Telco Cloud Deployment Tracker: Open RAN deep dive

Telco Cloud: Open RAN is a work in progress

This report accompanies the latest release and quarterly update of STL Partners ‘Telco Cloud Deployment Tracker’ database. This contains data on deployments of VNFs (Virtual Network Functions), CNFs (cloud-native network functions) and SDN (Software Defined Networking) in the networks of the leading telcos worldwide. In this update we have added some additional categories to the database to reflect the different types of virtualised / open RAN:

  1. Open RAN / O-RAN: Fully open, disaggregated, virtualised / cloud-native, with CU / DU split
  2. vRAN: Virtualised CU/DU, with open interfaces but implemented as an integrated, single-vendor platform
  3. Cloud RAN: Single-vendor, virtualised / centralised BU, or CU only, with proprietary / closed interfaces

Cloud RAN is the most limited form of virtualised RAN: It is based on porting part or all of the functionality of the legacy, appliance-based BU into a Virtual Machine. vRAN and open RAN are much more significant, in both technology and business-model terms, breaking open all parts of the RAN to more competition and opportunities for innovation.

Accordingly, the report presents data on only open RAN and vRAN deployments however a granular analysis of each category of RAN deployment can be carried out using the Telco Cloud Tracker tool.

Access our online Telco Cloud Deployment Tracker tool here

Download the additional file for the full dataset of Telco Cloud deployments

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Open RAN and vRAN deployments, 2018 – 2022

Open-RAN-Deployments-Apr-2021-STL-Partners

Source: STL Partners

Open RAN and vRAN

Both Open RAN and vRAN are virtualised (with the exception of NTT DoCoMo as outlined in the report), but ‘open RAN’ implies full disaggregation of the different parts of the RAN (hardware, software and radio), and open interfaces between them. By contrast, vRAN incorporates the open interfaces but is generally deployed as a pre-integrated, single-vendor solution: hardware, software and radio supplied by the same vendor.

To date, there have been significantly more open RAN than vRAN deployments. But vRAN is emerging as a potentially competitive alternative to pure open RAN: offering the same operational benefits and – in theory – multi-vendor openness, but without the overhead of integrating components from multiple vendors, and a ‘single neck to choke’ if things go wrong. Deployments in 2020 were mostly small-scale and / or 4G, including trials which continued to carry live traffic after the trial period came to an end.

The stark contrast between 2021 and 2022 reflects a slight hiatus in commercial deployments as work intensified around integration and operational models, trials, performance optimisation, and cost economics. However, major deployments are expected in 2022, including greenfield networks 1&1 Drillisch (Germany) and DISH (US), Verizon, Vodafone UK, and MTN (Africa and ME).

Scope and content of the Tracker

The data in the latest update of our interactive tool and database covers the period up to March 2022, although reference is made in the report to events and deployments after that date. The data is drawn predominantly from public-domain information contained in news releases from operators and vendors, along with reputable industry media.

We apply the term ‘deployment’ to refer to the total set of VNFs, CNFs or SDN technology, and their associated management software and infrastructure, deployed at an operator – or at one or more of an operator’s opcos or natcos – in order to achieve a defined objective or support particular services (in the spreadsheet, we designate these as the ‘primary purpose’ of the deployment). For example, this could be:

  • to deploy a 5G standalone core
  • to launch a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) service
  • or to construct a ‘telco cloud’ or NFV infrastructure (NFVi): a cloud infrastructure platform on which virtualised network services can be introduced and operated.

The Tracker is provided as an interactive tool containing line-by-line analysis of over 900 individual deployments of VNFs, CNFs or SDN technology, which can be used to drill down by:

  • Region where deployed
  • Operator
  • Technology vendor
  • Primary purpose
  • Type of telco cloud function deployed
  • …and more filters

Telco Cloud Trial Deployment Tracker

Take a look at the trial of our interactive tool with live, commercial deployments of VNFs, CNFs and SDN technologies worldwide

Previous telco cloud tracker releases

Each new release of the tracker is global, but is accompanied by an analytical report which focusses on trends in given regions from time to time:

 

Enter your details below to request an extract of the report

Telco Cloud Deployment Tracker: 5G standalone and RAN

Telco cloud 2.0, fuelled by 5G standalone and RAN, is on the starting grid

This report accompanies the latest release and update of STL Partners ‘Telco Cloud Deployment Tracker’ database. This contains data on deployments of VNFs (Virtual Network Functions), CNFs (cloud-native network functions) and SDN (Software Defined Networking) in the networks of the leading telcos worldwide. It builds on an extensive body of analysis by STL Partners over the past nine years on NFV and SDN strategies, technology and market developments.

