The telecoms industry has faced its fair share of challenges in 2021, not least the ongoing disruption caused by Covid-19, where operators have played a vital role in connecting us for work and play.
Despite challenging conditions, 2021 has seen significant successes. 5G deployments have continued to accelerate with rollouts in over 58 countries and a predicted 619 million 5G connections by the end of 2021. Ongoing advancements in AI, big data, and the Internet of Things are redefining service models and opening new revenue streams. Accelerating deployments of fibre networks is delivering a future-proof digital infrastructure that supports transformation and growth across economies.
2022 will be no different, as telcos continue to evolve their business and operational models to capitalise on enormous investments in next-generation broadband infrastructure. We recently spoke with leading telecoms analysts, including Amy Cameron, Principal Analyst at STL Partners and Phil Kendall, Director, Service Provider Group at Strategy Analytics, and pored over reports from the likes of Omdia and ABI Research, to get some insights into what we can expect to see in 2022.
5G, 5G, and more 5G
It won’t surprise anyone that every analyst we spoke to predicted big things in 5G in 2022. 5G connections will pass one billion in Q2 of 2022, with consumer smartphones dominating. The bulk of 5G revenues generation will come from eMBB services, with enterprise solutions having solid momentum too.
We can also expect to see significant growth in 5G standalone networks and services. The development of standalone networks will support the development of services like network slicing, edge, and private networks, bringing new opportunities for telcos in horizontal and vertical markets.
OpenRAN and vRAN
The virtualisation of RAN networks will continue to be a huge topic for the industry in 2022, though momentum and deployments will remain slow.
Greenfield deployments by the likes of Rakuten, DISH and 1&1 have been successful and continue to grow. Still, brownfield deployments are much more complex so expect to see operators continue to prioritise small scale projects for indoor or rural and remote coverage with some commercial deployments beginning.
The emergence of cloud-native networks will also see more Tier 2 Internet platforms venture into connectivity, like Rakuten has done, as barriers to entry disappear.
We will also see significant innovation in the RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) space in 2022 with widespread development of near-real-time xApps and non-real-time rApps for RAN operations, management, and service creation.
The rise and rise of FTTP
There will be an explosion in FTTP deployments in 2022, especially in the UK, US, Germany, Italy and Poland, where there is substantial regulatory pressure to modernise digital infrastructure and plenty of government funding available. Expect also to see healthy fibre investment in Australia and CALA.
There will also be significant interest in 5G FWA for consumer home broadband services, and the technology will play a role in delivering on broadband coverage goals, particularly in rural areas. Still, fibre will dominate the industry in 2022.
Sustainability initiatives on the up
We will see more and more sustainability initiatives from telecom operators in 2022, such as Proximus’ recent partnership with Doconomy, which aims to inspire their customers into climate action.
Net-zero is an unrealistic goal for telcos in the next year but is a crucial objective for many in the next decade. In 2022, operators will increasingly promote their medium-term sustainability goals to consumers and position themselves as offering digital transformation solutions to support enterprise customer goals.
2022 looks set to be an exciting year for the telecoms industry as technologies such as 5G, and the services it enables, continue to mature. As standalone 5G networks start to launch, supported by cloud-native operational models, telecom operators have more and more opportunities to realise RoI on the considerable investments they have made in 5G and fibre infrastructure.