The pandemic has highlighted the importance of home-based internet services in Australia, with data traffic reaching an all-time high of 9.58 million terabytes downloaded in the three months to June 2021. While demand for broadband connectivity is increasing, Australia's service providers are still faced with the challenge of preparing for 5G and introducing alternative services to generate future revenue growth.
So, with 2021 now in the rear-view mirror, we take a look at some of the trends we expect to see among service providers in Australia over the next 12 months.
1) ORAN will continue its march forward
The industry has seen major strides with Open RAN this past year, and more than anything, it’s becoming an ecosystem play and the vendors who master that will lead the narrative. Next year, many new ecosystems will emerge, and the existing ones will be expanded to include more vendors. To hedge their bets, many of the same vendors will show up in multiple ecosystems. We will see operators start defining their ORAN strategies and invest in more ORAN initiatives with the help of key vendor ecosystems.
Additionally, ORAN will move from lab trials to the field and early use cases will gather momentum with tier-1 operators, with many vendors announcing their approaches to ORAN and RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC). We can also expect service management and orchestration to become a key area of focus both by the vendors and the network operators, but not until the end of the next year.
2) Private 5G will unlock new innovations
The global private 5G market has been rapidly rising, and is set to reach $20 billion by 2028. With its low latency and enhanced security, private 5G will give enterprises the platform they need to implement breakthrough applications that require near-real time responses and actions, as well as faster data processing for AI/ML. The adoption of private 5G is set to transform sectors like health care, gaming, manufacturing and emergency services, with production deployments becoming more common over the next 18-24 months.
Next year, we will see enterprise organisations begin the process to take advantage of these opportunities and in doing so, look to service providers to help them make significant progress toward rolling out next-generation applications and achieving breakout business value.
3) Demand for adoption of 400G will skyrocket
The market for 400G is exponentially increasing as the world transforms digitally. Although there is no Moore’s law equivalent for the pace at which network traffic grows, a similar dynamic is in effect. Every new application and advancement depends on moving more and more data for it to succeed. Think 4K/8K and remote work or IoT and artificial intelligence and machine learning. Next up: the metaverse and virtual worlds.
As traffic levels continue to grow, we will see network operators accelerate the adoption of 400G to future-proof networks for what lies ahead. What’s more, future looking network operators will get ready for the next big increase in demand by choosing platforms capable of supporting a seamless transition to 800G when needed.
4) Metro networks will begin their much-needed transformation
Metro networks will play a more critical role in new profitable and innovative services delivery, as the place in the network where connectivity, hosting and service experience converge. The metro is the future of services and will need to be reimagined in the coming year. As a result, we will see network operators move away from traditional siloed metro architectures built from the transport up to a refreshed design focused on service delivery, coupling IP connectivity with hosted elements and content, along with security and automation.
Emerging 5G and edge services present a once-in-a-generation opportunity for service providers. Using concepts like network slicing, dynamic edge compute and automation, they will start to roll out exciting new enterprise and consumer applications on converged metro fabrics that simply weren’t possible before.
5) Broadband market transformation will pick up steam
There is a new service provider buying cycle in broadband network infrastructure buildouts driven by a variety of factors: evolving architectures, growth in work from home, increasing bandwidth and low latency demands, and new government infrastructure incentives. The performance ramifications of emerging service offerings to support 5G, IoT and UHD Video, among others, are pressuring network operators to seek new economies of scale to financially right size while they seek to boost capacity without increased costs. Consequently, the market will start to transition from centralised/traditional architectures to exploit distributed, horizontally and vertically disaggregated, and converged wireline and wireless broadband solutions.