Mobile Telecom Market Update: IoT Networks, SDN & NFV Investment, LTE-A Pro Expansion

Recent trends in the mobile telecom market include Internet of Things (IoT) network launches, self-funding software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) investments, LTE-A Pro expansions, and another potential mergers. Here’s a look at some of the latest moves on the part of major operators around the world.

In keeping with a general trend (e.g. Sprint, Verizon), AT&T rolled out a nationwide LTE-M IoT network, and has plans to extend the network into Mexico by end of 2017, at which point the footprint will cover 400 million people, SDxCentral reported. The operator said monthly LTE-M plans will start at $1.50/more per device, with volume discounts available for multi-year commitments.

AT&T also recently said that cost savings from its SDN and NFV investments are beginning to self-generate funding for its virtualization efforts, and discussed its networking fabric strategy around mix-and-match SDN technologies to meet the increasingly dynamic service needs of enterprises. 

On the other side of the globe, SK Telecom plans in early 2018 to launch a gigabit-speed 4G service, thanks to investments in advanced technologies, Light Reading reported. Meantime, the operator switched on 900Mbit/s 4G service in six of South Korea’s main cities, as well as 700Mbit/s service in 53 municipalities through carrier aggregation. 

These moves are part of SK Telecom’s aggressive LTE-Advanced Pro strategy, noted RCR Wireless News; the operator sees the roll-outs as both the last stage of LTE and an early application of 5G technologies supporting gigabit-level data speeds and massive network capacity. 

SK Telecom also recently stressed the need for harmonization in the fragmented area of open source projects, SDxCentral reported; the operator’s plans to deploy 5G by late 2019 depends on rapidly virtualizing its network, a project made difficult by the existence of so many open source communities with differing missions. 

U.S. operator Sprint introduced an open source NFV/SN-based mobile core reference solution, creatively named C3PO, Telecom TV reported. The solution is designed to significantly improve network core performance using a streamlined, high-performance data plane for the packet core, and is part of Sprint’s expanding toolbox of solutions created address future data usage growth.

In other news involving Sprint, the operator reportedly talked with T-Mobile recently about a potential merger of the two companies, RCR Wireless News said. At a conference in Boston, representatives from both companies confirmed that the idea was being explored, and agreed that analyst estimates of $30 billion about the value of such a potential deal is on the low side.

Meanwhile, Verizon has been busy emphasizing its strategy for the future of mobile telecom, including how it plans to use more spectrum to maintain network speeds for unlimited datas plans, and its vision for changes to fiber and the cloud. 

Indeed, as Verizon product strategist Beth Cohen pointed out in a Telecom TV video, the future network is massively distributed everywhere, not limited to data center environments. Further emphasizing what the future of mobile telecom looks like, the operator’s VP of tech, strategy, and planning discussed in a Light Reading video what lies ahead for sensors, the smart edge, and new spectrum and faster fiber uploads.