP to about 600,000 homes this year and, more broadly, to extend FTTP to about 10 million homes by 2025.
According to Jeff Baumgartner of Light Reading, Frontier will deploy XGS-PON and is debating what to do with a remainder of its fiber and copper network. Its footprint includes rural areas that aren’t as economically attractive as the original portions of its upgrade plan. The company has discussed multiple ideas for a so-called “Wave 3” buildout that might include exploring joint ventures, securing private equity or pursuing asset swaps.
Frontier offers a variety of services to residential and business customers over its fiber-optic and copper networks in 25 states, including video, high-speed Internet, advanced voice, and Frontier Secure® digital protection solutions. Frontier Business™ offers communications solutions to small, medium, and enterprise businesses.
In a prepared statement, Ziply says the new funding will support its ongoing fiber expansion. “It will ensure that we have the resources on hand to keep up the strong pace of construction we’ve set for ourselves as we head into the new year, and to continue to deliver on our goal to providing the best connected experience possible for people in the Northwest.”
At the time of its acquisition from Frontier, Ziply reported that 31% of its homes passed were fiber capable. Ziply fiber expansion goals targeted reaching 80% by 2024. The company reported passing 1.6 million locations when it was formed.
Washington state is the company’s largest market, and Montana is its smallest. Ziply employs more than 1,400 people, according to the statement about the additional funding.
The company says on its website that it is “investing $500 million to bring the best, fastest internet to our neighbors across the region.” And that was before the new $300 million funding offer.
Ziply Fiber currently serves about 500K customers across its four state footprint and has been pushing fiber deeper into its network. The company has been steadily announcing new fiber markets, adding 14 to its growing list in August 2021.
Earlier this year, Ziply Fiber announced it was moving ahead with an FTTP network upgrade that will deliver 1-Gig services to another 14 markets in Washington state and Oregon later this year. That ties into a broader commitment to deploy FTTP to 52 markets in its regions.
Like Frontier, Ziply Fiber is also starting to gear its efforts toward XGS-PON, a standard that paves the way for symmetrical 10Gbit/s services and beyond.
Ziply Fiber uses GPON today but is “fast approaching where everything will be XGS-PON,” Ziply Fiber CEO Harold Zeitz told Light Reading in a recent interview. “We are preparing all of our network for XGS. The only difference will be the ONT [optical network terminal] that goes on the home. Everything else will be XGS-ready.”
Gartner’s 2021 Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge Infrastructure [1.] notes that spending on WAN edge equipment will grow by 2.6% per year through 2025. This is the result of the robust growth of SD-WAN (18.0% CAGR) and the decline of traditional branch office routers (-16.5% CAGR). The past several years have seen a large-scale shift from traditional MPLS-based customer edge routers to SD-WAN technology, according to the report.
Note 1. WAN edge infrastructure enables network connectivity from distributed enterprise locations to access resources in both private and public data centers as well as cloud (as a service). It is typically procured by senior networking leaders within an infrastructure and operations (I&O) organization. This market has evolved from traditional branch routers (often called “customer edge routers” in a Multiprotocol Label Switching [MPLS] implementation), and is undergoing dramatic change, driven by the needs of digital business transformation and the demands of line-of-business managers. The market for branch office wide-area network functionality is shifting from dedicated routing, security and WAN optimization appliances to feature-rich SD-WAN and vCPE platforms. WAN edge infrastructure now incorporates a widening set of network functions, including secure routers, firewalls, SD-WAN, WAN path control and WAN optimization, along with traditional routing functionality.
The increased sales of WAN edge technology in general has been driven by SD-WAN equipment designed to support work-from-home and in-office environments are slightly dampened by the fact that sales of traditional branch office routers are sharply down as a consequence, Gartner stated in its report.
The number of vendors Gartner has designated as Leaders in WAN-edge infrastructure since 2019 has increased as more are judged to have the requisite “completeness of vision” and “ability to execute”. Just two companies were rated “leaders” in 2019, compared to six in 2020 and 2021. The same six companies were ranked as leaders in the past two reports—Fortinet, VMware, Versa, Palo Alto Networks, Cisco and Silver Peak—although the Silver Peak was bought out last year by HPE/Aruba last year and has inherited the company’s spot in the new report. Gartner noted that edge network leaders offer versatile products with rich features, and broad name recognition.
