5G Massive MIMO market growing quickly in 2020, dominated by high-performance need

The number of 5G Massive MIMO (Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) radio products on the market is growing rapidly in 2020 and is dominated by high-performance products, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Massive MIMO, which uses radios with large arrays of antennas to increase the performance of mobile access networks, is an important technology for delivering 5G services.  

The company’s latest report, ‘Massive MIMO: How Vendor Portfolios Are Evolving in 2020,’ reveals the latest trends in this telecommunications market segment, including the strong growth in equipment vendors’ product portfolios. The number of Massive MIMO products on the market has ramped up significantly in recent years, more than doubling in 2019 to over 70 products. And through the third quarter of 2020, the industry’s five major RAN vendors will offer a total of 127 products supporting LTE, 5G, or both.

Ed Gubbins, Principal Analyst for GlobalData, commented: “Demand for Massive MIMO gear among mobile operators globally is being driven by increasing data demands among mobile users in the face of finite spectrum.

“Increasing the number of antennas used to transmit and receive signals helps operators meet increasing capacity demands with existing spectrum by focusing mobile signals into beams that target users rather than scattering signals more widely. The result is a more efficient use of the airwaves.”

There are multiple criteria that operators use to evaluate Massive MIMO products, including physical size, and maximum power output levels. The report analyses the various portfolios of major equipment vendors, including Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE and compares their portfolios using these selection criteria.

The two most common types of Massive MIMO products have either 64 antenna pairs or 32. Of the two, products with 64 antenna pairs offer higher capacity and range but generally requiring more power. Those higher performing products currently dominate the market, representing 55% of products on the market, while products with 32 antenna pairs are about a third of today’s products, according to GlobalData. The demand for higher performance can also be seen in the fact that more than one vendor that offered a lower capacity product, with just 16 antenna pairs, discontinued sales of those products in 2019 due to insufficient demand.

Gubbins continues: “Mobile operator preferences for different types of Massive MIMO gear vary by geography. In South Korea, operators have tended toward using more 32×32 products, because sites in the densely populated cities there are relatively close together, so more powerful 64×64 products might be overkill or even interfere with one another. However, in China, where there’s less density and a lot of fiber to deliver capacity, operators gravitate toward 64TR products.”  

These regional preferences are reflected to a degree in vendors’ portfolios. Samsung, which dominates the Massive MIMO market in its home country of South Korea, offers more 32×32 products – preferred by South Korean operators — than 64×64. Huawei and ZTE, which dominate the Chinese market, offer more 64×64 products, in accordance with the preferences of Chinese operators and in fact, nearly all of Huawei’s Massive MIMO shipments are high-capacity 64×64 products.

Information based on GlobalData’s report: ‘Massive MIMO: How Vendor Portfolios Are Evolving in 2020’

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