August 2021 in telecoms: what can’t you miss?

CURATED: GSMA Intelligence takes on Standalone networks and consumer gaming developments

As expected, MWC Barcelona saw an array of announcements on the leading innovations, developments, and partnerships that will shape the future of the industry. It comes as no surprise, then, that as the dust settles post MWC, most of the announcements and updates from the industry in the last month have focussed more on the day-to-day activities ranging from spectrum, network coverage, M&A and other updates.

For this edition of CURATED, based on our Industry updates, we bring you the latest developments on 5G SA networks and consumer gaming alongside our views on what these developments indicate and how they are shaping the future of industry.

5G SA: How long is the journey to become mainstream?

Did you know…

By mid-august, 15 operators* from 12 markets have already deployed commercial 5G services on Standalone (SA) networks. And, 90 operators* from 45 markets, representing around 38% of operators who have either launched or planning to launch 5G, have also announced plans for SA deployments (conducting trials, forging infrastructure and solution partnerships) after having initially launched 5G on non-standalone (NSA) network. Standalone (SA) networks are expected to be one of the key enablers for myriad 5G use cases across enterprise and consumer markets; this explains why the investment in these networks is a natural step for operators in their 5G journey.

According to a recent GSMA Intelligence survey, operators foresee the following as top benefits from deploying SA networks.

Source: GSMA Intelligence Network Transformation Survey 2021

The momentum and progress is also reflected in the following announcements from operators sharing updates on their coverage plans, new launches, partnerships, and trials:

ThemeIndustry Update
TrialAug 4: StarHub launches 5G Standalone market trial
July 27: M1 launches 5G Standalone market trial
LaunchJuly 16: KT launches commercial SA 5G network
Test new featuresAug 3: Nokia achieves 5G SA carrier aggregation with Taiwan Mobile
July 28: M1 and Samsung deploy 5G VoNR service on 5G SA network
PartnershipsJuly 19 : Taiwan Star Telecom selects Nokia to extend its 5G footprint
July 17: Vivo partners AIS to conduct network test
July 16: Movistar contracts Ericsson, Nokia for 5G SA deployment
Coverage updatesJuly 27: M1 plans to reach 75% nationwide coverage with its 5G SA network by the end of 2021

So what?

The true success of 5G based on SA will only happen when it becomes more mainstream. How long this will take, therefore, becomes one of the key questions to answer! Any network evolution is a gradual process and can take anywhere from months to years depending on the specific operator circumstances, strategies, and investment decisions. However, referencing the lifecycle of existing LTE networks, based on GSMA Intelligence data, it took operators (data used for 150 operators) an average of around 2.5 years to upgrade from LTE to LTE-Advanced. This does not suggest a direct correlation for understanding the lifecycle of an SA upgrade from NSA, but it serves as a good analogy. LTE-Advanced, of course, was a technical advancement on existing LTE networks, whereas a move from NSA to SA will likely be more significant for most operators’ and might take similar or more time than LTE upgrades. It will be interesting to how long it takes for SA networks to become mainstream.

Meanwhile, in the near to medium term, building on established coverage of LTE, NSA will continue to do the heavy lifting of 5G but operators still need to incorporate SA network planning in their long term roadmap.

Related reading:

5G SA means business – but also consumer
5G SA networks are going global, ready to become mainstream

*Number of operators includes both Mobile and FWA 5G launches

The shift in consumer gaming behaviour and opportunities for operators thereof

Did you know…

According to a GSMA Intelligence consumer survey: 60% of the adult population across 20 developed countries play digital games at least once a week. But, what percentage of gamers pay for these? On average, only 1/3rd of gamers pay for games. The recent gaming surge among consumers coupled with only 1/3rd paying for them presents monetisation opportunities in the gaming ecosystem.

Not only this, the survey also brought to light the shifting consumer behaviour:

  • A preferential shift to gaming on smartphones (thanks to multitude of games available on cloud platforms,
    affordable smartphones, and the increasing availability of 5G networks and devices)
  • Gaming is now for every age group, however, the proportion of people playing varies among different age groups.
    72% of 18–24 year-olds play games at least once a week, while 42% of people in the 65+ age group do so

Undoubtedly, the changing consumer behaviour and surge in gaming creates new monetisation opportunities for operators beyond connectivity or upselling larger data packages, and also creates opportunities for other players in the gaming ecosystem. This is also corroborated in the following recent developments in industry on the gaming front:

ThemeIndustry Update
Partnership for third party sellingJuly 30: Movistar partners Microsoft to offer Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to customers
July 16: Sri Lanka Telecom partners with Swarmio to launch gaming platform
E-sports launchJuly 27: Ooredoo Qatar, in partnership with Quest, launches eSports brand
Cloud gaming launch in partnershipJuly 24: Facebook launches its Cloud gaming service on iOS through a web app

So what?

It is clear that the Industry sees an opportunity in gaming and is making progress towards trying to capture it. The question then becomes what are the options available to operators for monetising the opportunities in gaming and what success will look like. Drawing insights from the same GSMA Intelligence report, there are four routes available for operators to capitalise on the opportunities: Two in B2C (selling third party games, develop in-house games) and two in B2B (offer networks services e.g. edge and private networks to gaming and media companies or develop e-sports products). Operators will derive their success in the form of new revenues, premium customer base, reduced churn alongside other benefits highlighted in the report. Now, which route to take will then depend on some underlying factors such as market profile, network assets of operators, and their strategies?

