The number of mobile-network radio units supporting 5G on the market more than doubled in 2019, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
In aggregate, the number of 5G radio units offered by the market’s five leading vendors – Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE – grew 112% in 2019, from 272 products at the beginning of the year to 578 at the end. This was among the findings of the company’s most recent 5G RAN Competitive Landscape Assessment.
Ed Gubbins, Principal Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Every major radio access network (RAN) equipment vendor reports that 5G has advanced faster than they had predicted, and they’re all racing to keep up with market demand. 5G rollouts accelerated in 2019, especially among early adopters in the US, Japan and Korea, and their equipment suppliers have been busy commercializing a wide variety of gear to meet a diverse set of global market needs.”
Among the report’s findings are a surge in radio units with integrated antennas. This subset has been growing for years as operators seek to eliminate the signal loss that may occur as mobile traffic travels between radio and antenna. Radio units with integrated antennas have grown from 26% of available units in late 2018 to 38% in late 2019. This greater level of integration has multiple implications, from positive – including greater simplicity – to potentially negative, including more challenging installations of bulkier gear.
Gubbins continued: “Further fueling the antenna-integrated radio trend is the rise of massive multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) units, which typically include integrated antennas. As GlobalData revealed in another recent report, Massive MIMO products, whose beamforming capabilities improve 5G service quality by focusing mobile signals directly toward users, have also more than doubled in 2019.
“The trends we’re seeing toward increased integration of the elements of the radio access network help explain some of the moves we’ve seen recently, such as Ericsson’s acquisition of Kathrein’s antenna assets,” Gubbins said. “They also raise questions about how integrated mobile network operators want their 5G networks to be and to what extent they want to disaggregate these networks, so they can source different network elements from different vendors and encourage more competition in their supplier base. Those debates are going to continue, but for now, the portfolios of major vendors show a clear trend toward increased integration in 5G.”