2021 predictions

2021 predictions for service providers

With the year 2020, the most unprecedented and challenging year of recent times, coming to an end, experts from the industry share their learning from the year as well as 2021 predictions. Here Vivek Kalra, head of telecom and cloud business, India and SAARC, Juniper Networks shares his predictions for service providers for the upcoming year.

COVID aims the spotlight on preparing networks for the unknown, AI/ML will be big focus

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted our world from physical to virtual literally overnight, placing enormous responsibility on service providers to deliver seamless real-time and near real-time experiences at peak traffic levels. Traffic patterns are shifting from mobility towards Wi-Fi and broadband networks, and as work continues to shift to the home, the lines between consumers and enterprise users continue to blur. This implies there will be long-term changes in how service providers architect and manage their networks particularly for enterprise customers, which by extension means to the home. Next year, we will see more focus on ensuring networks are ready for the “unknowns.” We will see accelerated investments in open, agile network architectures built on cloud principles, elastic on-demand capacities, and automation and security for an assured service experience. And with a heightened focus on service experience, we can expect automation, service assurance, AI/ML, and orchestration technologies to take on an even more significant role in service provider network operations, guaranteeing service quality and simplifying operations as networks get bigger, more dynamic and more complex. Within India, the on-going pandemic has seen a shift in focus among Telcos. Most of these operators are investing in transforming networks with long term market dynamics in mind, while ensuring that the quality of services provided to end consumers are met.

COVID accelerates the value of the edge

Networks have never been more critical than they are right now. Business, education, telemedicine, social, all have moved from engaging in person to engaging virtually and multi-participant interactive video calls have become fundamental to our daily lives. We have seen a massive consumption of streaming media (largely video-based), and similarly an all-time high in online gaming, each driving CDN growth. Service providers have responded fast to manage the surge in traffic while avoiding lagging, downgraded quality, and slower speeds. Next year, we’ll see service providers double down on investments in edge cloud, moving applications and data closer to users and connected devices to enhance the user and application experience, support new emerging low-latency applications, and make more efficient use of network transit capacity. We can also expect to see an increase among Service Providers in India implementing their own Edge Cloud strategy to compete for OTT market share in the face of 5G buildouts.

COVID drives network security

While security has often taken a back seat to make way for faster network speeds, the pandemic has proven that bad actors will take advantage of crises for their own gain. Next year, we’ll see service providers take a holistic, end-to-end security approach that combines network, application and end-user security to deliver a secure and assured service experience. This is especially important as we’re approaching a second wave of lockdowns and working from home becomes the new normal – which presents an enticing attack surface to attackers. In 2021, we’ll see companies investing more in Enterprise-at-Home solutions with security at the forefront, ensuring that all endpoints in the networks are secure, wherever they are.

5G hype fades as monetization opportunities skyrocket

Despite the pandemic shifting operational priorities, causing some 5G roll outs to slow down, service providers have still been heavily investing in and deploying 5G networks. With over 100 commercial networks launched across the globe, and many more are expected in 2021, 5G is now real, bringing new monetization opportunities for operators. With massive speeds, huge connection densities and ultra-low-latency experiences, we expect to see progress in new consumer applications (e.g. gaming, AR/VR/MR), 5G for industry verticals, consumer broadband with content bundling, enterprise broadband and cloud-managed services, and fixed wireless access services in 2021. Within India, the uptake on 5G has slowed down as well due to inadequate availability of 5G spectrum combined with the high costs. However, 5G is still certainly top of mind for operators as they look at continued investments and transformation across all parts of the Telco network. We can expect 5G trials to take place in 2021 with commercial rollouts in 2022.

400G deployments ramp up beyond the cloud data center

As commercial solutions become more viable to support the relentless growth in bandwidth demand, we will continue to see momentum build for 400G in 2021. While large cloud providers are driving the first wave in the data center and the wide area network, expect to see 400G ramp up in service provider networks in 2021, as well as across data center interconnect, core, peering, and CDN gateway use cases, among others. We will see large-scale rollouts of 400G in the WAN, especially in the second-half of the year, driven by the availability of lower-cost optics, lower operating expense potential with fewer ports to manage, and pay-as-you-go pricing models that will allow operators to smoothly navigate the upgrades. Looking beyond 2021, we will see 400G appear in metro aggregation nodes as 5G buildouts drive even more traffic and network densification.

Open Architectures remain a top theme, Open RAN is here to stay

The service provider industry’s drive towards Open Architectures will continue to gain momentum in all areas from Open Access (including Open RAN, Open OLT), Open Broadband, Open IP/Optical and Open Core. Open RAN is no longer a question of IF, but WHEN. We will see accelerated momentum in Open RAN globally with RFPs, trials and early deployments as many operators commit to democratize their radio access domain primarily to drive vendor diversity and best-of-breed innovation. While commercial widescale deployments of Open RAN are a few years out, we will see a strengthened Open RAN ecosystem, greater technology maturity and new kinds of partnerships that will fundamentally change how radio networks will be deployed, managed and leveraged for value creation in the future.

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