Access our Telco Cloud Tracker here

Download the additional file for the full dataset of Telco Cloud deployments

Scope and content of the Tracker

The data in the latest update of our interactive tool and database covers the period up to September 2021, although reference is made in the report to events and deployments after that date. The data is drawn predominantly from public-domain information contained in news releases from operators and vendors, along with reputable industry media.

We apply the term ‘deployment’ to refer to the total set of VNFs, CNFs or SDN technology, and their associated management software and infrastructure, deployed at an operator – or at one or more of an operator’s opcos or natcos – in order to achieve a defined objective or support particular services (in the spreadsheet, we designate these as the ‘primary purpose’ of the deployment). For example, this could be:

  • to deploy a 5G standalone core
  • to launch a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) service
  • or to construct a ‘telco cloud’ or NFV infrastructure (NFVi): a cloud infrastructure platform on which virtualised network services can be introduced and operated.

The Tracker is provided as an interactive tool containing line-by-line analysis of over 900 individual deployments of VNFs, CNFs or SDN technology, which can be used to drill down by:

  • Region where deployed
  • Operator
  • Technology vendor
  • Primary purpose
  • Category of NFV/SDN technology deployed
  • …and more filters

Enter your details below to request an extract of the report

5G standalone (SA) will hit an inflection point in 2022

5G standalone (SA) core is beginning to take off, with 19 deployments so far expected to be completed in 2022. The eventual total will be higher still, as will that of NSA core, as NSA 5G networks continue to be launched. As non-standalone (NSA) cores are replaced by SA, this will result in another massive wave of core deployments – probably from 2023/4 onwards.

Standalone 5G vs non-standalone 5G core deployments

STL-5G-standalone-core-cloud-tracker-2021

Source: STL Partners

 

Previous telco cloud tracker releases

Each new release of the tracker is global, but is accompanied by an analytical report which focusses on trends in given regions from time to time:

Enter your details below to request an extract of the report

Delivering on SD-WAN: How to choose the right partners

SD-WAN has been made in North America…

65% of the North American operators featured in our Telco Cloud Tracker had deployed SD-WAN by the end of 2020

By contrast, 49% Asia-Pacific-based telcos had launched SD-WAN in their region by the same time and 44% European telcos were offering SD-WAN within Europe

As this market matures operators that are new to the market, or seeking to expand their services internationally, should choose an SD-WAN platform that will enable them to differentiate in their local markets or play to the telcos strengths.

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Challenges for telcos considering introducing SD-WAN

  1. Lack of relevant skills or experience: telcos worry about risks of ‘outsourcing’ a significant part of their WAN services, operations and infrastructure to SD-WAN vendor; and about integration with BSS / OSS etc.
    • Leading SD-WAN vendors collaborate closely with telcos to facilitate integration of their platforms with telcos’ networks and services
    • SD-WAN platforms provide management interfaces that are easy for non-technical staff to operate, and offer visibility into application workflows and network KPIs
  2. How to differentiate SD-WAN service: how to offer USPs for the local market and differentiate from competitors
    • Ensure you choose an SD-WAN platform that suits the key needs of your customer base (see competitive analysis in next section)
    • Differentiation can also be achieved through the services telcos and vendors offer around SD-WAN products, e.g. good local market and language support
  3. Absence of appropriate infrastructure, facilities and networks: e.g. lack of fixed broadband networks; insufficient SD-WAN platform support for LTE / 5G
    • Many SD-WAN platforms offer LTE and 5G connectivity mainly as a back-up to IP-MPLS and fixed broadband. But many telcos, especially in emerging markets, serve enterprise sites through FWA. How well do platforms support this?
    • Many SD-WAN platforms rely on redundant connectivity to cloud-based hubs: are these always available for telcos serving remote areas?
  4. Risk of cannibalising enterprise revenues and compromising ROI from existing products and assets: e.g. IP-MPLS; IP-VPN; dedicated Internet; etc.
    • Telcos can offer different classes of SD-WAN at different price points, inc. overlay-only services to clients that want them
    • SD-WAN now seen as a value-add to IP-MPLS, for which a premium can be charged: can be integrated with telcos’ managed services offerings

How to assess the different SD-WAN platforms?

How to assess SD-WAN paltforms

Source: STL Partners

The rest of this report includes a competitive analysis of key SD-WAN platform players and how they can enable telcos’ to meet enterprise customer needs and future proof their SD-WAN investments.

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • What are the challenges to introducing SD-WAN
  • Assessing different SD-WAN platforms
    • Cisco
    • VMWare
    • Fortinet
    • Versa Networks
    • Palo Alto
    • Silver Peak
    • Juniper
    • Aryaka
  • A framework for selecting and implementing SD-WAN platforms

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