In their quest for strategies that drive Capex/Opex savings, CSPs have been exploring all options including spinning off tower infrastructure, adopting cloud, and partnering with hyper-scalers. Accenture’s research and client experience finds that active network sharing is one of the most effective strategies to not only speed up the 5G rollout but also reduce spending around its deployment.
Active network sharing is a unique approach because it extends the cooperative agreement between CSPs beyond the physical site and power infrastructure to include the radio access network (antennas, transceivers, base stations and backhaul networks) and the core network functionalities.
Active network sharing financial and operational benefits
While these benefits are encouraging, they are the result of a mature active network sharing agreement. To get there, CSPs will need to navigate an highly detailed implementation process that starts with defining their 5G ambitions.
CSP challenges and 5G opportunities
For years CSPs have been challenged with declining Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), flat subscriber growth, and no relevant uptrend in revenue generating metrics.
Although the 5G rollout will help CSPs accelerate their path to value, two critical conditions need to be met: increasing cell sites and expanding fiber-optic coverage. This costly endeavor will only get more expensive if delayed.
Market analysis estimates from Analysys Mason suggests CSPs' spend on 5G is expected to increase +34% on compounded annual basis from 2020 to 2025 (from $34 billion to $149 billion respectively).
Cost-effective, customer-centric and fast to market
Active network sharing has promising potential: some estimates see potential cumulative Opex savings for CSPs of $407 billion from 2017 through 2026 (at a CAGR of -5.8%) and total cost of ownership (TCO) savings up to 40%. Some of the world’s leading CSPs have already started implementing active network sharing with encouraging results.
Strong examples of active network sharing initiatives
A UK-based CSP unveiled 5G Multi-operator RAN (MORAN) technology in its infrastructure, allowing active sharing of antenna, tower, site and power.
A Chinese CSP signed a 5G network cooperation agreement to deploy one of the largest 5G RAN sharing networks in the world.
A Brazilian CSP sharing program that reached more than 7,700 4G sites in RAN sharing delivered up to 30% in Capex and Opex savings.
How to set up an active network sharing agreement
For all the benefits that active network sharing promises to deliver, setting up the agreement is a detailed, mostly painstaking process, peppered with uncertainties associated with the new partnership. Miscalculations can easily snowball into expensive mistakes. Accenture has leaned on its vast industry knowledge and creative thinking to develop a 4-point series of implementation for CSPs interested in pursuing an active network sharing approach.
1. Evaluate with whom to share
Legacy partnerships do not guarantee a fit for 5G
2. Think big and start small
Evaluate the over-arching objective and strategy of active network sharing agreement
3. Formulate the right partnership structure
Avoid immediate strategic constraints and pitfalls, but also partner for the future
4. Prepare for growing pains
An active network sharing initiative may require several iterations before it is well established
We at Accenture believe the active network sharing path forward is clear and accomplishable. Click below for the full report and learn how to prepare for the 5G future with successful sharing agreements and the opportunity to build on them.