Telecommunications: the 6 technological trends in 2023

The end of the year is approaching, and it is also time for predictions for the next year. Here’s a rundown of what research firms are predicting as the top technology trends for 2023.

1. The first 5G smartphones under $100

Deloitte is betting on the democratization of 5G with the launch of dedicated mobile phones available for all budgets.

What will a $99 5G smartphone look like in advance? It will look like a classic model in terms of size and design, but with a low-end screen and a single-lens camera.

This low-cost terminal could be manufactured and marketed directly by a telecom operator, which will subsidize its acquisition through additional sources of revenue such as pre-installed applications or advertising. On the other hand, the smartphone could bring 5G connectivity to an entire household by cannibalizing landline offers (ADSL, fiber) in a “wireless home access”.

2. The arrival of 5G standalone (finally)

The debut of 5G may have been disappointing. During the commercial launch of the new mobile phone standard, 5G lived, in the so-called “non-standalone” phase, together with a 4G core network. This 5G – or 4G++ – did not deliver all the technical promises of 5G, namely a speed multiplied by 10 and a latency reduced to the millisecond.

2023 will mark the arrival of “standalone” 5G. By bringing “real” 5G to the heart of their network, operators will be able, with the technique of network slicing, to virtually “slice” this network to guarantee end-to-end quality of service for use cases with strong constraints. A key issue for coverage of industrial areas.

According to Deloitte Global, the number of operators investing in standalone 5G networks should double to reach at least 200 by the end of 2023. In France, SFR is proud to be the first operator to offer a cutout “for companies in real conditions”.

Among the disruptive use cases promised by standalone 5G, Deloitte Global mentions autonomous vehicles, precision robotics, drone delivery or predictive maintenance based on artificial intelligence (AI).

3. The metaverse boosts virtual reality technologies

Analysys Mason dashed hopes for a quick materialization of the metaverse despite the enthusiasm generated by immersive 3D universes. “The metaverse will not materialize in 2023,” he claims. “Meta will continue to spend billions on R&D in 2023, with little return on investment in that timeframe.”

The British company believes that the year of the metaverse is more likely… 2030. Meanwhile, telecom operators will multiply services around virtual reality, such as immersive or 3D video calls or digital twin technology for industry. The expected launch in 2023 of Apple’s virtual reality headset should greatly democratize this market.

Deloitte agrees. The firm predicts that the virtual reality market will generate nearly $7 billion in revenue worldwide by 2023, a 50% increase from the estimated 2022 figure of $4.7 billion. Headphones will generate almost all (90%) of this amount, with approximately 14 million units sold next year, with an average price of $450.

4. “Cloudification” of networks is accelerating

The transition to standalone 5G should prompt operators to “cloudify” their core networks to provide a layer of abstraction over the physical infrastructure.

The virtualization of network functions (NFV, Network functions virtualization) and the generalization of programmable networks (SDN, Software defined networking) must also contribute to this convergence of telecommunications and IT.

The cloud is also a beneficial diversification of activity. Faced with the growing demand from companies for multicloud connectivity, according to Analysys Mason, operators can position themselves as an alternative to public cloud providers and especially to American hyperscalers (AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud), which dominate the market. In particular, they will be able to offer network offerings as a service (NaaS) and play the card of technological sovereignty.

5. Open RAN reaches a new milestone

Still, according to Analysys Mason, Open RAN is set to expand to cover certain businesses or rural areas that are poorly served by mobile phone networks.

As a reminder, the O-RAN (Open-Radio Access Network) alliance brings together a large number of telecommunications players. It aims to establish standards to make wireless network installations interoperable and thus reduce their dependence on equipment manufacturers such as Huawei, Nokia, ZTE or Ericsson.

While Open RAN deployments will take off in 2023, there are still significant challenges in designing large urban mobile networks based on this architecture. This is especially true for networks that use so-called “massive MIMO” technology (Multiple input multiple output), which combines a large number of “intelligent” micro-antennas (small cells) to address the signal.

6. Satellite connections are becoming more democratic

The range of internet access via satellite is being expanded. Next to the historical ones, the French Eutelsat and the British Inmarsat, GAFA has started Star Wars, where they have sprinkled the sky with their satellites. SpaceX’s Starlink recently won administration approval to deploy 7,500 satellites — nearly 3,200 are believed to be already in orbit. Amazon’s Kuiper project is expected to start in early 2023.

Things are also moving on the terminal side. Following the partnerships between Apple and Globalstar and Starlink and T-Mobile, announcements from Inmarsat, Iridium or Samsung are expected. In addition to the emergency/SOS calls offered by Apple, it will be possible to make true voice-data communication and not only in US territory. According to Analysys Mason, direct satellite-to-mobile connectivity will have more than 25 million subscribers by the end of 2023.

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