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Technology Evolution Leads to Significant Growth Opportunities During the 5G Era
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This report focuses on the growth opportunities available to communication service providers (CSPs) and their suppliers by an evolving network technology: open and virtual radio access networks (RANs). To understand these opportunities, it is necessary to first describe where the mobile and wireless industry has been, where it is at now, and where it is going.Although we are entering the 5G era, there should be no expectations that previous generations of wireless technology will disappear. 4G LTE will remain the dominant technology around the world by number of subscribers through at least 2025. In 2025, 4G LTE is projected to have the most global subscribers, followed by 5G NR, with 2G and 3G still accounting for a significant number of subscribers. Understanding the expected subscriber base is important in the context of this report because open and virtual RANs can be designed to support all generations of wireless technology.As the generations of communications technology have progressed, the wireless communications network has evolved but still contains many of the same functions. At a high level, a piece of user equipment (UE)—a phone, a smartphone, a computer, a device—is communicating with the network over a radio frequency (RF) interface. The RAN takes the RF signal, coverts it to a digital signal, and communicates with the core network via the transport network. The telecom RAN network has begun moving in the same direction as the core network but is years behind. RAN software is moving to the cloud with little controversy; all telecom software now runs in the cloud, or eventually will. Open interfaces, however, are the sticking point, primarily opposed by the suppliers of closed RAN solutions. Frost & Sullivan considers the evolution of telecom networks, in general, as unstoppable; the RAN network will feature open interfaces and the software will run in the cloud. Open and virtual RANs will be the norm in the next five years, and many will question what the fuss was all about. The leading suppliers of RANs will likely still lead, but in a landscape populated by much more competition and innovation.
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