TIM joins Euro telco Open RAN party

  • Telco giants seek to stimulate Open RAN sector in Europe
  • Italian national operator joins the initiative
  • Move comes as Dell’Oro sizes the market opportunity for vendors

TIM (Telecom Italia) has joined the European Open RAN initiative launched recently by Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone by adding its signature to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on The Implementation of Open RAN Based Networks In Europe. (See Euro telco giants commit to Open RAN, lobby for state support.) 

The move signals strong intent by the Italian operator to commit to the deployment of disaggregated radio access network technology and lobby for state support to kickstart rollouts and foster a regional Open RAN R&D sector. 

By joining its peers, it is supporting “Italian companies already developing solutions for new generation mobile networks,” noted the operator’s Chief Technology and Information Officer Michele Gamberini in this TIM announcement. The move “represents a solid opportunity to ensure our country plays a leading role as a provider of technologies for the digital transformation on a European scale… TIM is reinforcing its commitment to contribute to the development of Open RAN technology in Europe,” added Gamberini. 

The Italian operator isn’t the only one to fan the Open RAN flames this week: Japanese giant NTT DOCOMO unveiled an ecosystem of partners that plans to take the Open RAN message to other operators around the world; while the opening of a test lab in Indonesia highlighted the interest of a number of operators in that massive, sprawling nation. (See NTT DOCOMO spearheads new 5G Open RAN Ecosystem and Indonesian operators put Open RAN to the test.)

TIM’s decision to commit to the deployment and support of open mobile access networks will bolster the prospects of the Open RAN vendor sector, which includes component, hardware, system software and application developers: But it will still be years before a truly significant proportion of mobile network capex will be steered towards disaggregated radio access network architectures. 

Research house Dell’Oro, which provides market figures and forecasts that are trusted by much of the industry and often cited in investor presentations, believes Open RAN technology will account for more than 10% of the overall RAN market in 2025, which would put Open RAN investments in that year somewhere in the region of $3.5 billion. (If the forecast is accurate, it also means more than $30 billion would still be invested that year in the kind of integrated systems being deployed in 4G and 5G networks today.) 

It had previously noted that it expected Open RAN investments to total $300 million in 2020. (See Open RAN revenues growing faster than expected: Dell’Oro.)

The Dell’Oro team also forecasts that cumulative Open RAN investments (hardware, software and firmware, but excluding professional services) during the period 2020-2025 will “approach $10 billion.”   

Of course, that doesn’t mean $10 billion of capex funds will be directed solely towards Open RAN technology specialists and away from the coffers of the current small group of vendors that dominate the integrated RAN system market: With companies such as Nokia and Samsung pushing hard to offer Open RAN solutions as part of their portfolios, it’s possible that the same names that dominate the RAN market today could also be the dominant technology suppliers in the Open RAN market, a point the team at Appledore Research made late last year. (See Telcos to ramp Open RAN investments with traditional major vendors, predicts Appledore Research.)

For the latest news, views, interviews and more with a focus on Open RAN developments, keep an eye on our dedicated Open RAN channel.

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

Email Newsletters

Sign up to receive TelecomTV's top news and videos, plus exclusive subscriber-only content direct to your inbox.