Global technology market intelligence firm ABI Research expects the Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) [1.] market to expand significantly, reaching over $150 billion by 2030.
Note 1. NaaS is a secure, cost-effective subscription-based model that lets businesses of all sizes consume network infrastructure on-demand and as needed. It offers scale-up or scale-down flexibility that many businesses require to stay competitive in today’s unpredictable data traffic environment.
Networks have been commoditized over the last few years and the cost of connectivity has fallen. Value has shifted from network infrastructure to the services built on top of the network. Enterprises need scalable solutions that offer cloud-native agility, multi-cloud accessibility, and services that can dynamically fluctuate to support digital transformation. This has led to significant interest in the NaaS market, according to ABI Research.
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The firm’s blog promoting their NaaS report notes that telecom operators currently lack business models that allow them to build on their physical connectivity advantages to gain control of the NaaS market.
“Telcos must seize the opportunity to dominate the NaaS market, as revenue generated from connectivity provision will continue to decline. However, their investment strategy, business, operational, and ‘go-to-market’ models are not ready to deliver a competitive NaaS solution, explains Reece Hayden, Distributed & Edge Computing Analyst at ABI Research. “The market is immature and highly fragmented, but telco market revenue will exceed US$75 billion by 2030 if they act now and transform technology, culture, and structure to better align with the requirements of the NaaS market.”
Currently, telcos face NaaS competition from two key players. Interconnection providers (e.g., Megaport and Packet Fabric) have built their agile solutions from the ground up, focusing energy on virtualization and software specialization. At the same time, cloud infrastructure providers (e.g., Amazon AWS, Google GCP, and Microsoft Azure) continue to offer cloud-specific NaaS solutions.
“Telecom operators remain in the best position to lead the market as long as they recognize their service/innovation limitations, invest/restructure successfully, and focus their messaging appropriately,” according to Hayden.
Telcos must look to transform three areas. First, telcos must virtualize network infrastructure to deliver cloud-native services and continue to invest heavily to integrate automation (AIOps) throughout network services, including paying attention to 5G slice-as-a-service and other ‘value-add services’ which are critical to monetization.
Second, telecom operators must restructure business and operating models with a look toward openness and partnerships across the industry and reduce internal fragmentation to drive cross-business service continuity.
Third, telcos must look to develop a problem-solving culture and realign their ‘go-to-market’ strategy to better position themselves within the NaaS market. This involves developing vertical and enterprise size-specific sales strategies and establishing consultative processes that educate enterprises to bridge the ever-present gap between awareness and understanding. Telco executives should focus more on service provision and up/reskilling their workforce.
NaaS adoption will rapidly grow over the next eight years. ABI Research expects that by 2030, just under 90% of enterprises will have migrated at least 25% of their global network infrastructure to be consumed within a NaaS model. However, this process will not be organic, suppliers will have to drive education and consultative practices, as significant skepticism within SMEs and MNCs pervades the market. “To drive short-run sales, suppliers must educate and tailor their sales strategy to focus on first adopters (startups and SMEs) and specific verticals,” Hayden recommends.
The outlook in the NaaS market is hugely positive for telcos, especially given the rising demand from startups and SMEs. “But a lot still needs to be done to bridge technological, cultural, and structural gaps,” Hayden concludes. “Although it seems like an expensive and risky uphill battle, developing NaaS will be crucial to the long-term upside. But, if telcos miss this opportunity and drop the ball, interconnection providers and hyperscalers will be waiting and willing to catch it.”
These findings are from ABI Research’s Network-as-a Service: Business, Operational, and Technological Strategies for Telco Digital Service Transformation application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Distributed and Edge Computing research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Application Analysis reports present an in-depth analysis of key market trends and factors for a specific application, which could focus on an individual market or geography.
ABI’s NaaS report does not include IT equipment and software vendors like Cisco, Dell Technologies, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which have been bolstering their own NaaS hardware and software stacks while established sales channels into most enterprises.
About ABI Research:
ABI Research is a global technology intelligence firm delivering actionable research and strategic guidance to technology leaders, innovators, and decision makers around the world. Our research focuses on the transformative technologies that are dramatically reshaping industries, economies, and workforces today.
ABI Research expects the total CAPEX spent on Open RAN radio units (RUs) for public outdoor networks, including both macro and small cells will reach US$40.7 billion in 2026. Cumulative unit shipments will reach 9.9 million during the same year. Meanwhile, the total revenue of Open RAN radios for indoor enterprise networks will reach as much as US$6.7 billion in 2026, with cumulative unit shipments expected to reach 29.4 million. The Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) market is rapidly expanding and is expected to exceed the traditional RAN market for the first time around 2027-2028.
“The Open RAN opportunity invites various stakeholders to bring their best in class technologies and hardware/software components to contribute to building a flexible, secure, agile, and multi-vendor interoperable network solution,” said Jiancao Hou, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. “In addition, trade wars and the global pandemic of COVID-19 have resulted in tremendous restrictions on the telecom supply chain and disrupt the evolution of new technologies. These effects will accelerate the development of Open RAN and open networks.”
Rakuten Mobile, a greenfield network operator in Japan, set a prime example to deploy this new approach. Moreover, many other operators are also quite active in the field, namely Dish Network in the U.S., Vodafone, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Turkcell in the EU and other geological regions. The Open RAN supply chain is also expanding with Altiostar, Mavenir, and Parallel Wireless leading the charge while new entrants are announced every week.
“ABI Research expects greenfield installations, as well as private enterprise networks and public consumer networks, in rural/uncovered areas to drive the deployment of Open RAN throughout the entire forecast period,” Hou points out. Open RAN can introduce many advantages to the enterprise market, including infrastructure reconfigurability, network sustainability, and deployment cost efficiency. On the other hand, these small and easily manageable network use cases will likely lower the entry barrier for Open RAN. Simultaneously they help network operators and their ecosystem partners clearly understand the approach and suppliers’ maturity level, therefore paving the way for a broader market. Besides, “ABI Research sees new entrants will lead the early deployment for Open RAN, but they will be increasingly challenged by tier-one vendors and system integrators for both public cellular implementations and enterprise deployment,” Hou concludes.
These findings are from ABI Research’s Open RAN market data report. This report is part of the company’s 5G & Mobile Network Infrastructure research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Market Data spreadsheets are composed of in-depth data, market share analysis, and highly segmented, service-specific forecasts to provide detailed insight where opportunities lie.
Earlier this week, the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) saw fit to recap its recent achievements regarding OpenRAN; read more about them here.
Image Credit: Telecom Infra Project
About ABI Research
ABI Research provides strategic guidance to visionaries, delivering actionable intelligence on the transformative technologies that are dramatically reshaping industries, economies, and workforces across the world. ABI Research’s global team of analysts publish groundbreaking studies often years ahead of other technology advisory firms, empowering our clients to stay ahead of their markets and their competitors.