Huawei’s 5G RAN portfolio beats Ericsson, Nokia and others, report says

Chinese vendor Huawei may effectively be banned from buying 5G components from U.S. companies, but that hasn’t stopped the firm from releasing what one analyst firm considers to be the top 5G RAN portfolio in the industry.

In its first competitive assessment of the 5G radio access network (RAN) market, GlobalData ranked Huawei No. 1 over Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE. The analyst firm evaluated the vendors and their RAN products based upon criteria such as baseband capacity, installation ease, radio unit product line, and technology evolution.

GlobalData Principal Analyst Ed Gubbins said that Huawei was the leader in all categories and that its 5G RAN products exhibited superior baseband unit capacity. He also said that because Huawei is facing challenges in the U.S. market, he thinks that the company’s strong 5G RAN portfolio could increase the tension between operators that favor Huawei gear and government entities that are concerned about Huawei because of security or trade reasons.

The Commerce Department last month put Huawei and more than 60 of its subsidiaries on its entity list, meaning that U.S. companies have to obtain a special license to sell components to the Chinese company. In addition, President Trump has signed an executive order restricting Huawei’s presence in U.S. networks.

Of course, other vendors' 5G RAN products also had some advantages. In the report, GlobalData said that Ericsson’s product line is easy to install and Nokia’s products have a lot of options, including a compact form factor.

Global Data chart

But Gubbins added that it is still early in the 5G RAN race. Because non-standalone 5G deployments will rely on existing 4G LTE infrastructure for some functionality, most operators deploying non-standalone 5G will likely select their incumbent 4G LTE suppliers rather than trying a new vendor.

However, he said that in time most operators will also deploy standalone 5G networks and when they do, they will want to consider other vendors. “Standalone 5G makes it easier for [operators] to go with new vendors if that’s what they want,” Gubbins said in an email. “That said, these decisions will be specific to the operator involved and its strategy, and they will also, in some cases, be influenced by the political dynamics we’ve all seen unfolding.”

Operators are also likely to start deploying their 5G RAN gear so that they can enable new types of Internet of Things (IoT) use cases. Although carriers can offer IoT today, having a 5G RAN will make it possible to offer new services such as high bandwidth video. Network slicing will allow operators to have a common core but use different “slices” to grow their services without adding more costs and therefore increasing the profitability of the network. Gubbins said that it will take some time for that to happen but that GlobalData’s 5G RAN report will focus on those IoT capabilities in the future.