Open RAN to take 6-8% of total RAN market this year - ABI

The open Radio Access Network (RAN) market hasn’t exactly taken off like gangbusters – slow and not-always-so steady is more like it.

But ABI Research predicts the open RAN market will continue an upward, albeit slow, growth trajectory, reaching 6% to 8% of the overall RAN market by the end of 2024.

The dominant vendors in open RAN are Samsung, Mavenir, NEC, Fujitsu, Rakuten Symphony and Parallel Wireless, which hold around 95%-97% of the total open RAN market share, according to ABI.

However, the industry is expected to see a turn-around during the second half of 2024, in part due to the incumbent vendors that are developing their own open RAN ecosystem. (Yes, the very same vendors that some early open RAN proponents wanted to crush.)

In fact, ABI says the dominant open RAN vendors can expect to face “fierce competition” from the incumbent vendors, which include Ericsson and Nokia.

“Considering their global presence in the RAN market, Nokia and Ericsson are in a solid position to carry out massive-scale open RAN deployments in the next few years,” ABI said in a press release, noting that Ericsson won a considerable deal with AT&T to deploy open RAN in the United States and claimed the availability of its O-RAN-compliant radios by the start of 2024.

Meanwhile, Nokia is partnering with Tier 1 operators, including Deutsche Telekom and NTT DoCoMo, as well as open RAN vendors, including Mavenir, to accelerate their open RAN footprint worldwide.

"While the open RAN ecosystem is not mature, small-scale deployments will continue for the next few years,” said ABI senior analyst Saqlain Ali. 

Further advancements related to open RAN silicon, multi-vendor interoperability and testing, and the availability of RAN intelligent controller (RIC) and the uplink performance improvement (ULPI) specification for Massive MIMO could result in more favorable results, according to ABI, which said an inflection point is possible between 2027 and 2028.

Tests & pilots 

For some analysts, the open RAN market is developing much as they had expected a few years ago. For example, Mobile Experts chief analyst Joe Madden told Fierce last year that given incumbent operators’ commitment to 5G architectures five years prior, it was unlikely they were going to rip everything out and start anew.

Plus, operators need to know the equipment they’re deploying is going to work, which is why so many are in this test/pilot phase of the journey.

Acknowledging that market conditions are far from ideal, Dell’Oro Group continues to believe the open RAN movement is here to stay, forecasting open RAN to account for more than 15% of the total RAN market by 2027.