Telco Cloud Deployment Tracker Q3 2023: When will the pace pick up?

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The industry is still on track to deliver 5G Standalone and various types of virtualised RAN - but progress is a lot slower than originally expected. In this update of the Telco Cloud Deployment Tracker, we look beneath the hood of the numbers to assess what if anything will accelerate growth in 2024.

Many expected 5G SA and RAN deployments remain outstanding

The volume of effective or upcoming telco cloud deployments for 2023 is almost on a par with that of 2022 (100 in total). However, 40 of these deployments had not been completed by the end of September, including 14 SA or converged NSA/SA 5G cores, and seven previously expected cloud RAN, vRAN or open RAN roll-outs.

Effective in 3Q 2023 were the launches of:

  • Four 5G NSA-based networks by Airtel subsidiaries in Africa
  • A multi-vendor, O-RAN Alliance-compliant 5G vRAN platform in NTT DoCoMo’s network
  • An Ericsson cloud RAN platform by Telstra.

Notable deployments announced in 3Q 2023 and expected to take place in the rest of 2023 or in 2024 include:

  • An Ericsson converged NSA/SA 5G core at Spark New Zealand
  • A full-stack Nokia 5G SA core at Ooredoo in Qatar, including Nokia CloudBand VNF Manager and AirFrame servers.

Europe has generated most deployments in 2023 (36 in total), but 12 of these remained pending at end-September. Of these, ten were 5G SA or converged NSA/SA cores.

Only five of the 23 APAC deployments remained pending at September, meaning that fewer 5G SA announcements have not been fulfilled. APAC is also the region where most 5G SA or dual-mode deployments have been completed: 23 in total.

Total telco cloud deployments by region, 2016-2024

Source: STL Partners


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5G NSA continues to drive telco cloud deployments in Africa

Of the 24 5G NSA core deployments completed or pending globally in 2023, ten have been in Africa. The NSA core has driven a surge in virtualisation in the continent since 2020, with the blip in 2021 likely due to Covid-19. This directly correlates, of course, to a wave of 5G service launches in Africa throughout the year. In Q3 2023:

  • Airtel launched 5G at its subsidiaries in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia
  • MTN also launched 5G in Uganda.

Most of the region’s deployments in general have related to the mobile core, with several vEPC launches preceding the present wave of 5G NSA. Exceptions have been:

  • Three SD-WAN deployments: two at MTN subsidiaries in Kenya and South Africa (in 2018 and 2019 respectively); and one at Vodacom South Africa in 2018
  • And an open RAN deployment by Parallel Wireless at Orange Central African Republic, which we believe went live commercially in 2022.

African deployments for the top 10 types of telco cloud functions,2016-2024

Source: STL Partners

Table of contents

  • Summary of telco cloud activity in Q3 2023
  • Executive summary
  • Regional overview
  • Operator view
  • Vendor view

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