Open RAN Radios – Chinese Vendors Set To Dominate An Emerging Market?

Counterpoint Research recently completed its first survey of the open RAN radio market. Entitled, “Open RAN Radios – Product Availability Study,” the survey compiles technical details of all open RAN radios segmented by market (outdoor macro/small cell and indoors), type (single/dual/tri-band and MIMO/mMIMO), frequency bands as well as other technical information.

Open RAN Radio Vendors

As part of the study, Counterpoint surveyed both established vendors and new emerging vendors where it was found that the number of vendors developing open RAN products now exceeds 25.  The established vendors are predominantly focused on developing MIMO and mMIMO radios for the carrier market while the new vendors are mainly targeting the private networks, rural FWA and indoor markets. In particular, Counterpoint found that new vendors believe that they can offer lower cost and better differentiated products more suited for individual verticals (and niches within verticals) compared to the established vendors such as Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE.

“We were genuinely surprised by both the number and the range of open RAN radio products coming onto the market” said Gareth Owen, Associate Research Director at Counterpoint Research. “In addition, we found that almost 40% of these open RAN radios originate from Chinese vendors. This increases to over 50% if Taiwanese vendors are included”, he added.

Challenges Facing Vendors

Despite the increasing availability of radios, Counterpoint believes that significant challenges remain for open RAN vendors before the market starts to gain traction, “Cost will clearly be an issue for some time despite the best efforts of initiatives such as TIP’s Evenstar program, as well as interoperability”, said Peter Richardson, VP Research at Counterpoint Research. “In fact, interoperability and the associated development and testing costs involved in customising radios to work with individual baseband software means that radio vendors today are typically limited to partnering with just one or two open RAN software vendors,” he added.

As a result, it will likely take several years before the oft-quoted open RAN dream of being able to “mix and match” radios and basebands will be finally realised. Another challenge for open RAN radio vendors is how to deal with the new emerging business model. Traditionally, radio vendors sell their hardware directly to the incumbent vendors. Now, the vendors must develop a business relationship with their new customers – the mobile operators themselves. This also impacts the choice of open RAN software provider that radio vendors decide to partner with.

Counterpoint’s Open RAN Tracker

The full results of the survey are included in Counterpoint’s Open RAN Tracker (Exhibit 1), which compiles key data about the development of the open RAN market on a global basis.

Exhibit 1 Counterpoint Research Open RAN Tracker


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