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5G network densification and mMIMO to drive mobile net spend to US$191bn by 2026

Finding MIMO pivotal to driving massive uptake in cellular infrastructure expenditure over the next five years

An industry report published by global tech market advisory firm ABI Research has indicated that massive MIMO (mMIMO) is proving to be the catalyst that will fuel mobile infrastructure supplier revenue in the foreseeable future.

ABI’s Indoor, outdoor, and IoT network infrastructure market data report calculated that the installed base mMIMO market was expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 63.8% between 2020 and 2026 to reach US$58.2bn (£41.5bn) by 2026. By adding 5G densification revenues to those from mMIMO, ABI said the total would reach US$97.3bn by 2026, accounting for approximately 73% of the outdoor revenue.

The report found that the Asia-Pacific market would be a hotspot for mMIMO, with mobile network operators expected to deploy 28.3 million units – representing more than 78% of the total mMIMO market – by 2026, despite the banning of Chinese suppliers such as Huawei in the western world.

“mMIMO enables mobile network operators (MNOs) to offer best-in-class service to users while leveraging cell site infrastructure and spectrum assets acquired for 5G,” commented Johanna Alvarado, senior analyst at ABI Research. “The adoption of the different configurations depends on multiple factors, such as user density, cell site characteristics, local regulations and clutter features. For example, Chinese operators are deploying mMIMO radios mainly in 64T64R configuration, while in South Korea, operators are mainly deploying 32T32R mMIMO due to space and mast weight constraints.”

Drilling deeper within the industry and where monetisation is most likely, ABI also found that in-building wireless would represent approximately 22% of the total mobile network infrastructure revenue in the world market, reaching US$34.4bn by 2026. Protocols such as 5G NR-Unlicensed (5G NR-U), citizens broadband radio systems (CBRS), licensed shared access (LSA) and locally licensed spectrum are expected to fuel the acceleration of small cell deployments in the enterprise domain.

In its report, ABI also noted Open RAN as an “exciting and innovative” technology for the 5G era. The analyst predicted that the market dynamics of Open RAN would be affected by multiple factors, with the geopolitical environment that resulted in the ban of Chinese infrastructure suppliers, the performance of existing open RAN networks and technological developments affecting the technology’s penetration across the different regions.

ABI predicted the revenue of the Open RAN market would grow at a CAGR of 126.7%, representing approximately 17.6% of the total outdoor revenue, reaching US$23.6bn by 2026.

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