ABI: NFV Uptake Slow but Growing

According to ABI Research, after a slower start than initially anticipated, the network function virtualization (NFV) market will experience ...

According to ABI Research, consolidation in the set-top box market is not over.
According to ABI Research, consolidation in the set-top box market is not over.

According to ABI Research, after a slower start than initially anticipated, the network function virtualization (NFV) market will experience moderate growth through ongoing NFV investments by major telcos. ABI forecasts that North America will lead the market with $13 billion in NFV-related investments during 2022, while Europe will experience the highest growth rate at an estimated 53% CAGR between 2017 and 2022.

Early adopters claim several benefits to NFV-enabled systems, which include reductions in network capex and opex, service agility, and reduced deployment times for new network elements.

"In 2015 and 2016, the market experienced some early successes, but mostly reconsiderations and failures with NFV," said Neha Pachade, senior analyst at ABI. "Early adopters conducted proof-of-concept testing and NFV-integrated system demonstrations with the aim to understand the true impact of NFV in the technical, operational and cultural domains. Our forecasts indicate that NFV will become a sizeable opportunity for vendors, although it is not yet clear whether it will cannibalize existing hardware-based product lines or create new market use cases."

ABI estimates that total NFV market revenues will reach $38 billion in 2022. Hardware spend - including servers, storage devices and switches - is expected to decline with time, while software and services are expected to have higher growth rates of 55% and 50%, respectively. Although the market is evolving and technical expertise is starting to mature, the standardization and multi-vendor involvement challenges are expected to remain stagnant for the next couple of years. Software and services vendors are expected to have opportunities to identify NFV use cases in enterprise verticals and use those to offer end-to-end integrated systems.

"Early contracts and market trends illustrate the biggest winners are likely to be the established vendors, including Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia, as well as specialists like Amdocs and Netcracker, with systems integration becoming more important each day," said Pachade. "Several vendors also place heavy and risky bets on open source software, which may increase business opportunities but may also create difficult choices for them in the future, particularly if telco interest in specific open source projects fizzles out. For the time being, NFV is mostly considered as a cost-cutting exercise, since new revenue opportunities require a transformation in a much broader context, which is more likely to be driven by 5G, after 2020."

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