• Raghu

5G Round-up - Winners and Losers

Edging towards the first full-fledged commercial 5G deployment, this seems like a good time to look at the last 3 years of 5G hype. Let's start with some prophecies and ideas that Catenna has been advocating and how the market has evolved.

First Global Telecom Operator - Catenna firmly believed that 5G will pave the way for the first global telecom operator. The most obvious trigger to prove this possibility would be an early acquisition. To our surprise, neither Amazon nor Google has made any substantial moves. Contrary to the belief, Amazon actually has shifted focus to becoming a more acceptable telecom infra provider than a service provider. The surprise winner has been Microsoft with the acquisition of Affirmed Networks. While Microsoft seems rooted in private 5G, Microsoft's offering is unique with Enterprise Apps, Network, and Cloud Infra as one consolidated solution. The only other company out there of similar scale remains to be Mavenir.

Autonomous Networks - Catenna was one of the first commentators and advocates of networks going on auto-pilot. Even GSMA seems to have come around to address AI in telecom. Many front runners but most noticeable in this arena has been Ericsson. The Swedish firm has demonstrated utmost clarity in defining final outcome of deploying AI in telecom and the roadmap to achieve it.

Cloud-Native Architecture - Defacto, industry-accepted norm. If your firm doesn't have a path to cloud-infra already, it may be time to skip the 5G cycle.

Policy and Charging - The space is evolving but it seems even Catenna missed making a useful prediction in this space. While Policy infra is well defined by 3GPP, policy decisions in the network itself will not be part of PCF. Catenna believes NWDAF will emerge as the NF that will finally drive policy decision-making for the entire 5G network and PCF should be seen as an executioner of those decisions. More on this in follow-up blogs.

To conclude, the biggest winner in 5G today is undoubtedly Microsoft. With a well-executed strategy and clear monetization business case, the only way for Microsoft to fail from here would be Affirmed integration into Microsoft's work culture. Defying the promise of 5G, sadly most Telecom vendors have ended up with the status quo and focused entirely on translating 4G portfolio evolution to 5G. No special mentions here. Finally, the biggest losers have been the Telecom Operators - across the length and breadth of the globe, not one new 5G use case with compelling monetization opportunity has evolved. The promise of network slicing remains bleak, cloud-infra latency challenges remain unresolved and the time is a ticking timebomb for early movers.

If you are wondering why time is of the essence for 5G, watch this space.

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