Analysts divided over open RAN potential

Caroline Gabriel

Research Director, Networks and 5G Analysys Mason

Emanuel Kolta

Senior Analyst, Social and Region Research GSMA Intelligence

Remy Pascal

Principal Analyst, Mobile Infrastructure Omdia

John Strand

CEO Strand Consult

Outspoken industry analyst John Strand told Mobile World Live (MWL) established equipment vendors are getting something of a raw deal due to hype around open RAN, which disguises the limitations of the approach.

In an analyst Q&A for MWL’s latest Themed Week, the Strand Consult CEO noted open RAN was not an exact commercial alternative for 5G networks due to a lack of compatibility with legacy 2G and 3G networks.

“If open RAN gets the success its proponents predict, it will account for less than 1 per cent of the 5G mobile sites in 2025 and not more than 3 per cent in 2030.”

Caroline Gabriel, research director for networks and 5G at Analysys Mason, agreed open RAN is “not commercially important yet”, but suggested it is unfair to judge before specifications are finalised.

In time, it “seems very plausible a parallel ecosystem and platform could emerge based around relatively small and simple cells, which would adopt various open interfaces from scratch”.

Omdia principal analyst for mobile infrastructure Remy Pascal believes open RAN broadens the options available to operators, but cautioned there are “a lot of variables” particularly around reducing costs.

But GSMA Intelligence senior analyst Emanuel Kolta noted contraction in the vendor market “reached a critical point” during the past five years, with “escalating political conflicts and the enormous cost of 5G deployments” converging to create a need for a market shake up.

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