Ericsson, Huawei claim 5G core tech lead with Mavenir, Affirmed Networks leading challengers

Research reveals 5G core dominance is contingent on supplier positioning and strategy, but also that hungry pure-play software suppliers were already offering disruptive innovation and agility

A competitive assessment by global tech research firm ABI Research has found that technology giant Huawei and Ericsson are still leading the mainstream supplier category for 5G core deployments, but it warns of rivals with more of a background in software-oriented solutions snapping at their heels.

In providing its objective evaluation of the services offered by nine 5G Core and Edge players, the 5G core and edge platforms competitive ranking report noted that the 5G Core network market, unlike preceding cellular generations, was very dynamic and rich.

Large incumbents, it said, were by and large highly entrenched in key regions and had existing operator relationships they continue to cultivate. Pure-play software suppliers, on the other hand, were described as offering innovation and agility, particularly on evaluation criteria such as openness, public cloud integration, and time to market in the narrow scope of what they provide.

In making its list of top suppliers, ABI ranked Huawei and Ericsson as market leaders with Nokia and ZTE mainstream segment top dogs. The followers category was populated by Mavenir, Affirmed Networks (a Microsoft company), HPE, Samsung and Athonet.

ABI noted that despite all of the bad news surrounding the company’s technology within global operators’ networks, Huawei provided a competitive 5G core, edge, and AI capability that include both breadth and depth on a highly efficient foundation. Ericsson was seen as another leader in the overall rankings with a very focused strategy for 5G Core in particular, and cellular in general.

However, ABO added that there was “fierce” competition from other network equipment operators (NEVs) like Nokia and ZTE who continue to compete to establish a strong position in the market.

“Market dominance is contingent on vendor positioning and strategy, degree of focus on existing market requirements, and the size of the opportunity,” said Don Alusha, senior analyst, 5G Core & Edge Networks at ABI Research.

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Competing fiercely with NEVs were pure-play software supplier who offer disruptive innovation and agility. These players said ABI were are shaping their growth businesses with what constitutes “discontinuous innovation”.

While it said such suppliers were not attempting to bring better products in the market, ABI noted that they were disrupting and redefining the trajectory by introducing solutions that, in the early stages, may not be as performant as currently available products.

“But innovation from these players offers other benefits – typically, they are simpler, offer convenience and flexibility, and less expensive products,” said Alusha. ABI positioned challenger suppliers in a supplementary competitive ranking. In ranking order, they were Mavenir, Affirmed Networks, HPE, Samsung and Athonet.

ABI singled out Mavenir for particular attention. The company, it said, continued to exploit disruptive innovation to disrupt and redefine the trajectory of serving the market. Mavenir occupiedthe top spot among challengers. Affirmed Networks was a close second in the rankings and benefits significantly from a combination of a webscale, cloud-native 5G solution, and Microsoft’s public cloud capabilities. ABI also remarked that suppliers like HPE, Samsung and Athonet were all champions of openness, ecosystem disaggregation and are advocating new cloud-like commercial models. These vendors stand to play a key role in the coming years.

“Communications service providers assert that going forward, they will keep working with large NEVs but also introduce ‘added value’ from disruptor vendors. NEVs may enjoy an important competitive advantage for product performance and scale,” said Alusha.

“But challenger sup can potentially be more agile. They can introduce new products faster because they can upgrade individual products without having to redesign everything. Ultimately, 5G Core platforms will be built on a foundation of a multi-vendor ecosystem that includes both the existing large NEVs and new, innovative challenger vendors.”

As ABI was making it assessment, Mavenir was announcing a stream of deals based around OpenRAN technology. In the latest of these, the company announced that it had inked a deal with mobile communications company Ligado Networks under which it would will develop O-RAN compliant remote radio units and cloud-native Open RAN software compatible with Ligado’s L-Band spectrum.

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