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Dell’Oro 5-year forecast update: Full speed ahead for broadband spending

Global spending on broadband access equipment and CPE is expected to have a 3% CAGR from 2020-2025, which is a solid increase from a 0% CAGR in our January 2021 5-Year forecast edition. The combination of continued residential subscriber growth and increased capacity utilization rates noted by global broadband providers will more than offset the negative impacts of component shortages and labor limitations.

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Broadband subscriber additions continue to grow at a furious pace around the world, as the Delta variant continues to limit the return of employees to their offices and has extended hybrid learning environments for students. Even if subscriber growth does slow later this year, broadband penetration rates and the total addressable market for broadband service providers have expanded significantly over the last year. Subscriber growth has also resulted in improved revenue and gross margins for service providers. As a result, providers are pulling forward some of their upgrade projects, including those involving the transition from copper to fiber.

The spending slump we had expected to see in 2021 after the increased investment levels of 2020 is not going to materialize. In fact, spending will continue to grow this year as operators deal with continued subscribers additions, as well as competitors increasing their investments in fiber, HFC, and fixed wireless networks.

PON equipment spending expected to remain solid
Our five-year CAGR for PON equipment has been increased yet again to 5% from 3%. China, which has historically accounted for anywhere from 65-80% of total PON spending, has peaked in terms of total ONT units consumed on an annual basis. The Chinese FTTH market has matured, with broadband penetration in the country reportedly nearing 80%. Though subscriber growth is slowing, there is still a tremendous installed base of subscribers that will continue to require new ONTs.

Although China’s ONT volumes are coming down from the peak years of 2017 and 2018, additional growth is expected from the rest of the world—particularly North America and Western Europe. In North America, the FCC’s $20B RDOF (Rural Digital Opportunity Fund) program will help transition a significant number of rural areas to fiber over the next 5-7 years. In Western Europe, major operators including Orange, DT, BT OpenReach, and Proximus are all expanding their fiber rollouts and even moving quickly to XGS-PON for symmetric 10 G services.

Finally, in Asia, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia, along with a 10 G upgrade cycle in Japan and South Korea should also help sustain the market.

Cable infrastructure spending set for growth
The glut of DOCSIS channel capacity that helped push down cable equipment revenue in 2018 and 2019 was actually beneficial to operators in 2020 as they were able to address significant increases in both upstream and downstream traffic during the pandemic with minimal increases in spending. In most cases, cable operators used the software tools available as part of DOCSIS 3.1 to ensure adequate bandwidth for all subscribers. In other cases, operators purchased additional DOCSIS licenses as part of accelerated node split programs to address systems with the greatest need.

Regardless, after two years of under-investing in infrastructure, the overall cable infrastructure market will see a steady increase in revenue throughout our forecast period, as mid- and high-split projects in North America and Western Europe, designed to increase upstream capacity, are accelerated. Investments in outside plant equipment, particularly new amplifiers and taps, will also continue as operators begin the multi-year process of preparing their networks for DOCSIS 4.0 and its ability to enable extended-spectrum DOCSIS (ESD), low-latency DOCSIS, and full-duplex DOCSIS (FDD).
BCS Bureau

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