APAC drives Open RAN growth, market set to be $500M+ this year

  • Dell’Oro says Japan in particular is driving early demand for Open RAN tech 
  • Mavenir boasts involvement in 5G Open RAN smart city in Thailand
  • Value of Open RAN investments set to double year-on-year in 2021

Open RAN investments are growing faster than expected, with network operators in the Asia-Pacific region responsible for a current ramp in open, disaggregated radio access network deployments, according to research house Dell’Oro, which has increased its Open RAN market value outlook to more than $500 million for 2021.  

Japan, of course, is a hot-spot of Open RAN activity, with Rakuten Mobile taking a predominantly open approach to its 5G networksNTT DOCOMO introducing Open RAN elements into its mobile networks, and KDDI using Open RAN radios from Fujitsu as part of its 5G rollout. 

According to Dell’Oro, the level of investment in macro and small cell radios, plus baseband hardware and software, compatible with O-RAN Alliance or TIP OpenRAN specifications during the first three months of this year was five times greater than a year earlier. As a result of that “strong showing,” Dell’Oro Vice President Stefan Pongratz has adjusted his “short-term outlook upward” and now expects full year Open RAN investments to be almost double the amount spent in 2020: He says the previous forecast was for less than $500 million in total Open RAN investments for 2021, but the new outlook is in the range of $500 million to $1 billion.  

(Note: Pongratz is understandably reticent to pin an exact figure on the forecast but based on previous announcements about the total value of the market in 2020 being $300 million, it’s fair to assume the market value is set to be north of $600 million this year.) 

And while Pongratz notes that macro deployments are dominating, “Open RAN small cell activity is on the rise. Helping to drive this acceleration is faster growth with millimeter wave (mmWave) deployments in Japan, with multiple operators now embracing the benefits of combining the higher spectrum with the sub 6 GHz bands.”

Check out his full blog here and see what he has to say about a number of key mobile industry trends in this exclusive interview, recorded as part of TelecomTV’s recent 5G Evolution Summit. (See Dell’Oro’s Pongratz on key 5G market trends.)

Of course Japan isn’t the only Asia-Pacific market with Open RAN action. In Indonesia, multiple operators are working with vendors such as Parallel Wireless and Mavenir to test and trial Open RAN sites.

And in Thailand, Mavenir has just announced it is working with state-owned National Telecom Public Company Ltd. (formed by the merger of TOT and CAT Telecom), smart city integrator 5GCT and Cisco to build a 5G Open RAN smart city in Ban Chang. The vendor says the Ban Chang Smart City 5G Private Network operates on mmWave spectrum, “which is ideally suited for a network operating Internet of Thing (IoT) sensors, drones and smart poles, all applications which require fast data uplink to the core for real-time analysis and city management.” (See this press release for further details.)

The announcements come days after Rakuten Mobile formalized relationships with both NEC and Fujitsu to take the Open RAN model and associated technology elements to other markets via the operator’s Rakuten Communications Platform, or RCP. (See What’s up with… Amazon & MGM, French media giants, Open RAN from Japan, RJio.)

And there’s Open RAN activity in other regions too, of course: While Europe’s major operators dip their toes into the disaggregated RAN waters and share their technical requirements, in the US Dish Network is only months away from the initial planned launch of its Open RAN-based 5G service in Las Vegas

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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