Last year was a brutal one for the radio access network equipment market, with both Omdia and Dell’Oro reporting significant declines.

Analyst firms rely on people paying for their data and insights, so they only give select morsels of it away to us journalists for free. Two of them have released their full-year 2023 RAN market reports this week, the offerings from which give us the opportunity to paint a fuller picture.

We spoke to Rémy Pascal of Omdia about his report and the top-line figure was that global RAN revenues (hardware and software) declined by 11% last year to just over $40 billion. Dell’Oro, meanwhile, didn’t offer us a market sizing but did reveal that it recorded a decline of around $4 billion, which is consistent with Omdia’s findings.

The worst performing region by far, according to Pascal, was North America, which almost halved, but this should be viewed in the context of a relatively strong 2022. India and China seem to have been the best performing countries. This partly explains why Huawei continues to be the top RAN vendor despite attempts by the US and its allies to prevent that, but as the Omdia table below shows, the Chinese vendor is still doing well in many other regions too. We’re told this table looked pretty much the same last year.

 Top vendors, full year 2023 RAN revenue, top 3 by region

North AmericaAsia & Oceania Europe, Middle East and AfricaLatin America & the Caribbean

Source: Omdia

“Following the intense rise between 2017 and 2021, it’s clear that the broader RAN market is now experiencing a setback, as two out of the six tracked regions are facing notable declines,” said Stefan Pongratz of Dell’Oro. “In addition to challenging conditions in North America and Europe, the narrowing gap between advanced and less advanced operators in this first 5G wave, compared to previous technology cycles, initially had a positive impact but is now constraining global 5G and broader RAN growth prospects.”

Dell’Oro didn’t share its forecast for this year but Omdia expects the RAN market size to decrease by around 5% compared to 2023. That’s an improvement on the 2022-23 decline but still not great news for the RAN industry. For all the talk of Open RAN, it clearly has yet to inspire significant capex from operators. The same goes for programmable networks. Less than halfway through the presumed 5G cycle, spending has stalled and it’s not at all clear what will restart it.

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