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Maturing O-RAN set to have 75% market share by 2030

Analyst confident of prospects for comms technology enabling multi-supplier interoperability for innovations and reducing time to market for deploying new network functionality

The development of open radio access network (O-RAN) is gaining momentum, with a study from ABI Research predicting that total spending on O-RAN radio units (RUs) for the public outdoor macro cell network will reach $69.5bn in 2030, with cumulative unit shipments expected to reach 15.7 million.

Network operators, new entrants, system integrators and application developers are working together to unlock the traditional integrated telco supply chain, which has to date been dominated by a handful of large infrastructure suppliers.

O-RAN’s proponents believe the technology has the potential to enable operators to broaden their range of network infrastructure partners and facilitate a better and more cost-effective 5G network service for customers. They say that by disaggregating hardware and software components and leveraging open interfaces, O-RAN technology has the potential to enrich the mobile ecosystem with new products and business models and become the basis of an expanded multi-supplier ecosystem.

And if the growth predicted in its Open RAN and vRAN addressable markets and stakeholders report is realised, ABI Research has calculated that total spending on O-RAN RUs for the public outdoor macro cell network will reach $69.5bn by 2030, with cumulative unit shipments expected to reach 15.7 million.

At the same time, the total revenue of O-RAN RUs for the enterprise indoor small cell network could reach $39.8bn in 2030, with cumulative unit shipments expected to hit 205.5 million.

“The key benefits of O-RAN bring multi-vendor interoperability for innovations and reduce time to market for deploying new network functionality,” said Jiancao Hou, 5G and mobile network infrastructure senior analyst at ABI Research. “Powered by network virtualisation, O-RAN will help network operators and various industrial enterprise verticals enable network automation and intelligent radio resource control, therefore reducing network integration expenses and operational complexity.

“A robust ecosystem and supply diversity will remove fears and potential security threats to governments and network operators whose telco infrastructures were initially supplied by one or two big vendors, which has led to the unpredictable disruption of supply chains.”

Looking at companies in the telecoms sector that are driving O-RAN, the report cited Rakuten Mobile, a greenfield network service provider which, it said, set a prime example to deploy O-RAN. It also noted that Vodafone had announced its first live O-RAN 4G site in the UK, partnering with Parallel Wireless. At the same time, TIP published a playbook to capture the learnings from a trial deployment in Turkey.

Apart from those, the survey highlighted the fact that many other network operators, in collaboration with the supplier ecosystem, are deploying and testing the technology – Dish Network in the US, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Turkcell in the EU.

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The success of these deployment use cases will bring more network operators, suppliers and stakeholders into the marketplace to invest this new network approach. Also, with the expansion of the supplier ecosystem, traditional infrastructure suppliers will need to reconsider their RAN development and deployment strategies. 

Looking to the short term, ABI Research said it also expected that while 5G O-RAN systems are being developed and matured, 2G/3G and 4G will be the mainstream focus of O-RAN in the next few years.

“Advanced 5G features, including massive MIMO, dynamic spectrum sharing and wide-band carrier aggregation, are still single-vendor solutions and will likely remain so for the immediate future,” said Hou. “On the other hand, several chipset vendors and new entrants are now creating development and processing platforms that will likely power the next wave of innovation in O-RAN.

“Many unique features of O-RAN can also be beneficial for industrial enterprise verticals to build private cellular networks. These features include infrastructure reconfigurability, network sustainability, time to innovations and deployment cost.”

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