‘No single path’ to 5G revenues, Spirent report concludes

‘5G is the network generation where service provider paths diverge,’ according to Spirent’s 5G outlook

5G is in full swing, but the path to monetizing the newest generation of wireless network technology is likely to look very different across service providers, according to a new report from Spirent Communications. 5G revenues have thus far been relatively hard to come by, the report notes, but Fixed Wireless Access is a bright spot and the company is keeping an eye on how video-rich experiences from gaming to live broadcast and remote monitoring, as well as private networks, will develop into new revenue-sources—if operators and their vendor and testing partners can nail down consistency in 5G services, which will probably come with end-to-end (Standalone) 5G.

The report is based on Spirent’s observations of trends across its 2,600 5G-related engagements with customers to date; the company said that it had more than 800 new 5G-related engagements during 2022 to help inform the report. Those customers are mostly CSPs, but also network equipment and device manufacturers as well as hyperscalers and others.

One of the prevailing themes that the company is observing, it said, is that “there is no single path to revenue that most service providers will follow. Instead, providers will pursue a variety of new 5G service offers aimed at incremental growth combined with targeted efficiency programs.”

Service providers are grappling with a number of technological challenges in 5G, the report adds, and are seeking more holistic, continuous and automated testing approaches as a result.

“Nearly half of our 2022 5G projects with service providers focused on cloud and core network challenges, especially the need to integrate expanding supplier bases,” wrote Spirent’s Manuel Zapeda, EVP of global sales and services, in the report. “Around 40% of our work was based on assuring the network performance and service experience. This means making sure networks perform as expected and also deliver a competitive experience. One constant extends across all of our 5G projects — a keen and growing interest in automation for enhanced agility and cost efficiency.”

Among the key takeaways:

-Fixed Wireless Access is one of the primary new 5G revenue sources, and its performance has ramped up rapidly, according to Spirent’s observations. The company said that FWA range and competitive speeds doubled in 12 months, with throughputs reaching upwards of 900Mbps on millimeter-wave spectrum, as well as ranges greater than two kilometers.

-37 service providers have worked with Spirent on the process of testing and validating 5G core networks—hinting that more momentum is on the way for 5G Standalone deployments.

-5G Voice over New Radio (VoNR) is proving to have better quality (as measured by MOS score) then VoLTE and is “getting ready for prime time,” according to the report.

-A private networks market is “slow going,” but materializing, Spirent says, with more than 500 private mobile networks deployed between 2021 and 2022, encompassing both LTE and 5G.

-Low Earth Orbit satellite-based services are focusing on direct-to-device capabilities (such as the emergency texting service offered by Starlink and T-Mobile US). The Americas region is leading in this exploration of non-terrestrial connectivity, the report said.

-Power efficiency in service provider testing operations is getting real attention and effort, as part of a renewed focus on cost-cutting in inflationary times, and larger company strategic ESG initiatives. Spirent said that one of its customers was able to achieve a reduction in 40% usage by automating its lab utilization and power management.

For more details on regional breakdowns of 5G trends and additional observations, check out Spirent’s report.

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