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Telco capex could level out in 2023, Dell'Oro reports

While global telecom capex is forecasted to increase by 3% this year due in part to increased wireless investments in the US and non-mobile spending in China, analysts at Dell'Oro Group predict that capex growth will taper off in 2023 and 2024.

In 2021, worldwide telecom capex, the total of wireless and wireline telecom investments, increased 9% year-over-year in nominal USD terms, which are dollars unadjusted for inflation. Manufacturing revenues for telecom equipment are forecasted to increase by 4% in 2022.

"Telco investments, in general, have shown remarkable resilience to external factors including COVID-19 containment measures, supply chain disruptions and economic uncertainties," said Stefan Pongratz, VP and analyst with Dell'Oro Group, in a statement. "Surging wireless investments in the US taken together with non-mobile capex expansions in China will keep the momentum going in 2022."

China is already showing signs of slowing its 5G investment – China Telecom plans to reduce 5G investment by nearly 11% to 34 billion yuan (US$5.34 billion) this year, reported Light Reading's Robert Clark in March. China Mobile has budgeted 110 billion yuan (US$17.3 billion) for spending on 5G networks in 2022, a 3.5% decline.

In the US, Dish Network is among service providers upping their 5G investments this year. Dish spent $1 billion on 5G-related capex in 2021 and plans to spend $2.5 billion in 2022 , reported Light Reading's Jeff Baumgartner in February.

Despite "a strong showing in 2021," capex growth in Europe will be more minimal this year, says Dell'Oro Group.

Researchers at IDC, however, don't expect telecom capex to drop until 2024: "COVID-19 has shown no long-term negative effects on telecommunications capex," said Daryl Schoolar, research director, Worldwide Telecommunications Insights, in a statement. "IDC expects 2021 capex will grow versus 2020 and show no decline until at least 2024."

In a positive turn of events, service providers have increased their network investments in response to increased demand for network speed and connectivity during the pandemic, adds Schoolar.

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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