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The number of mobile operators launching out cloud-native standalone (SA) 5G grew to 39 globally by the end of 2022, Dell’Oro Group research director Dave Bolan told Silverlinings, adding that he expected more carriers to launch this year.
Bolan emailed us an updated chart of global mobile network operators (MNOs) that have fully or partially deployed 5G SA on their networks. The number of operators is up from 36 in November 2022.
“We do expect more to launch in 2023,” Bolan told Silverlinings in an email. “Many MNOs are prepping their networks for 5G SA already.”
Bolan commented in his 2023 prediction blog that Reliance Jio, China Telecom-Macau and Globe Telecom came to the rescue in the fourth quarter pushing the number of 5G SA networks launched in 2022 over the 2021 total. “Reliance Jio has announced a very aggressive deployment schedule to cover most of India by the end of 2023,” Bolan said.
Download speed racer
Cloud-native 5G SA represents a step up in performance over 5G radio access networks (RAN) that still use the 4G control plane for routing, handover and more. This overall performance hike is evidenced in how T-Mobile handily beat major rivals AT&T and Verizon in nearly all the major categories laid out in Ookla’s latest U.S. speed test
T-Mobile was the first major operator in the world to roll out 5G SA on its nationwide 600MHz 5G network in August 2020. It switched on SA on its faster 2.5GHz network in November 2022.
T-Mobile users will initially see download speed increases from the pure 5G move as the operator rolls out carrier aggregation (CA) that combines 5G bands of the same — or different — frequencies to give a data speed boost.
AT&T and Verizon, meanwhile, have said that they have started moving customers to their respective 5G SA cores but little more than that yet. Dell’Oro’s Bolan expects large expansions from both operators on the standalone front in 2023.
In February 2022, Dish implemented its SA 5G core on the Amazon Web Service cloud, giving the greenfield contender a massive time-to-market advantage, according to Dish Executive Vice President of Network Development, Dave Mayo.
He told Silverlinings that its cloud-native network will give Dish a substantial leg-up in the enterprise space. “We will be able to deploy core network elements in enterprise locations and mitigate the need for those enterprises to send their data back to our switching center,” Mayo said. “That’s a really big deal,” because certain industries [For instance, banks and hospitals] just really don’t want their data leaving their facilities, he added.
Ribbon Communications had a rocky first half in 2022 thanks in part to supply chain issues and inflation. But the tide began to turn as it exited the year and as it now heads into 2023, CEO Bruce McClelland told Fierce he’s optimistic it will be able to deliver “meaningful” improvements in both profitability and revenue growth as it leans into IP routing amid growing demand for 5G and fiber.
“Strategically, we’re really focused around how 5G is evolving the network and some of the new products we’re bringing into the market there and really focused on increasing our business with some of the large service providers around the world,” he said.
About half of Ribbon’s business comes from the U.S. today, with Verizon and AT&T ranking among its biggest accounts. But it also has a substantial footprint in India, Japan and Australia. Across the board, McClelland said 5G is the number one priority for most service providers, though broadband is a close second. And both of those require more and robust transport infrastructure.
“From our perspective, it’s a lot more than just the radio infrastructure and the RAN network and the move to the 5G RAN technology. It means more traffic which means more fiber, and in a lot of cases if you’re going to a small cell architecture like millimeter wave it means more fiber much deeper into the network,” he said. “Ultimately, what we’re finding is the deployment of IP and routing technology is moving deeper into the network as well.”
Thus, growing its IP routing platforms has become objective number one for Ribbon. While the company acquired ECI in 2020 in a bid to boost growth by offering new voice services, McClelland said it has begun shifting its investments from voice to IP routing and – to a lesser extent – its optical portfolio as well.
In the IP routing space, Ribbon is up against the likes of Cisco, Ciena and Nokia. In optical, it’s squaring off with Ciena, Infinera and Nokia. McClelland acknowledged these are strong rivals but noted “we’re finding our customers want more choices.” He pointed to a cell site deal Ribbon inked with India’s Bharti Airtel at the end of 2022 as one of several recent wins that will serve as a tailwind for the company this year.
“We’re very organically focused, it’s very heads down operationally focused,” he said of the company’s plan for 2023. “We’ve got a lot of good proof points that we’re headed the right direction…We expect to see some meaningful improvements in profitability and some good revenue growth.”
Ribbon is set to report its Q4 2022 earnings on February 15.
