Lingering Effects of COVID-19
Operators and vendors are recording an increase in roaming connections following the reduced travel restrictions for international travel.
In 2021, Juniper Research forecast that roaming traffic was not expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels until 2024. However, with increasing strategic partnerships and success recorded in Proof of Concepts between operators, and the establishment of roaming agreements and value-added services, these figures have the potential to recover earlier than originally anticipated.
This highlights how the roaming and mobile market has not been impacted as significantly as originally feared, and the continued digitalisation of the mobile industry has allowed operators, OEMs and mobile service providers to recover lost revenue as a result of the pandemic.
With the transition to remote working placing an increased strain on mobile operators, this resulted in operators diverting budget spend away from technologies such as 5G and onto the consolidation of core network functionalities. Despite the initial challenges posed by COVID-19, mobile operators remained committed to the roll-out of next-generation SA networks.
Juniper Research's latest 5G Roaming Strategies research
anticipates that operators will be particularly motivated to implement 5G networks based on the needs of their roaming partners, as the frequency of these partnerships are anticipated to provide a distinguishing factor from competition.
Despite this, it is also important to note that 5G roaming agreements can be established using NSA networks and will therefore not be a driving factor for the deployment of SA infrastructure.
Global Chip Shortages
The COVID-19 global restrictions caused disruptions to the supply chains of hardware manufacturers, which in turn caused a global shortage of semiconductor chips. This led to delayed manufacturing timelines and release of 5G-enabled devices that are compatible with the newly developed 5G networks.
Intel, one of the world’s largest chip manufacturers estimated that this shortage will last until 2024. Shortages of chips affect the launch of 5G products and applications. An example was seen with Gogo
, a provider of broadband connectivity services for the business aviation market. Gogo delayed its 5G network launch by two years owing to shortage of chips. In October 2022, Gogo was finally able to launch its 5G services.
In a bid to further expand its chip manufacturing operations, Intel
, announced the purchase of Tower Semiconductor
, and building of chip factories in Germany and Ohio. If the mobile market is to be supplied with the 5G devices (both smartphone and IoT devices) required for the shift to 5G technology, Juniper Research encourages more companies to increase their quotas for chip manufacturing.
Juniper Research notes that for the interoperability of 5G devices on the network, manufacturers need to resolve any differences between chips, as this affects its performance on 5G networks. Juniper Research therefore encourages hardware manufacturers to normalise chips for 5G devices early in the growth phases.
Ban on Huawei Infrastructure
Since 2020, a number of government bodies including the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) in the UK and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in the US have announced the banning of 5G infrastructure built by Chinese OEM Huawei, following security concerns.
The banning of Huawei
infrastructure has meant that many operators in leading 5G regions are forced to re-evaluate their infrastructure requirements and source equipment from alternative suppliers. Juniper Research notes that this will be particularly costly to operators who have already made significant investments in 5G technology using Huawei’s equipment, and could potentially dampen enthusiasm towards future roll-out plans.
Moreover, due to the limited funding on offer to operators to replace this equipment, mobile operators must decide to either use their own revenue to invest into developing their own infrastructure in-house, or they will have to form a partnership with other telecommunication hardware providers such as Ericsson
. Moreover, to avoid a monopolised market, Juniper Research recommends that mobile providers and OEMs work collaboratively rather than competitively to ensure that equipment is sourced from a variety of suppliers, including Ericsson, Nokia, Cisco Systems
, to limit future vulnerabilities in the network.
“A new study by Juniper Research has found that the total number of 5G roaming connections will increase from 53 million in 2023 to 526 million by 2027. This substantial growth will require the development of new roaming tools that are able to autonomously identify roaming connections as 5G connectivity proliferates. The research identified AI-based real-time analytics and roaming fraud mitigation services as two critical solutions that will enable operators to protect their networks against an influx of data traffic from roaming subscribers.”
“Juniper Research’s latest 5G Roaming Strategies research offers an in-depth market segment analysis into the key market drivers, technologies and regions being innovated through the use of 5G networks for roaming services. This report provides tailored recommendations for market stakeholders in the competitive landscape, including mobile operators and roaming service providers, as well as four-year forecasts for key market verticals, such as mobile roaming subscribers, roaming consumer devices and IoT (Internet of Things) roaming.”