Mobile operators holding back on edge adoption
More than 50% of mobile operators have no strategy for edge deployment, while 32% are planning to proceed with “limited, specific use cases”, such as smart factories and smart cities.
The findings, published in the Enea report "Worldwide mobile operator survey - 5G Data Management", found that while 85% of operators are planning edge deployments “at some point”, others are holding off until the business case “becomes more viable".
However, 37% of the same cohort of operators plan to deploy 5G standalone (SA) within the next two years. Specifically, 27% will deploy 5G SA within 12 to 18 months with a further 10% allowing a 24-month time frame.
“Operators are beginning to firm up plans for how they will implement flexible, multi-vendor service architectures that enable them to deploy and monetise their 5G networks and differentiate their services," said Sue Rudd, director, networks and service platforms, Strategy Analytics.
“The survey indicates that several operators have figured out how to deploy SA in the next couple of years. This could be as ‘islands’ of 5G radio access with a 5G SA core for special services, starting late 2021,” she added.
When questioned on the network data layer, more than 50% of operators said they plan to move to a common network data layer across their network functions as they roll out 5G. Only 2% choose to keep vendor-specific data storage, which Enea said indicates "that the time has come to make architectural choices".
The top three factors for choosing a network data layer are: gaining a unified view of customer data, the ability to deploy in slices or at the edge, and the ability to monetise subscriber data.
“We've now entered a phase where operators plan to deploy a 5G SA core as the next step after introducing 5G radio access running on existing 4G core,” said Jan Häglund, president and CEO at Enea. “It is interesting to see that most operators have identified the benefits of a common 5G data management layer that serves as the back end for all their network applications.”
With the maturity of 3GPP standards, such as the Release 16 freeze this month, Enea’s report deducted that operators “now see a clear path to 5G SA infrastructure”.
“The overall timeline is supported by a total of 49% of operators who plan to deploy 5G SA within the next four years,” the report stated.
Globally, 41 mobile operators were questioned for the study, which assessed 5G architecture, edge deployment, and a network data layer.