A new project dubbed 5G Compad (5G Communications for Peacekeeping and Defence) said it has secured EUR 27 million from the European Defence Fund (EDF) to develop, prototype and test the architecture of communication systems for European defence forces based on 5G technology. The project was launched during a meeting in Stockholm last month with the participation of the European Commission, Member States representatives and an industrial consortium made up of leading 5G vendors, technology companies, SMEs, defence system integrators, research institutes and mobile network operators from 11 EU member states and Norway.
The project consortium members are Saab, Ericsson, Rheinmetall, Bittium, Nokia, Thales, Leonardo, Inster, Eightbells, Intracom Defense, CAFA Tech, Telenor, SINTEF, FFI (NO Gov), LMT, AIT, Synkzone, BHE and APR Technologies, plus ten European governments and defence ministries.
5G Compad will be ongoing for 36 months, during which participants will prototype, test and demonstrate the operational capabilities of 5G integrated with several defence platforms and systems. The aim is to show how commercial mobile communications technology can support sustained information and operational superiority for the success of European defence forces, with the project also addressing the increased need for high-level cyber and information security.
In a statement, the project organisers said expected outcomes include strengthened resilience and technological sovereignty of the EU, information superiority, increased tactical interoperability of European defence forces leading to reinforced innovation leadership of the European industry.
Research company Dell’Oro Group warned the global RAN market faced more challenges and a general slowdown over the next five years, as the market transitions to the next phase of 5G following four years of record growth.
In a report, Dell’Oro forecast investment in RAN in China and North America will decline by a mid-single-digit level annually in the five years to 2027, while less advanced mobile broadband regions will grow. At the same time. 5G RAN will experience an overall rise of between 25 per cent and 30 per cent.
Outside of China, the global RAN market is forecast to be flat over the period, with Dell’Oro noting the predicted gains in the 5G segment “will barely be enough to offset the steep declines in LTE”.
Dell’Oro noted mmWave projections had been revised downward over the near term, while small cell RAN revenue is tipped to continue its momentum and grow by more than 20 per cent by 2027.
Early days Stefan Pongratz, VP and analyst at Dell’Oro, acknowledged it was still early days in the 5G journey, “but at the same time, the coverage and capacity phases that have shaped the capex cycles with previous technology generations still hold”.
He added that even with expected changes in capital intensities as operators reach their initial 5G coverage targets, “the plethora of 5G frequencies taken together with the upside from FWA and eventually private 5G, will curb the peak-to-trough decline relative to 2G to 4G”.
A director of strategic marketing and business development at Mavenir made a posting yesterday on LinkedIn, alluding to some layoffs at Mavenir. Ryan Salm wrote, “As of the end of the month I will be looking for a new role and would appreciate your support…. #layoffs”
Mavenir declined to specify how many people it was laying off. But its President and CEO Pardeep Kohli sent the following comment to Fierce Wireless: “In 2023, as other technology companies are doing, given the current market concerns about the economy and geopolitical challenges, Mavenir is streamlining and re-evaluating programs and investments. We see significant reduction in RCS Network Systems demand outside North America, and we are adjusting programs accordingly.”
Rich Communications Services (RCS) is a protocol between mobile telephone carriers and between phone and carrier, designed to replacing SMS messages with a text-message system that is richer.
A couple of years ago, Mavenir was bullish on its RCS technology, announcing that it completed RCS interconnection with the networks of Telefónica, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom Germany.
Today, Kohli said Mavenir was the first to launch RCS in the U.S. with Metro PCS. And the expectation was that all SMS/MMS traffic would migrate to RCS over time. But with Apple not providing support for RCS, it is now limited to only Android handsets.
“Mavenir is a leader in RCS market share in the U.S.,” said Kohli. “However, there is not much growth on Android ecosystem in U.S.”
He also said the Android ecosystem outside of the U.S. is growing well, but the RCS ecosystem outside of the U.S. is not open anymore. “Based on policies of companies that control the Android ecosystem, the RCS client on the Android phones is now limited to work with only one dedicated backend, and there is no opportunity for Mavenir to sell RCS network systems as sold in U.S. This has significantly impacted our RCS business.”
Mavenir is heavily involved in the open radio access network (open RAN) ecosystem. But this current round of layoffs doesn’t seem to have anything to do with open RAN.
Kohli said “We continue to invest in our other strategic growth portfolio areas that include OpenRAN/Radio, Converged Mobile Core/IMS and BSS. The focus is on restructuring of cost base and operations, in line with the market growth and customer demands for 5G without any changes to our growth portfolio.”
The company has previously told Fierce that it makes the bulk of its revenues from IMS core and packet core technologies.
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