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Written by Sanjay Krishnaa
on 09 Feb 2018

The telecom industry saw significant milestones being achieved in 2017-from the net neutrality ruling in the US to the construction of a game-changing sports stadium. Here's a look back at the six most important telecom industry trends of last year.

1. Software-Defined Networks Disrupted the Telecom Markets

Software-defined networks (SDNs) were big news in 2017. Several major service providers formed partnerships with software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) vendors to offer branded managed services to their customers. Providers who embraced SD-WAN in 2017 included Verizon, Sprint, and Telefónica.

A forecast by IDC, released in July 2017, predicted that the global market for SD-WAN infrastructure and services would have a compound annual growth rate of 69.6% and touch $8.05 billion in 2021. This growth is expected to be driven primarily by digital transformation in enterprises.

2. The First 5G Architecture Specification was Approved

In December 2017, 5G took its first major step toward commercialization, with 3GPP-the organization that governs cellular standards-completing the specification for 5G New Radio (NR). The non-standalone 5G architecture leverages the existing components of the LTE core network with the aim of making 5G ready to scale commercially by 2019.

The release of the specification clears a path for chipset vendors to design products based on the new standard. Case in point-in early January 2018, Ericsson announced that it had raised $370 million for 5G research and development.

3. Internet of Things Investments Grew

In June 2017, IDC forecasted that worldwide spending on the Internet of Things (IoT) would grow by 16.7% year on year, touching $1.4 trillion by 2021. Use cases expected to attract the largest investments included manufacturing, freight monitoring, and asset management, with smart utilities and smart buildings coming a close second.

Low-power wide-area wireless technology (LPWA) is currently under trial around the world for mobile IoT, with the Chinese government recently issuing a narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) policy framework to help drive local IoT deployment.

4. The 2017 Net Neutrality Ruling

How will the US-based Internet users be affected by the repeal of government rules mandating equal access for everyone? An argument for the repeal is that it would help deliver fast lanes for high-bandwidth streaming content. On the other hand, critics say that such a move will lead to service providers being able to censor online content at will.

The repeal order remains unfinalized in early 2018 and several US states are mounting legal challenges against it. In a future with less strict regulation, telecom service providers, both in the US and around the world, will face the challenge of ensuring that they balance the shareholders’ interests with those of their customers.

5. Intent-Based Networking Leaped Forward

Intent-based networking (IBN) allows networks to be configured in a highly automated way, with administrators only having to specify what functionality they need.

Although the concept isn’t new, Cisco brought IBN technology to the next level in 2017 with a solution that employs a closed-loop system for continuous self-optimization and can scale to millions of connected devices. In the same space, Juniper Networks released a suite of AI-based apps that use real-time analytics to help automate network routing, design, provisioning, and troubleshooting.

6. Over-the-Top Services Remained on Top

According to Juniper Research, consumer migration to over-the-top (OTT) messaging services was estimated to cost telecom network operators more than $100 billion in 2017, or around 12% of their total revenues. The study found that WhatsApp alone accounts for nearly three times the volume of network traffic as SMS.

With the market flooded with cheap 4G handsets and unlimited data plans, service providers are under significant pressure to find new revenue streams. Strategic options suggested by Juniper include investing in IoT, analytics, mobile payment services, and mobile identity services.

These standout telecom industry trends have shaped the landscape we now operate in, but we expect the market to continue to evolve. Learn more about our top predictions for the telecom industry in 2018.

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