January 21, 2022
Communications service providers (CSPs) and their suppliers, on announcing the launch of 5G standalone (SA), invariably describe it as the real deal.
Some even call it "pure" 5G, promising as it does faster throughput and lower latency than the non-standalone (NSA) version, which relies on a 4G core.
Figure 1: Standing alone: Dell'Oro found most network operators are content with 5G NSA and DSS – Vodafone Germany, whose first standalone site is pictured, is an exception.
(Source: DPA Picture Alliance/Alamy Stock Photo)
According to research firm Dell'Oro Group, however, 5G SA network deployments have not matched the hype.
Only 19 5G SA networks for enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) have launched to date since the first 2020 launches in China (all three mobile network operators), South Africa (Rain) and the US (T-Mobile). Just three markets – China, Germany and Singapore – have more than one 5G SA operator according to Dell'Oro figures.
Why the 5G SA feet-dragging?
Dave Bolan, research director at Dell'Oro for mobile core network (MCN) and multi-access edge computing (MEC), suggests that easier (and presumably less expensive) options for 5G deployment, as well as ongoing evaluation of shunting 5G workloads to the public cloud, are making CSPs think twice about 5G core (5GC) spend to enable 5G SA.
"CSPs have three choices for offering 5G," said Bolan.
"Dynamic spectrum sharing [DSS], 5G NSA and 5G SA. Only 5G SA requires the new 5G core and many CSPs seem content for the time being to stick with DSS and 5G NSA."
MCN market squeeze
Bolan's comments were made on the back of the research firm's latest five-year January forecast (2022-26) for the MCN and MEC market (Dell'Oro now details both markets in one report).
The cumulative revenue forecast for the period, of which MCN accounts for the bulk, is over $50 billion. Overall growth is a modest 3% CAGR.
"The overall revenues and the CAGR have been dampened by the muted uptake in 5G SA networks," explained Bolan.
In a blog posted earlier this month, Bolan said the 2021 5G MCN market came in 10% below Dell'Oro expectations from 2020.
"This [was] due to the lack of more aggressive 5G SA network buildout than anticipated", he said.
"We counted 13 CSPs that commercially deployed 5G SA networks for [eMBB] in 2021, and they were nowhere close to the aggressiveness in breadth and depth of the buildouts that we saw by China's CSPs in 2020, or for that matter in 2021."
Bolan added that there was an expectation that all three CSPs in South Korea would have launched 5G SA by now, yet only KT has done so. Moreover, Bolan thought too that AT&T and Verizon in the US, along with CSPs in Switzerland, would also have launched 5G SA in 2021. All of this failed to materialize.
"In spite of these disappointments, the projected growth rate for 2021 is 61% year-in-year and lowering to 18% year-on-year for 2022 due to the expected decline in growth rate by the Chinese CSPs," blogged Bolan.
For the latest five-year forecast period, Dell'Oro expects 5G MCN, IMS core and MEC to each have positive growth rates. 4G MCN, meanwhile, is in line for negative growth.
— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading
About the Author(s)
You May Also Like
5G Network Automation and AI at Global Megaevents: A Telco AI-at-scale case study with Ooredoo and EricssonOct 10, 2023
5G Transport & Networking Strategies Digital Symposium.Oct 26, 2023
Improve Service Efficiency in the Call Center and Field with Slack AutomationOct 13, 2023
Open RAN Evolution Digital Symposium Day 1Jul 26, 2023