Driving diversification and supporting innovation
An ever decreasing marketplace
The global radio network vendor market has contracted dramatically over the last 15 years. When mobile operators ran tenders for 2G and 3G radio network supply, they had to limit the number of suppliers vying for business. Today in the UK the number of 5G vendors actively rolling out in the market is reducing down to just two.
There have been several reasons for this market contraction through company mergers, bets on technologies, and a market place which has become ever more competitive and difficult in which to survive. But a shrinking supply chain is not good for market stability, competitiveness and innovation. The publication of the DCMS 5G Supply Chain Diversification Strategy last year along with a commitment to an initial £250M support fund is very affirmative action by the government towards opening up the market. But the question is how do we take these initiatives and translate them into a more diversified market place?
Driving meaningful diversification in the supply of network equipment is not a trivial task. There are several barriers to new vendors entering the market. Operators (particularly in the UK and Europe) are still very reliant on legacy technologies which means putting a premium on support for Single RAN while traditional RAN by its very nature increases legacy vendor lock-in. As the market looks towards Open RAN technology, there is an opportunity to break down these barriers.
Direct Government incentives for operators to adopt new technologies with new suppliers will be a key enabler to diversifying the market. We are seeing some positive movements towards Open RAN by operators, however developing this into meaningful rollout with a wider selection of suppliers will benefit greatly from some external support. A scheme which encourages operators to embrace Open RAN rollout with non-incumbent suppliers in the UK can move the dial and break the status quo we are seeing today.
There could be added benefits to such a scheme whereby it could be developed further and promote rollout to areas of the UK which may otherwise not be at the top of the queue for 5G rollout.
Driving development within the UK
A key requirement for any vendors to benefit from such a scheme and gain entry into the UK market should be reciprocated by commitments to supporting further Research & Development within the UK.
5G and the move towards virtual RAN are changing how telecoms networks are developed and operated. The disaggregation of hardware and software, the introduction of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the movement towards Massive IoT all offer amazing opportunities for the UK to foster significant domestic capabilities. If the right foundations are in place, there is a chance for the UK to create a competitive advantage based leading the way with Open RAN rollout and having a strong, well supported and varied R&D base.
A window of opportunity
By incentivising new suppliers and open technologies, and in turn fostering development within the UK there is a chance to really accelerate the delivery of a national 5G network while also taking a seat at the top table when it comes to driving future developments in technology.
At Samsung Networks we have been at the forefront of 5G technology development and deployment. The UK has excellent potential to be a leader in next generation telecoms and Samsung are ready to help play a part in this development.
Guest blog by Barry Walsh, Head of Sales – UK & Ireland, Nordics and Baltics, Samsung Networks Europe. Barry participated in our Diversifying Telecoms event in October 2020: catch up here. You can follow Samsung Networks on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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