Telcos invest in SD-WAN, 5G and IoT to chase enterprise dollars

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Carriers are aggressively investing in software-mediated network solutions, 5G and IoT over the next five years to remain competitive as enterprises realize the benefits offered by these technologies, according to Technology Business Research’s latest Enterprise Operator Benchmark.

Strategic data yielded the highest growth rate of benchmarked enterprise service segments in 1Q17, rising 6.6% year-to-year, spurred by demand for VPN, Ethernet and software-mediated network services such as SD-WAN, said TBR Analyst Steve Vachon.

“The main justification for investment in NFV and SDN by operators is the incremental revenue-generation opportunities and cost savings these technologies provide,” said Vachon. “Offering software-mediated network services is becoming a necessity for enterprise operators to maintain market share, as most benchmarked companies have either commercially launched or announced plans to offer SD-WAN services.”

IT services remained the largest enterprise segment in 1Q17 with combined revenue among benchmarked companies rising 4.7% year-to-year to $12.5 billion due to growth in IoT, cloud and security. Pricing pressures, particularly in the US, have caused some carriers to move entirely from the IaaS market, such as Verizon divesting its remaining cloud business to IBM. Carriers including BT, CenturyLink and AT&T are becoming more willing to play a supportive role to pure plays such as Amazon Web Services, concentrating on augmenting broader hybrid IT environments by providing network connectivity, security and orchestration platforms instead of serving as the IaaS provider.

Carriers are aggressively investing in SD-WAN, 5G and IoT over the next five years to remain competitive in the enterprise space

The benchmark report also examines key investment areas operators are targeting to enhance their enterprise portfolios including 5G, data centers and the deployment of IoT network technologies including LTE-M, NB-IoT and LoRa.

Most carriers have begun pre-standard 5G testing, and commercialized fixed wireless is expected to become available in 2018. Carriers are aggressively competing to gain high-band spectrum to support 5G, exemplified by Verizon nearly doubling AT&T’s initial bid to acquire Straight Path Communications. Early 5G use cases will focus on enhancing delivery for existing services such as internet and cloud while in the long term supporting emerging technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality, and autonomous driving.

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