In the U.S. market, 2021 was the year of expanding 5G coverage, building out 5G use cases and the start of the migration to 5G SA (stand-alone). This was the year that telco operators started figuring out the business plans for recouping 5G investments after some of the tier one operators invested more (Verizon ~ $45 billion, AT&T ~ $23 billion, T-Mobile $9.3 billion and U.S. cellular $1 billion) in acquiring 5G spectrum.
Top Trends in 2021:
- Fixed Wireless deployments by the tier 1 carriers
- Expansion of 5G deployments in C-band, millimeter wave spectrum
- MEC Support
- Testing of 5G networks for Enterprise
- Greenfield network or small cell plans (Dish, Comcast, Charter)
- Increased use of Drones in testing package delivery and in cell site location planning
Top Predictions for 2022
- Increase usage of avatars (metaverse), holograms, and user generated contents on the consumer side. Increased use of robots in homes and work places. Worker shortage will drive usage of robots in low wage jobs.
- Migration to 5G Stand-alone from Non-Stand-alone
- The top three US mobile operators are well on their way with 5G deployments with claims of reaching over 300 million people with current 5G coverage. However, AT&T and Verizon are still primarily leveraging the 4G core with 5G and 4G radio access networks (RAN). T-Mobile has more widely deployed 5G SA core network. In 2022, there will be more of a focus on building out the 5G core network in the cloud to enable 5G features such as network slicing and Mobile Edge Compute (MEC).
- Optimizing operations for full visibility into the network to improve customer experience and business services
- Another major 5G feature is automation. Automation in deploying and optimizing the 5G network. 5G introduced much higher frequency bands which requires 5 to 10x more small cells for the same coverage as lower band spectrum. Automation is key to managing deployment and maintenance expenses.
- Data integration and analytics across the network segments such as device data, core data, RAN data, customer interaction data will be critical to detect, predict and prevent network degradation or outages.
- Expansion into B2B services to enable digital transformation in multiple industry verticals such as manufacturing, supply chain, retail, healthcare and more. Advancements in MEC architecture and private networks
- In a highly competitive market with over 100% mobile subscription. B2B service offers will be an important segment for growing 5G revenue. In addition, B2B customers across several verticals have intense pressure to innovate and automate their processes to remain competitive.
- The pandemic highlighted issues in the supply chain across many industries as well as contributed to existing issues. The supply chain backlog emphasized the need for more visibility into the supply chain to predict and prevent bottlenecks and may have stimulated the need to rethink the just in time model.
- Expansion of Fixed Wireless Access availability and customer uptake
- Verizon led the way in its Fixed Wireless offers with aggressive plans to reach over 50 million homes passed by 2025, current reach is 11.6 million homes passed with C-band and millimeter wave. 5G Home is in 57 markets and LTE Home is in 200 markets. 5g Home also signifies the move towards zero touch installations.
- Deployment of the $65 Billion Broadband Fund
- Many states and communities will receive broadband funding either through the NTIA programs or FCC initiatives to expand Internet access to underserved communities. In 2022, many programs to extend coverage will be underway. They will be supported by the incumbent carriers and their partners as well as potential new market entrants.
- Increase use of Metaverse technologies in advertising and entertainment
- Increase use of AR/VR in businesses such as manufacturing, healthcare and more.
Key Focus Areas and Advice for Telecom Decision Makers
- Ensure a strong data strategy is in place to better enable real-time decisioning and exceptional customer experience
- Enhance service provisioning architecture
- Improve in building coverage
- Increase Upstream/Downstream network capacity
- Extending rural and underserved coverage
- Improving network security and protect customer’s data from breaches