APAC cellcos need holistic wireless and wireline strategy for 5G: report

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Just over a quarter of Asia-Pacific mobile operators will have launched some level of commercial 5G by 2020, but they’re going to need a more integrated wireless/wireline strategy to really make it work.

So says a new research report released by Analysys Mason and commissioned by optical networking firm Ciena, that focuses on the impact of 5G on fixed-line networks in Asia-Pacific.

Among other things, the study found that 5G migration will be unlike anything APAC MNOs have experienced in the past in part because of the critical role of wireline. Strategic investment in wireline infrastructure is crucial for operators in APAC to achieve success in supporting future 5G services.

However, currently less than 25% of APAC MNOs surveyed have a fully integrated wireless/wireline strategy, with the majority planning both sides concurrently, yet independently. That’s wrong, the report says, arguing that APAC MNOs must develop a converged holistic wireline strategy, even if plans to integrate 5G radios are still some ways off.

“Our analysis suggests that mobile network operators in APAC must consider an integrated wireless and wireline strategy, as they prepare their networks for upcoming 5G services,” said Stephen Wilson, Principal Analyst for Analysys Mason. “Central to their strategy is integrating fiber and radio across their network architecture – a crucial element for MNOs to stay ahead of competition, transform their cost base, and provide a richer experience for their users.”

According to the survey – which covered 54 MNOs in APAC, with respondents being CTOs or executives with high-level responsibility for network planning and deployment – the top drivers in APAC to deploy 5G by 2023 are lower TCO, greater efficiency and flexibility in harnessing resources including spectrum, fiber and radio network, and support for new revenues.

Unsurprisingly, the survey also found that developed APAC markets are moving faster on 5G than emerging markets. Over 70% of MNOs in developed APAC markets are already engaged in some 5G planning to launch 5G services prior to 2024, but only one quarter of those in emerging APAC regions have started.

Other findings:

  • Surveyed MNOs cite diverse reasons for implementing 5G at an early stage (2018 to 2023) including: enhancing networks to support a high-profile event such as the Tokyo Summer Olympics, improving cost efficiency and uncovering new revenue streams.
  • Delivering new video services through enhanced broadband was cited as the most important use case in APAC. However, operators in Japan are focusing on new user experiences driven by virtual reality. Additionally, connected vehicles and the industrial Internet of Things are key drivers in Japan and Korea, while connected healthcare is the most important driver for India, Australia, and Vietnam.
  • Operators must prioritize improving the efficiency and flexibility of existing and future resources, using three new and intertwined approaches – NFV, SDN, and network slicing. These technologies will help converge wireline and wireless networks and tap into both pools of capacity in an on-demand basis, share resources as flexibly as possible, and help create new revenue streams.

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