Clearly the gaming industry is expected to grow manifold in the coming years and it’s time to capitalise on the opportunities.

For more detailed insights related on consumer gaming behaviour, the options available to operators and the underlying factors please refer to the following GSMA Intelligence publications:

Gaming comes into its own: capitalising on shifting consumer behaviours
Consumer gaming: assessing the new revenue opportunity for operators
Consumer gaming in the 5G era: Is there a new opportunity for operators

Finally, do you know that…

All of the above analysis is based on news curated by our team of analysts, and taken from our Industry Updates feed. Visit our feed today for more of the news shaping the mobile industry of tomorrow. It comes without interference!

By Radhika Gupta, Head of Data Acquisition, GSMA Intelligence

June 2021 in telecoms: what can’t you miss

Curated: GSMA Intelligence takes on Smart City developments and Telco tower assets

This year, June is a notable month for the telecoms and tech industry because it’s ringing MWC in my ears. I am clinging to my excitement as the ecosystem comes together later this month to learn about, and experience, the announcements/demos/launches that will shape the future of the industry. Of course, the event is Hybrid this year; that means you can take in all the updates from the industry in real-time from the comfort of your office/living room/bedroom…wherever you’ve gotten used to working from.

The theme of MWC21 is “Connected Impact”, and as we scan through our News Feed from the last few weeks, that this is corroborated in the business strategies, industry partnerships, and other announcements from ecosystem players. In this edition of CURATED, based on the recent news, the two topics we selected to take a deeper look at are Smart city developments and operator Tower monetisation efforts. As always, we want to highlight the news items that might not have gotten a lot of attention, and call out the topics they signal – and how they could play an important role in shaping the future of industry.

5G: Critical piece of the Smart City puzzle?

Do you know?

Global smart city connections are expected to experience a massive increase from 307 million in 2020, reaching 837 million by 2025 (see chart 1). Cities and countries have been focused on Smart city opportunities for years, but the market has, generally, developed only in selected areas (Smart Meters, Smart lighting), leaving broader smart city ambitions unrealised.

So, will 5G change things?

There is no dearth of narrative on how the ability of 5G to connect millions of devices per square km, the ultra-low latency, and high throughput creates an optimal canvas to paint the smart city landscape. BUT, what also differentiates 5G, and make it a key enabler, is the new virtual and cloud native architecture of 5G and its confluence with technologies like AI, cloud, and edge. The cherry on the cake is 3GPP including licensed LPWA technologies, the key tech for IoT, as part of 5G specifications.  

With 5G now available from 168 operators in 68 countries (mobile+FWA) already, telcos/vendors/software providers are making inroads by forging partnerships and announcing their plans. In few such recent developments:

So what?

5G has the potential to unlock an array of opportunities for the ecosystem players in the smart city space. It is evident from the flux of announcements – highlighting the recent momentum gained – that telcos and other ecosystem players have started venturing into this space to capitalise on the existing opportunities.

But to make the most of it, they will also need to be mindful of the challenges (funding challenges, lack of interoperability between solutions from different vendors, who will take the E2E ownership) that can impede the progress. There is no unanimous solution to all the challenges, but as always, the “timing of involvement” is key. Government/Municipalities will be at the front and centre in the Smart city development, however, it is important for the ecosystem players to get involved from the planning stage. Collaborating early can help unveil business models that allow for cost and benefit sharing alongside the allocated budgets from the government. Coming together at the planning stage also ensures creation of interoperable solutions and open platforms.

Ultimately, the early involvement can help to lessen the impact of these challenges, and creates an opportunity to maximise on the potential benefits.

Tower Monetisation: Moving from controlling to hiving off tower assets

Do you know?

Tower monetisation, in different forms, is becoming a mainstream financing option for Telcos. There is a clear shift in business models from controlling infrastructure assets, to co-sharing, and evolving into sale and leaseback models.

Why? With heavy debt burdens, and increased CAPEX levels to support the deployment of next-generation tech, operators need to find money somewhere and tower monetisation comes as a viable option.

The ongoing trend of monetising tower assets via sale option is also noted in the announcements from operators in the last few weeks.

So what?

The new model of tower assets (sale and leaseback agreements) poses a win-win situation for both operators and towercos. There are clear benefits for the telecom operators in divesting stakes from their tower arms. The funds unlocked can be used to reduce debt and make investments in new infrastructure, helps to maintain focus on their core business, and also drive opex efficiencies. From the lens of towercos also, the business model works as they earn revenues from multiple tenants on the same infrastructure, and this model allows for the scalability and flexibility required to build next generation infrastructure.

Where towercos are competing for a bigger slice of infra assets with all these acquisitions, they need to remember that while scale is important, so are the new features and innovations (like edge and cloud). To remain competitive in the long term, they should allocate part of their investments to create future-ready infrastructure that can also support new generation technologies and features, like AI, Edge, cloud.

Finally, do you know that…

All of the above analysis is based on news curated by our team of analysts, and taken from our Industry Updates feed. Visit our feed today for more of the news shaping the mobile industry of tomorrow. It comes without interference!

By Radhika Gupta, Head of Data Acquisition at GSMA Intelligence