Why Ericsson and Nokia Will Do Well in Open RAN Market : ABI Research

Global technology intelligence firm ABI Research has unveiled its projections, forecasting a steady yet incremental rise in the Open RAN market share, reaching an estimated 6 percent to 8 percent of the overall RAN market by the close of 2024.
Samsung Open RAN radiosSaqlain Ali, Senior Analyst specializing in 5G, 6G, and Open RAN at ABI Research, notes the current dominance of Open RAN vendors such as Samsung, Mavenir, NEC, Fujitsu, Rakuten Symphony, and Parallel Wireless, holding an impressive 95-97 percent of the total Open RAN market. However, Ali anticipates a shift in the industry dynamics during the latter half of 2024 as incumbent vendors, notably Ericsson, make strides in developing their Open RAN ecosystem.

Major players in early Open RAN deployments, including Mavenir, NEC, Samsung, Fujitsu, and Rakuten Symphony, are gearing up for intense competition from incumbent giants Ericsson and Nokia. Leveraging their substantial global presence in the RAN market, Ericsson and Nokia are poised to spearhead large-scale Open RAN deployments in the coming years.

ABI Research did not reveal why telecom network vendors such as Huawei, ZTE and Samsung will not be able to compete in the Open RAN market.

Ericsson recently secured a significant $14 billion deal with AT&T for the deployment of Open RAN in the United States, claiming the availability of O-RAN-compliant radios by the outset of 2024. The expected spend under the Ericsson contract is below what AT&T expects to spend for wireless capital expenditure over the next 5 years.

Chris Sambar, Executive Vice President, AT&T Network, said: “We will open up radio access networks, drive innovation, spur competition and connect more Americans with 5G and fiber.”

Additionally, Nokia has forged partnerships with Tier-1 operators such as Deutsche Telekom (DT) and NTT DOCOMO, along with Open RAN vendors like Mavenir, to accelerate the global expansion of their Open RAN footprint.

Nokia and Deutsche Telekom have started the deployment of multi-vendor Open RAN network in Germany.

The Open RAN deal marks a significant return for Nokia into Deutsche Telekom’s network. Nokia will provide Open RAN compliant AirScale solution; Fujitsu will partner with Nokia in the deal with open-fronthaul compliant Radio Units.

Claudia Nemat, Board Member of Deutsche Telekom AG for Technology and Innovation commented: “Open RAN is crucial to Deutsche Telekom’s strategy to promote greater supplier diversity and accelerate customer-oriented innovation in the radio access network.

NTT DOCOMO is deploying Nokia’s Open RAN (O-RAN) compliant 5G AirScale baseband solution including Centralized Unit (CU) and Distributed Unit (DU) software in its commercial network nationwide.

“Nokia’s O-RAN compatible AirScale 5G Baseband solution is competitive and is capable of being connected to any O-RUs on NTT DOCOMO’s 5G commercial network. Its high performance and low power consumption will also reduce our operational costs,” said Masafumi Masuda, General Manager of Radio Access Network Technology Promotion Office, NTT DOCOMO.

Vodafone and Nokia plan to run a commercial 5G Open Radio Access Network (RAN) pilot in Italy for the first time. Vodafone and Nokia are now focussing on building open and interoperable networks to meet enterprise and consumer demand for highly responsive 5G services built on AI and extended reality, Alberto Ripepi, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone, said.

Covering a cluster of sites in northern Italy, the pilot will involve Nokia containerised baseband software running on Red Hat OpenShift, an industry leading hybrid cloud application platform powered by Kubernetes, hosted on the latest generation Dell PowerEdge XR8000 servers.

Samsung Electronics is supporting Vodafone’s deployment of Open RAN across 2,500 mobile sites in Wales and the South-West of England. Starting in Devon, Vodafone kicked off its Open RAN deployment using Samsung’s virtualized RAN (vRAN) software and Open RAN radio solutions.

“Vodafone has been at the forefront of Open RAN innovation and we are excited to kick-off the mass installation of Open RAN, working together with Samsung Networks and the rest of our ecosystem,” said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer, Vodafone UK.

Though the Open RAN ecosystem is not mature, small-scale deployments will persist in the near future. There will be a potential inflection point between 2027 and 2028, driven by advancements in Open RAN silicon, increased multi-vendor interoperability and testing, and the introduction of RIC (RAN Intelligent Controller) and ULPI (Upper Layer Protocol for Interfaces) interface for Massive MIMO, which could yield more favorable outcomes for the industry.

Baburajan Kizhakedath