Research company Dell’Oro Group reported the RAN market remained on track for a fifth consecutive year of growth in 2022 despite outside challenges, and predicted global revenue to surpass $40 billion by 2026.

VP Stefan Pongratz stated the underlying fundamentals for the RAN market remained healthy despite a war in Ukraine, supply chain uncertainty and China’s Covid-19 (coronavirus) policy.

Dell’Oro Group tipped growth to slow towards the end of its forecast period of 2021 to 2026.

It predicted sales growth in China and North America to peak this year.

Pongratz told Mobile World Live (MWL) China and the US would be further along with their respective upper mid- and low-band networks by the end of this year.

“While more investments are needed beyond the initial coverage layer to support multiple bands and use cases, the equipment capex is expected to slow somewhat in the post peak mobile broadband phase.”

He said open RAN was still projected to account for 15 per cent of global revenue by 2026.

Slower mmWave growth in 2021 also didn’t materially impact the RAN forecast: it is still expected to account for 2 per cent to 4 per cent of the total.

Pongratz noted the mmWave slowdown was mostly driven by “challenging comparisons in the North America region” while the near-term focus was tilted towards sub-6 GHz spectrum.

But he said mmWave would play a pivotal role in the capacity roadmap going forward.

The cost per GB gap between sub-6GHz and mmWave spectrum is expected to gradually narrow “as the non-RAN equipment cost of small cell sites declines, mmWave technology advances, repeater solutions improve and the sub-6GHz spectrum is exhausted”.

Pongratz predicted increased revenue for mmWave in 2022, driven primarily by parts of Asia-Pacific.

Japan and the US are currently the largest mmWave markets by revenue.

Verizon has been a leading proponent of mmWave for its ultra-wideband service while all major operators in Japan deployed commercial services in 2021.

Dell’Oro Group predicted small cell RAN revenue to grow at a CAGR of 6 per cent, driven by 5G.