This year saw LTE deployments continue at pace in more and more countries, and now also the traditional first-mover UK finally joined the party. Next year will see European regulators increasingly accept operator consolidation and network sharing in order to boost the LTE market, and mobile operators requiring less small cells, thanks to LTE's improved indoor coverage, and the market power of device vendors shaping the evolution of mobile R&D.
Outsourcing and managed services will become more focused on promoting vendors to actively address operator network opex as a whole. And, to round it off, operators are going to face a rising rivalry from Microsoft and IT players in the enterprise communications market.
Highlights of Northstream’s 2013 predictions:
Regulators will back consolidation and save LTE in Europe
Northstream expects European regulators to increasingly accept operator consolidation and network sharing in 2013 in order to better facilitate market dynamics and growth, for larger and smaller players. This will be the catalyst to revitalize the European market, boost network investments moving forward, and allow regained competiveness and sustainability
The ‘small cell debate’ is ended by LTE roll-out (and Wi-Fi)
Global LTE rollouts have sparked discussion about the rapid take up of small cells to extend high speed data coverage to public venues, enterprises and homes. However, Northstream believes that LTE roll-out will actually result in operators requiring less small cells than before.
Obviously, the pure macro network, even with the combination of best spectrum assets, does not serve all indoor broadband needs sufficiently; including coverage, QoS and capacity. Allocated LTE spectrum includes a combination of sub 1-GHz (700-, 800- and 900-MHz) and higher bands. Building LTE networks that combine sub 1-GHz and higher spectrum assets actually helps to improve mobile broadband experience indoors.
However, heavy traffic generators like tablets and data modems will require further enhancements to improve indoor coverage. Operators will need to find economically viable solutions to cater for these devices. Non-licensed spectrum will be of assistance, and Wi-Fi has been established as a feasible option for indoor coverage.
Device dominance to impact evolution of mobile R&D
The rise of smartphones is placing the industry on a path to Apple and Samsung achieving enough market power to drive and finance a bigger portion of industry innovation, R&D and standardization efforts. This could result in a lack of open standards, interoperability issues and a smaller amount of harmonized solutions. Operators and infrastructure vendors need to watch out.
Managed services is dead; long live managed services
Outsourcing and managed services have long been focused around direct opex savings. Northstream believes this will radically change and forecasts that operators and vendors will better define business models and operational processes in 2013 that promote vendors to actively address operator network OPEX as a whole. This includes legacy cost structures and maintaining (or improving) network quality and customer experience.
Microsoft takes the lead for new generation operators
Microsoft has leveraged its large enterprise footprint, and Windows and Office software with VoIP and collaboration solutions into a UC solution. Soon Microsoft will add mobile VoIP capabilities and attack the enterprise communications market - one of the last mobile operator strongholds. This could reduce operators to simply enterprise data connectivity providers. Microsoft, and fellow IT players, will pose serious challenge to the offerings of operators. In 2013 we'll see varying degrees of responses from operators as they try to cling to power and relationships with enterprise customers.
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