With the exception of China, indecisiveness on the move to standalone 5G is slowing mobile core network market growth
In a research report published today, the Dell’Oro Group found that operators are hesitant about the move from non-standalone 5G to standalone 5G which is impacting growth in the mobile core network market. Non-standalone 5G networks rely on the LTE Evolved Packet Core whereas standalone 5G is marked by a new cloud-native core network.
The exception here is Chinese operators, according to Dell’Oro Group, which found that the Asia Pacific region made up 70% of operator spend on 5G core equipment. Overall, the research firm found that core network spending grew 6% year-on-year, a decline following a year of double-digit growth in the segment.
“We attribute the slowdown to the slow uptake of 5G standalone…networks. CSPs need to make decisions about which direction to take for 5G SA deployments. CSPs have several options to mull over, with new choices that were not available during the switch from 3G to 4G,” Dell’Oro Group Research Director David Bolan said in a statement.
A big decision, Bolan said, is “the selection of network function virtualization infrastructure…NFVI can be procured form a 5G core vendor, a third-party, the public cloud, or another platform like the Rakuten Communications Platform.”
Dell’Oro Group identified the top mobile core network vendors as Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE and Mavenir. Additionally, the research found that 4G core spend is “in continual decline, but still represented 70% of the mix between 4G and 5G.”
Standalone 5G trial activity
While uptake may be slow according to an analysis of global operator spend, there is plenty of relevant trial activity and planned deployments. Nokia, for instance, recently signed a single-vendor deal with A1 Telekom Group to deploy standalone 5G in Serbia and Slovenia.
Elsewhere in Europe, Vodafone Spain has selected Ericsson for pre-commercial standalone 5G support, including cloud-native 5G core and future network applications. In France, Orange is evaluating standalone 5G in tandem with related tech, including artificial intelligence and Open RAN. The long goal is “zero touch” operations and network slicing capabilities.
Indeed, the big feature enabled by cloud-native 5G is network slicing–the ability to provide a virtual partition of a network tuned to the particular use cases of an enterprise customer. For more on what network slicing means for enterprise 5G adoption, read this article.