SASE architecture is also on the rise, according to Gartner, who predicted that more than 70% of SD-WAN customers would implement SASE by 2024, up 10% from last year’s estimate. The ability to deliver a competitive SASE service affected this year’s ratings, making up a part of vendors’ innovation” score. If a vendor’s offerings include the types of network security features that would qualify its WAN edge products as SASE, the innovation score are slightly higher.
“We see network and security decisions being made at the same time and more often with the same solution,” the latest report said. “This is largely driven by the move to distribute internet access to support cloud applications and change the security perimeter.”
Gartner says Fortinet is a leader in this Magic Quadrant. Its offering is the FortiGate Secure SD-WAN product, which includes physical, virtual appliances and cloud-based services managed with FortiManager orchestrator. Fortinet is based in Sunnyvale, California, U.S., and Gartner estimates that it has more than 34,000 WAN edge customers with more than 10,000 SD-WAN customers. FortiOS v.7.0 combines ZTNA to its broad WAN and network security functionalities to deliver a capable SASE offering. It has a wide global presence, addressing customers across multiple verticals and sizes. We expect the vendor to continue investing in SASE, artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) and 5G functionality.
VMware is a Leader in this Magic Quadrant. Its offering is branded as VMware SD-WAN, and is part of VMware SASE. The offering includes edge appliances (hardware and software), gateways — VMware points of presence (POPs) offering various services — and an orchestrator and its Edge Network Intelligence. VMware provides additional optional security via VMware Cloud Web Security and VMware Secure Access. Based in California, U.S., it has more than 14,000 SD-WAN customers. The vendor operates globally and addresses customers of all sizes, and in all verticals. Gartner expects the vendor to continue investments in this market, including enhancing options for remote workers and building out its SASE offering.
Cisco is also a leader in this Magic Quadrant. It has two branded offerings: Cisco SD-WAN powered by Viptela and Cisco SD-WAN powered by Meraki. Both include hardware and software appliances, and associated orchestration and management. Cisco also provides optional additional security via the Cisco Umbrella Security Internet Gateway (SIG) platform. Cisco is based in California, U.S., and has more than 40,000 WAN edge customers. The vendor operates globally and addresses customers of all sizes, in all verticals. We expect the vendor to continue to invest in this market, particularly in the areas of improved self-healing capabilities, new consumption-based pricing models and integrated security to enable a single-vendor SASE offering.
India based telecom equipment company STL (Sterlite Technologies Limited) has launched Accellus, its flagship solution for 5G-ready, open and programmable networks. This new product line raises the position of STL as a provider of disruptive solutions for Access and Edge networks. For the past 5 years, STL has been investing in research and development to expand its capabilities in converged networks based on fiber optic broadband and Open RAN.
India’s PLI Scheme
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents service providers and network equipment vendors, said that the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme will boost local manufacturing, exports and also create employment opportunities. STL plans to take advantage of that initiative. Nokia (through its India subsidiary) said the guidelines were an encouraging initiative by the government towards making India a global manufacturing hub. “Nokia is committed to this vision with our Chennai factory that manufactures telecom equipment from 2G to 5G-making for India and the world.”
“India is already the second largest telecom market globally and this will go a long way in making the country a global hub for telecom innovation,” said SP Kochhar, director general, COAI.
STL’s Accellus is built on this industry-leading converged optical-radio architecture. The company expects the global adoption of this decision to accelerate at a rate of 250% on an annual basis, stimulating better TCO for customers and gross margin for shareholders. Accellus will allow four main benefits for network builders – scalable and flexible operations, faster time to market, lower TCO and greener networks.
Accellus will lead the industry’s transition from tightly integrated, proprietary products to neutral and programmable converged wireless and optical networking solutions. It offers wireless and fiber-based solutions:
1. 5G multiband radios: Exhaustive portfolio of RAN radios with single and multiband macro radios. Co-developed in partnership with Facebook Connectivity to build total availability for Open RAN-based radios
2. Internal small cells: O-RAN compliant, highly efficient internal 5G small cell solution, with level 1 edge treatment
3. Wi-Fi 6 access solutions: Outdoor Wi-Fi 6 solutions providing carrier-class public connectivity in dense environments
4. Intelligent RAN Controller (RIC): An Open RAN 5G operating system that allows the Open RAN ecosystem to use third-party applications to improve performance and save costs
5. Programmable FTTx (pFTTx): A complete solution that offers programmability and software-defined networks in large-scale FTTH, business and cellular sites (FTTx) networks
Commenting on the launch of Accellus, Philip Leidler, Partner and Consulting Director, STL Partners, said: “One of the goals of the O-RAN alliance was to expand the RAN ecosystem and encourage innovation from a wider base of technology companies worldwide. the message is the last indication that this goal has been achieved. “
Commenting on the launch of Accellus, Chris Rice, CEO of Access Solutions at STL, said: “Disaggregated 5G and FTTx networks based on open standards are becoming more common for both greenfield and brownfield deployments. These networks will require unprecedented scalability and flexibility, possible through an open and programmable architecture. STL’s Accellus will unlock business opportunities for our customers and provide a immersive digital experience worldwide.”
