The telecommunications industry has changed significantly in the last five decades even though it has a history of over 200 years now. Emergence of the internet, wide-range mobile communications, wireless, and 5G technology has touched everyone’s life in some shape and form. Today, telecommunications is one of the key pillars of a connected world and globalization at large.
The once profitable telecommunications industry is undergoing a turmoil today due to a decline in per user revenue. The simmering price wars and internet-based services are taking precedence over the traditional telecom services. The increasing pace of evolution and adoption of newer technologies means need for improved speed, lower latency, and a resilient network for better coverage and improved user experience.
5G seems to be the technology that the world is banking on from various use case perspectives. The telecommunications industry is looking forward to increasing ARPUs on its basis. With continued investments and research, 5G technology has evolved and matured significantly and is an integral part of an enterprise’s digital transformation ecosystem and journey. With 5G technology, we are actually moving closer to the customer by introducing NFV capabilities to mobile sites (enabling fast connection and real-time communication). This improves the overall quality and provides much optimized network design.
The speed of a 5G network is expected to range from ~50Mb/s to over a gigabit/s as it comes in many variants; mmWave (Millimeter-Wave), sub-6 GHz 5G (High Frequency), and Low Frequency. These high speeds are possible because most 5G networks are built on super-high-frequency airwaves, also known as the high-band spectrum. The higher frequencies can transmit much more data in a 5G network, faster than the current 4G.
Speed vs coverage is the most debated subject for 5G network deployments. While the mmWave architecture-based deployments provides speed in excess of 1gbps, they are best suited for large numbers of connections in dense urban areas. Sub-6 GHz 5G deployment, by far the most common, will usually deliver between 100 and 400 mbit/s, but will have a much farther reach than mmWave, especially outdoors. Low-band spectrum offers the greatest range, thereby a greater coverage area for a given site, but it is slower than the other frequency deployments.
The picture highlights the sample deployment pattern with varied 5G bands (low bands offering maximum coverage up to very high-frequency bands that offer enormous speed). The unique differentiator with 5G tech is that it can work with wide range of bands. Monetization with these varied bands will be interesting as the market matures further from spectrum standardization, to ecosystem, and business models.
Figure 1: Expected 5G Frequency Band Usage
Change is the only constant in today’s VUCA world. 5G is seen as a vehicle to drive Industry 4.0 to reality as it promises to bring a multifold increase in productivity with a combination of evolution and revolution. Telcos will have a major role in driving this as 5G opens new applications and business models. Telco majors are also working to move away from only providing connectivity for the application but rather innovate to deliver 5G use cases to enterprises.
Amidst all this evolution, revolution, and digital transformation, the telcos are still facing the pressing question of who to partner with in building a modern telco. Some are well ahead while others are still trying to really drive their rollout, and haven’t been able to solve their edge computing strategies.
Building a future-proof 5G highway is a key priority for telcos at this moment so that applications and services can run in a secure fashion on top of a consistent open-platform in a distributed architecture; a horizontal platform to cater across the entire value chain. This will give option to innovate at all layers across the entire ecosystem rather than getting locked in with proprietary technologies and stacks which were purpose-built and hardware-driven.
Building a future-proof 5G highway is key priority for Telcos at this moment so that applications and services can run in a secure fashion on top of a consistent open-platform in a distributed architecture
The industry is still evolving as the interconnections between all layers i.e. API integration, app integration, and H/W integration etc., hasn’t opened up in all capabilities which makes it difficult for telcos to choose their partners. The telecom equipment market continues to appear disconnected, much attributed by the US government and its allies to part ways with Huawei and ZTE because of state-sponsored activities. The ecosystem selection is more complex.
Huawei and ZTE collectively has a 41% market share. This includes RAN equipment and other components including wireless core, optical, broadband access, routers and switches, and other core IT products.
Displacing the incumbent juggernaut won’t be that easy. However, there exists a mature ecosystem that can fill the vacuum.
Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, Mavenir, and other unnamed vendors are poised to gain in RAN. The open RAN vendor ecosystem is also getting matured. However, its adoption is more on green field implementation side of the house. Mobile core could see the lion’s share going to the likes of Ericsson, Cisco, and Nokia. Optical majors include
Figure 2: Worldwide Telecom Equipment Revenue
Ciena, Nokia, Cisco, and Infinera. Broadband access majors include NEPs such as Nokia, Adtran, and CommScope. Routing majors comprise Cisco, Juniper, and Nokia. A much larger set of partners is in play and this ecosystem continues to get crowded with new players disrupting the status quo for incumbents with their open and virtual architecture-based network functions. With so much complexity and evolving dynamics, it’s important to understand the ecosystem interdependencies, interoperability challenges, and their cause and effect across the value chain. It’s crucial to pick the right building blocks and partners to provide a secure underlay vehicle for applications and services across the industries to comply with the required regulations and compliance.
HCL is well positioned to support its customers in every step of their modernization journey. Our rich pedigree in technology innovation and recent acquisitions such as Cisco SON is a testament that we understand the growing needs of our customers and are working on solutions to boost performance, as well as reduce CapeX and OpeX. Cisco SON will provide the management solutions business for mobile 4G/5G deployments. HCL’s IPs, service accelerators, frameworks, investments in state-of-the-art telco and software-defined cloud labs, and a dedicated telco center of excellence can provide the required fuel for accelerated growth and interoperability testing launch pad across the value chain.
As telcos embrace cloud and become much more IT-aware, the system integrator’s role has become more pivotal than ever. The system integrators can play the role of a change catalyst and help the telcos in accelerating their transition and digital transformation journey from legacy x-G to 5G by leveraging their rich knowledge pool, partner ecosystem, IPs, and frameworks.
The system integrators can play the role of change catalyst and help Telcos in accelerating their transition and transformation journey from legacy x-G to 5G by leveraging their rich knowledge pool, partner ecosystem, IP’s and frameworks