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Worsening global uncertainties and lack of 5G business cases beyond mobile broadband continue to cripple the migration to 5G SA

July 2022

LightCounting releases its 5G Core Service-based Architecture (5GC SBA) Market Report.

The headwinds reported last year have not abated and continue to slow the growth of the 5G core service-based architecture (5GC SBA): out of a total of 200 5G NSA commercial networks reported at the end of 2021, only 20 were 5G SA, with 3 of the world’s largest ones in China. Little has changed since last year, the lack of 5G business cases beyond enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) combined with some network architecture issues continue to inhibit 5GC SBA rollouts. Communications service providers (CSPs) are just sweating their EPC/vEPC assets, in such conditions, there is no rush to move to 5GC SBA.

“And if that was not enough to deal with, the worsening ongoing geopolitical uncertainty, the continuing fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the effects of inflation are prompting a handful of CSPs to wonder if after all, when they need to migrate from their vEPC to 5GC, it will just be to gain operating cost efficiencies rather than anything else. The way I see it unraveling, 6G won’t need a new core!” said Stéphane Téral, Chief Analyst at LightCounting Market Research.

As a result, China alone accounted for 65% (vs. 75% last year) of the total 5GC SBA $1+B market in 2021, and sustained Huawei’s and ZTE’s predominance to command 55% of global sales, down from 80% last year as the strong contract wins reported by Ericsson and Nokia started to materialize and added to Samsung’s and NEC’s 5GC momentum. Overall, despite the opportunity to pick and choose the best of breed for each network function, we found that most CSPs are sticking with their traditional vendors, and some are adopting the DIY approach.

The most common network functions to start with during a migration to SA are NRF, NEF, NSSF, AMF, SMF, UPF in Session & User Plane and Resource Registry & Security, which builds the foundation of 5GC, and UDM/UDR/AUSF in 5G Data Management. PCF in the Policy & Charging domain is implemented in less than half of the deployments.

Other key findings include:

  • Fixed wireless access (FWA) and private wireless networks are foreseen as the most imminent 5G business cases
  • After factoring all the listed issues in our model, our revised forecast came lower than last year’s one but market is still growing at double digits
  • Asia Pacific will remain the largest market throughout the forecast period
  • 5GC will stay as the most important domain to start with, followed by data management

LightCounting’s 5G Core Service-based Architecture (SBA) Market Size & Forecast report provides a comprehensive overview of the market broken down by regions (e.g., North America, Europe Middle East Africa, Asia Pacific, and Caribbean Latin America), and NF domains. It also covers 30 vendors including traditional network equipment vendors, mobile core specialists, data management and policy control players, OSS/BSS vendors and IT system integrators.

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