Mobile operators are now wondering how they can survive and exist in a 5G world without deploying disaggregated systems, according to the results of a new survey conducted by Analysys Mason.
The company surveyed 60 mobile operators and, among the many conclusions, found that the vast majority, 85%, deem the use of disaggregated, multi-vendor, best-of-breed network systems to be both essential and important in the success of their next generation, end-to-end networks.
It is worth mentioning that this research was commissioned by Telecom Infra Project (TIP). The industry body intends to develop the market for disaggregated networking systems, so that the TIP team will be overjoyed at the results.
For those who are able to remember 2019, and who were working the industry event circuit between September and December, tier 1 operators like that of Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Vodafone started to enhance and support the TIP community; meaning that the 85% figure doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
It is hard to think that any next-generation communications network (supporting 5G and all manner of fixed line services) would not include elements of a disaggregated network. The percentages will of course vary, but it will be difficult to find a 5G network in 2028, for example, that is not a mixture of conventional telecoms systems and disaggregated elements.
The choice of that year may seem conservative, but that is because there is an incredible amount of work to be done on disaggregated system elements within the next few years, specifically in the radio access network, to make them for large scale urban deployments: That is the consensus view from a majority of independent industry experts within the last year. Right now, there are early network deployments using open RAN systems, however, they are very specific and progress is being made but there is work to be done on scalability and reliability.
It seems that operators are quite set on the timeframes: The survey found that a third of Tier-1 mobile operators and more than half of Tier-2 operators expect to have disaggregated open RAN systems deployed in their commercial networks by the end of 2023.
There is also much positive feedback from mobile operators about cloud native functionality.
The survey also showed that 65% of mobile operator respondents thought that cloud-native architecture was essential or important to making their next-generation end-to-end networks both commercially and technically successful: Considering that the specifications for standalone 5G core systems are based on cloud native functionality, it is hard to see how it can be avoided by mobile operators in their next-gen networks in the medium term.
There are very few 5G standalone core systems currently deployed, so this again is something that’s in the pipeline, rather than widespread right now. But it is going to happen – the 5G ‘dream’ cannot be fulfilled without a 5G standalone core system. The disaggregated networking genie is out of the bottle and it’s not going back in.