Next year, the telecommunications ecosystem will be guided by four key themes: 5G, artificial intelligence, sustainability and the messaging evolution, a report by Juniper Research identified.
Further, experts weighed in on developments in the optical transport, cable and open RAN markets going into 2024.
In a recent report, Ericsson estimated that almost one-in-five of all global mobile subscriptions will be 5G subscriptions by the end of 2023. North America is expected to have the highest 5G subscription penetration globally, at 61 per cent, by the end of 2023.
“The roll-out out of 5G continues and we see an increasing number of 5G standalone networks being deployed, bringing opportunities to support new and more demanding applications for both consumers and enterprises,” said Fredrik Jejdling, executive vice president and head of networks, Ericsson.
Juniper says that the boom in 5G subscriptions, will, in turn, improve the value proposition of 5G satellite-based services, which will take on private networks, IoT and mobile broadband for cellular communications.
Juniper forecasts that there will be over 300,000 connections accessing 5G satellite networks in 2024, with regions such as North America, Western Europe and Far East and China accounting for approximately 80 per cent of all major satellites in operation today.
That said, 5G satellite services will not necessarily be a commercial priority for operators in 2024, but developing this ecosystem in preparation for commercial service will be. For instance, operators must have the pricing of satellite services reflect the pricing of terrestrial services already in use, Juniper noted.
Further, Juniper forecasts that 5G Advanced, the next evolution in 5G technology which is anticipated to launch in 2024, will have significant benefit to the entertainment and education sectors, by providing support for more interactive application use cases.
5G Advanced will also have notable impacts on certain IoT sectors: the specification’s impact on network end node-positioning capabilities will impact the development of autonomous vehicles and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems).
Moreover, with 5G roaming connections expected to rise from 35 million in 2023 to 77 million by the end of 2024, the adoption of BCE (Billing and Charging Evolution) 2.0 will increase in 2024. This is because the growth in 5G roaming will exacerbate operator revenue leakage caused by TAP (Transferred Account Procedure), which is ineffective for 5G monetisation.
TAP results in revenue leakage, Juniper said, as operators are limited in the volumes of data they can exchange in TAP files, a major issue when using the protocol for 5G connections, which produce vast amounts of data per connection.
Further, BCE is expected to enable operators to deploy new charging models that apply premium charges against 5G roaming traffic. Therefore, operators will be able to apply differential pricing for roaming access to different network slices on 5G standalone networks. These network slices will have different KPIs for quality of service, such as latency, allowing enterprises to optimize their purchases of roaming access for their needs.
Generative AI will revolutionize the automation of personalized marketing campaigns in the telecommunications industry, such as individualized product descriptions, social media messages, and email outreach.
Specifically, Juniper predicts chatbots that leverage generative AI will engage with users with personalized conversations, recommendations and question answering.
Additionally, generative AI will automate user segmentation, enabling enterprises to identify and segment audiences based on demographics and behaviours, to allow them to create more targeted marketing campaigns.
“Moving into 2024, telecom business leaders will need to stay on top of this quickly evolving technology, with AI-powered automation and predictive analytics, AI-enhanced customer interfaces and cybersecurity, and more,” said Manav Gupta, vice president and chief technical officer, technical sales, at IBM Canada.
On a broader scale, Juniper expects network-wide AI implementation to come to the fore in 2024. This will include AI services that can access data from the entirety of the network, from the core to edge nodes, rather than in isolation. Operators will therefore be able to further optimize their network operations, including predictive maintenance and security.
Juniper also expects tier 1 operators to further integrate AI into all areas of their networks, including the core, RAN, session management, security and location-based services. The most tangible benefit of this network-wide implementation, the research company says, will be the ability for all network areas to communicate in real-time, and adjust network functions accordingly.
AI will also be crucial to developing advanced segmentation solutions that will enable operators to better monetize emerging roaming services.
Juniper research author Alex Webb said, “AI-based segmentation will differentiate enterprise traffic by use case; enabling premium billing of mission-critical 5G standalone connections, thus reducing revenue leakage.”
A rise in the pricing of text messaging services and phone frauds will lead to a shift in the mobile messaging landscape in 2024, with businesses and developers exploring alternative communications channels via open APIs, Juniper explained.
The increased use of third party channels such as WhatsApp for Business will also be an ever-growing threat to operators’ mobile messaging revenue. As a result, operators will be forced to increase pricing to compensate for a decline in their revenue.
However, operators are unable to optimally price their messaging traffic due to fraud such as Artificial Inflation of Traffic (AIT) and message trashing that plague text messaging networks. This can further increase enterprises’ spend on SMS due to undelivered messages, or in authenticating non-existent users.
In 2024, Juniper expects operators to focus on new initiatives that look to reduce the impact of the telecommunications industry on the environment. They will, therefore, seek diminished returns on implementing more network virtualization that reduces carbon footprint.
Operators will employ the following to further sustainability:
- AI and machine learning– Operators will make efficiency gains by automating the network orchestration of operations and supply chains.
- Sustainable Supply Chains– Operators will invest in new sustainable supply chain practices such as the electrification of delivery vehicles and minimizing the number of required base stations, especially as 6G network launches require the need to deploy new network hardware, additional base stations and more
- Energy-efficient equipment and batteries– The introduction of higher frequency bands in spectrum auctions for 5G NSA (Non-standalone) necessitated a greater number of base stations and network cells, which will place pressure on operators to deploy energy-efficient equipment.
Other telecom predictions came from experts at the Dell’oro Group, including:
- The Open RAN movement will account for more than 15 per cent of total RAN, despite a short term decline in revenue. The movement allows operators to better manage flattish carrier revenue trends and the increased network complexities that come with their next generation architecture requirements. Virtualization/containerization will be increasingly foundational in this RAN transformation/automation journey. Consequently, many operators are expected to start with cloud RAN plus O-RAN compatible fronthaul, while multi-vendor RAN will be deployed where it makes sense.
- The Optical Transport equipment market is on a path to increase 4 per cent before the end of 2023. Entering 2023, vendors had a record level of backlog. But as component supply improved, equipment manufacturers started playing catch-up and delivered a large number of optical systems in the first half of 2023. However, this created excess inventory for service providers, who then started pushing out deliveries to 2024, which is expected to smooth out market revenues. If all backlog had been delivered in 2023, it would have created a glut of optical network capacity entering 2024, resulting in a market contraction and another period of supply/demand imbalance.
- Cable operators to improve broadband networks-The emergence of 5G fixed wireless services by industry players like T-Mobile and burgeoning fiber competition are putting pressure on cable operators to expand their broadband throughput and capacity. Efforts will hence be aimed toward network upgrades and DOCSIS 4.0 transition, to boost bandwidth and competitiveness amid industry changes.