Optical fiber has evolved in its maturity and in its form factors to drive the infrastructure medium for the “wireline” side of the network. It continues to be the preferred medium for high-speed network delivery, Rice said.
Answer: “Upgrade the network backhaul and core IP infrastructure for the expected growth in bandwidth that 5G Applications will enable. The necessity of wireline 5G upgrades sometimes does not get the attention it deserves; this includes IP equipment (e.g. cell site routers) and the necessary fiber upgrades to the cell sites.
Perform the network planning for the new cell site builds required to get the coverage and capacity required for ubiquitous 5G at the speeds users expect. For 5G to pay off for Telcos, there have to be new capabilities and services to sell that deserve higher price points from consumers and business users.
Ensure that operational automation is available to keep operating costs reasonable, especially as the number of cell sites grows. CAPEX is typically only 20 to 25% of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a RAN, meaning that operating costs are 3X to 4X what CAPEX is. The RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) is an example in ORAN / Open RAN that helps Telcos fulfil this need in an open way. It is essentially the operating system for Open RAN. It provides a platform for third-party applications to deliver these operational benefits and automation.”
How Is STL Helping Industry Stakeholders to Explain to Government Officials the Importance of Fiber for 5G or High-Speed Broadband?
Answer: “Network speed in the RAN air interface is essentially meaningless without the ability to ensure that the connected IP network can backhaul the required bandwidth. This fact necessitates additional fiber deployments to the existing cell sites (where it does not exist) and to new cells sites.”
In conclusion, Rice opined, “Our (STLs) newest business unit, the Access Solutions BU, focuses on fiber broadband and 5G wireless products. These products are based on open networking principles and give STL the opportunity to participate in the disruption that is occurring in the open networking markets, like ORAN and Open RAN initiatives. While Access Solutions BU is new, it has an R&D and innovation heritage of almost four years. During that time, a top talent team has been put in place, fundamental technology and innovation have been developed and matured, and now a well-defined product roadmap has been put in place as the BU launches many new products in its Accellus product line.”
Brussels based BICS [1.] today announced the successful conclusion of one of the first 5G Standalone (SA) roaming trials in the world, taking place within the BICS 5G Lab. The new innovation platform enabled data sessions and outbound roaming of test subscribers from Proximus to BICS’ test network environment. The 5G SA Lab’s successful results confirm a network operator’s readiness for an accelerated 5G roll-out.
Note 1. BICS is a leading international communications enabler, one of the key global voice carriers and the leading provider of mobile data services worldwide.
The BICS 5G Lab was announced earlier this year, and provides a test environment for operators and enterprises to test their readiness for next-gen services deployment of 5G Standalone, independently of the 4G core network. It follows BICS’ previous initiatives in promotion of 5G adoption, including the recent addition of borderless 5G connectivity to its SIM for Things solution earlier this year.
The trial successfully enabled a 5G data session for outbound roamers and demonstrated roaming interoperability between two 5G network providers – a critical element for the communications ecosystem to be able to meet the international needs of roaming devices and end users. It also established connectivity between the visited and home network via secured gateways (SEPP), hosted on BICS’ IPX network.
Mikaël Schachne, VP Mobility and IoT, BICS says: “BICS is perfectly positioned at the heart of the communications system to facilitate 5G Standalone readiness, ensuring operators and enterprises are fully prepared for roll-out. The insights BICS provides, harnessed from our unparalleled expertise in carrying over half the world’s data roaming traffic, can help businesses to accelerate their 5G strategies and provide first-class offerings to their customers.”
Geert Standaert, Chief Technology Officer, Proximus says: “5G represents a revolution of mobile communications and will accelerate the advent of the Internet of Things. The conclusion of this trial marks a major advancement in Proximus’ 5G Standalone rollout, which will bring unprecedented advantages to both end users and businesses.”
