LightTrends Newsletter

When the world’s first open vRAN nation conquers the rest of the world

April 2022

LightCounting releases its Japan Wireless Infrastructure Update Report

LightCounting’s latest report focuses on Japan’s wireless infrastructure market and analyzes the implications of the introduction of Rakuten Mobile and the Japanese government’s open RAN push.

Led by Rakuten Mobile, that built an open vRAN network from scratch, Japan is the world’s first open RAN nation and boasts the most advanced cloud-based technologies: open RAN BTS accounted for 35% of total units deployed in 2021.

“Strongly supported by the Japanese government, the Rakuten effect quickly spread to the rest of the Japanese ecosystem. On the one hand, NTT DOCOMO and KDDI are promptly executing their open RAN agendas and developing their own respective platforms. NTT DOCOMO is also applying the Rakuten Symphony playbook by proposing its platform to the world. On the other hand, Fujitsu and NEC have gained a significant international presence with their open RAN product portfolio and system integration services,” said Stéphane Téral, Chief Analyst at LightCounting Market Research.

Consequently, Japan’s RAN market is vibrant and looking up, shifting from strong 4G rollouts in 2021 to significant 5G deployments this year and next. Our model is based on Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) 5G roadmap that points to a surge this year and next, followed by a huge drop starting in 2024. According to the MIC’s long-term plan, the RAN market is expected to bounce back in 2026 and by 2027, open RAN BTS will account for more than 60% of the total footprint.

Our major findings in the report are:

  • As rightly anticipated, 2021 saw a surge in 4G deployments.
  • The Rakuten effect has brought a large variety of vendors to the Japanese ecosystem, which prompted NTT DOCOMO to promote its OREC initiative.
  • Overall, Japan’s approach to disaggregation is tactical and pragmatic while also aggressive.
  • 2022 is shaping up as a big 5G ramp up year.
  • Driven by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, our near-term RAN forecast points to a bump followed by a fall until the next cycle kicks in by the end of the 5-year forecast period.
More information about the report is available at Market Reports.


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