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Reflections Going Into 2022

December 22, 2021 - Julia Hogarty

As we come to the close of 2021 and 2022 starts to come into view, we can rest assured that the industry is not slowing down any time soon.

2021 has proven to be a year of continued change yet showed the industry to be stabilising and on a growth trajectory once again. The acute need to meet the connectivity demands accentuated by the pandemic has created a new lease of momentum for new technology investments. A renewed focus on moving the customer relationship onto a digital forum necessitated by the, in some cases temporary, closure of many retail channels meant that enabling digital engagement became a priority once again. 5G rollouts were in their infancy as the pandemic hit and many investment roadmaps were understandably halted until the lay of the land became clearer.

However, market leaders quite rightly realised that rather than the pandemic representing a need to change course, it stood as a moment to double down on large scale infrastructural change. With greater dependency than ever on networks around the globe, operators needed to ensure their networks were resilient enough to meet mounting service demands and unprecedented traffic loads while also facilitating new applications and remote access business requirements. This meant evolving the network to the cloud and deploying 5G was no longer a nice to have ‘we’ll get to it’ but instead a necessity to securing a competitive presence in a hyper-charged market.

As shown in the 2021 Telecoms.com Annual Industry Survey Report, most network operators have already deployed a non-standalone 5G capability if not full standalone 5G in more mature markets. While the consumer case for 5G remains a hotly contested debate, many are looking to the enablement of 3rd Party partnerships as a key commercial strategy going forward and 5G SA as a critical enabler. 20% of respondents cited the need to lay the groundwork for B2B and new commercial models to work with 3rd Party enterprises as one of the biggest drivers for transforming the network to 5G. The conversation for many has moved on to where to direct their next phase of investment and which network functions are going to unlock the quickest route to value from the 5G market. Monetising partnerships more effectively through network exposure and embedding 5G network analytics to drive automation are the top focus areas – enabled by NEF and NWDAF respectively.

Beyond the functions, one of the biggest accelerating forces in the industry now is the move to cloud. While ‘cloud ready’ was a term thrown around for several years, the rearchitecting of systems and solutions in the BSS and OSS space has been ongoing for the last couple of years. However, the cloudification of the network itself is something that is now asserting at pace. Transitioning to a cloud native strategy and enabling a telco cloud environment comes with its own challenges. Top of that list are concerns around security when considering a move to public cloud. This is understandable and it will take us well into 2022 before these concerns are waylaid, if they ever are.

As we come to the close of 2021 and 2022 starts to come into view, we can rest assured that the industry is not slowing down any time soon. We’re in a moment of massive transformation which is set to redefine how networks operate and are interacted with. The next few years are going to prove incredibly exciting as far as what experiences are made possible by 5G and we are set to see a complete reimagining of how the network is commercialised. Buckle in.

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