Open RAN will account for 15% of the market by 2026

Mast in Strathconon
(Image credit: WHP Telecom)

Open radio technologies are expected to account for as much as 15% of the Radio Access Network (RAN) market by 2026, according to a new report from Dell’Oro Group.

The pace of adoption has impressed analysts who believe Open RAN will not just play an important role in the deployment of 5G, but also future generations such as 6G.

While the report notes healthy traction in multiple regions, it says that Asia-Pacific has dominated the initial phase of development and will continue to play a leading role over the next five years.

Open RAN adoption

“The Open RAN movement has come a long way in just a few years, surprising both proponents and skeptics,” said Stefan Pongratz, Vice President and analyst with the Dell’Oro Group.

“While challenging comparisons will weigh a bit on the market over the short-term, it is unlikely that these divergences between the greenfields and the brownfields will leave lasting imprints on the long-term prospects.”

RAN describes technology such as antennas that transmit data between end user devices such as smartphones and the cell site. It is a market that has bene traditionally dominated by a few major players who offer highly integrated cell sites comprising radio, hardware, and software.

This approach has made it difficult for operators to mix and match innovations and has proved to be a significant barrier to entry for smaller vendors.

OpenRAN is a vendor-neutral approach with standardised designs that allow a variety of firms to supply hardware and software.

Several major telecom groups and governments have thrown their weight behind OpenRAN, believing it can increase innovation, reduce costs and reduce dependency on the ‘big three’ of Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia.

Major industry initiatives are underway to commercialise and test Open RAN technologies, with interoperability a key priority for leading operators.

Vodafone recently switched on the first OpenRAN mobile site in the UK that will carry live customer 5G traffic in Bath and plans to deploy 2,700 in Wales and the South West of England by 2027. Meanwhile, Telefonica is targeting 800 sites in four markets, including the UK, by 2022 and BT is trialling Open RAN in Hull.  

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.