The scope for 5G SA use cases is expanding exponentially, from smart transport to industry 4.0 and beyond, with the pandemic having accelerated the demand for wireless technologies. As the world’s travel industries and businesses begin to re-open, operators and enterprises are set to experience a sharp increase in demand for international roaming across their 5G networks. This trial is a milestone in BICS’ commitment to enabling the international readiness for 5G adoption necessary to meet and capitalize on this growth opportunity.
Orange has said it is also ready to work with early 5G SA adopters on trials and proofs of concept for 5G roaming. In the absence of any standards or implementation specs, there are many different implementations of 5G SA core network and no standard for 5G SA roaming.
All network operators must sign new 5G bilateral roaming agreements and establish interconnections with peers. This can be bilateral, but, like today, the complicated management and rollout of roaming agreements will be simplified using IPX and roaming hub providers. Signaling interworking will require a SEPP, which ensures end-to-end confidentiality and integrity between source and destination networks. All signaling traffic across operator networks will transit via these security proxies. Authentication between operators’ SEPP is required to prevent unauthorized communication between networks. Operators will benefit from connecting to a 5G-compliant IPX hub as it offers adapted levels of security from all the other operators connected to the hub.
India’s telecom department has set the stage for another mega spectrum sale by sending a reference to the sector regulator, seeking fresh base prices for the gamut of airwave bands, including key frequencies like 700 MHz, 3.3-3.6 GHz and the coveted millimeter waves such as 26 GHz and 28 GHz that support 5G technology (but have not been agreed upon in revision 6 of ITU-R M.1036 Frequency Arrangements for Terrestrial IMT).
India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has also sought fresh base prices for 4G airwave bands such as 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz, two people aware of the matter said. But with the time usually taken for the consultation process, sources say it may be tough to meet government’s auction timeline of January-February, 2022.
The reference comes at a time when the government has acknowledged that high spectrum pricing is a prime reason behind the acute financial stress in the debt-laden telecom industry, and is also open to price rationalization in public interest.
In its reference, the department has sought recommendations from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on the terms of reference for the next auction and the quantum of airwaves proposed to be auctioned, one of the persons cited told ET.
“We have received a detailed reference from DoT about 2-3 days back, seeking our recommendations on spectrum matters and pricing…there are a number of spectrum bands involved, and the Authority is currently examining the reference and will respond to the government,” Trai secretary V Raghunandan told ET. He, though, declined to share details.
Sector analysts expect the potential annual cash flow relief stemming from the four-year moratorium allowed on statutory payouts to give Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio the financial headroom to participate aggressively in the next spectrum auction. They, though, don’t expect Vodafone Idea (Vi) to participate as strongly if it’s unable to close its much delayed Rs 25,000-crore fundraise.
Another official said that Trai will need to seek additional details from the DoT, before proceeding with its analysis and starting the consultation process.
After a DoT reference, Trai conducts a process which includes a four-week period for stakeholders to submit their views after a consultation paper is floated, followed by two weeks for counter comments. Then Trai holds open-house discussions before arriving at its recommendations. The whole process usually takes about four-five to months at least.
On March 1, India concluded its first spectrum auction of 2021. India’s Department of Telecom (DoT), through a Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) issued in January 2021, had put up spectrum for auction in multiple bands, including 700, 800, 900, 1800, 2100, 2300 and 2500 MHz bands. These frequencies cut across 2G, 3G and 4G service bands and included both FDD (paired) and TDD (unpaired) bands.
The auction was a qualified success. It netted the Government $10.6 billion and was almost double initial estimates. However, barely 37% of the total spectrum put up for auction had takers, while the 700 MHz band saw no bids at all.
The main takeaway from this auction is that the focus of India’s telcos is currently on 4G, not 5G. With several licenses coming up for renewal, it was imperative that telcos bid on expiring spectrum to renew but also to consolidate with new holdings. The biggest bidders were Reliance Jio ($7.8 billion), Bharti Airtel ($2.55 billion), followed by VodafoneIDEA a distant third with bids worth $272 million.
There was heavier than expected bidding in the 800 MHz band as well as the 2300 MHz band. All of the three operators bidding have taken different approaches to this auction. The common theme for both Jio and Airtel’s auction strategies was to shore up existing spectrum, acquire new frequencies to consolidate holdings per circle and boost capacity, and lay the groundwork for an eventual 5G network launch.
For its part, Vodafone IDEA (VIL) has taken a very frugal, optimization strategy to spectrum. Their public position has been that they have abundant spectrum and therefore are not hard-pressed to bid aggressively. This is true, with VIL holding ample spectrum, but there is no doubt that they would have had very limited means due to a stressed balance sheet.