LightTrends Newsletter

When the SON sets, the RIC rises, the RAN gets SDN’ized, and the SMO surges

October 2021

LightCounting releases its annual RAN Automation Report: When the SON sets, the RIC rises, the RAN gets SDN’ized, and the SMO surges

LightCounting tracks the evolution of mobile network automation from 3GPP’s Self-Organizing Network (SON) to the radio access network (RAN) intelligent controller named RIC, which with the involvement of the Open RAN Alliance (O-RAN Alliance), the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) sets the stage for the SON decomposition into non-Real Time RIC rApps, currently handled by C-SON, and near-Real Time RIC xApps, currently handled by D-SON. In addition, the O-RAN Alliance defined an SMO entity that performs the overall management and orchestration of the open RAN domain for non-latency sensitive activities and is composed of an operations support system (OSS), orchestration, and non-Real Time RIC.

“Although we do not expect the C-SON market to disappear anytime soon, we found the SMO market is poised to surpass it in 2026 with its OSS and orchestration accounting for 68% of the total. As a result, there is a lot of opportunities to develop rApps and xApps and a vast RIC/SMO ecosystem is fast developing and swelling: our SON/RIC/SMO vendor survey points to a total of 27 companies involved and profiled in this report, all competing to get a piece of this emerging market. However, they need to patiently wait for open RAN and open vRAN to take off and reach substantial commercial rollouts,” said Stéphane Téral, Chief Analyst at LightCounting Market Research.

Our major findings in the report are:

  • If all 811 LTE commercial networks had a centralized SON (C-SON), global C-SON sales would roughly be in the range of the OSS market. But that is not the case and as a result, C-SON software and services sales are just above the $1B bar and growing at a low single digit CAGR
  • From the dozens of C-SON vendors who entered the market as it took off a decade ago, less than 10 are left, market share is led by Nokia
  • The SMO market is poised for a rapid ramp up, and will be the largest opportunity; a huge RIC/SMO ecosystem is building up
  • The near-Real Time RIC market is unleashing D-SON use cases that until now were proprietary and controlled by RAN vendors
  • By 2026, we expect 37% of C-SON sales and services to be in the form of a non-Real Time rApps

More information on the report is available at: Network Automation Report

Ready to connect with LightCounting?

Enabling effective decision-making based on a unique combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis.
Reach us at

Contact Us