RF front-end market for base transceiver stations growing at 4% CAGR 22-8

Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE, and Samsung are the top 5 RAN players.

NXP is the uncontested leader with a 35% market share of the overall RFFE market in 2022.

RAN is moving toward 5G stand alone and more massive MIMO.RF front-end market for base transceiver stations growing at 4% CAGR 22-8

With the exponential growth of mobile traffic, operators continue to invest in 5G networks.

At the end of 2022, the mobile market represented 1.23 billion smartphones and 6.9 million radio units, of which more than 600 million smartphones and almost 1.5 million radio units were 5G.

Chinese MNOs continued their rapid BTS rollout in 2022, representing half of the global BTS deployment. 

Indian operators are ambitiously deploying 5G networks. This will lead to a peak in radio unit deployment in 2023, with more than 7.5 million units deployed globally.

‘In 2023, we expect to see significant increases in volume and value, mainly driven by the launch of India’s 5G network,” says Yole’s Cédric Malaquin, “in addition, the market is expected to continue growing in numbers, supported by a higher penetration of massive MIMO antennas.”

There are many potential use cases for Sub-6 GHz small cells and 5G millimeter waves, but the technologies have difficulty penetrating the market. The growth is slow because the industry is focusing on C-band massive MIMO deployment. 

Nevertheless, Yole anticipates a steady growth of small cells with a substantial ramp-up starting in 2024.

 The RFFE market for small cells and mmWave radio is expected to be more than $400 million in 2028.

“At the system level, the five established players, Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE, and Samsung, continue to consolidate their leading position by significant innovations in their RAN portfolio to optimize system size and power efficiency,” says Yole’s Cyril Bluey, “Huawei and ZTE have increased their market share thanks to massive deployment in China, and Samsung is capitalising on its early adoption of v-RAN and O-RAN strategies.”

Open-RAN and network virtualisation represent major opportunities for Tier-2 players such as NEC and Fujitsu and even smaller players like Mavenir or Airspan. 

Companies like Samsung and NEC are eager to capture a significant part of this market and are expected to gain up to 25% of the annual RAN market by 2025. The small cell and mmWave markets also represent exciting opportunities for newcomers. 

The RFFE market for 4G/5G wireless infrastructure is quite fragmented, resulting in a complex technological ecosystem, rendered still more complex by the many players involved. The recent technological disruption in the industry has happened due to 5G: a fragmented market is starting to rally behind the large players.

A few players stand out, with significant market shares, including NXP, Qorvo, SEDI, and Analog Devices. NXP is the uncontested leader with a 35% market share of the total RFFE market. However, with the expected market growth in the next several years, we will likely see other players generating significant revenue in the infrastructure field.

The US/China trade war is splitting the supply chain between China and the rest of the world. As a result, China is accelerating the development of a local supply chain and is seeing an increasing number of companies emerging in the RFFE field.

At the wafer level, growth will be driven by IDMs such as NXP and Infineon Technologies and major foundries such as GlobalFoundries, Tower Semiconductor, and STMicroelectronics

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