LightTrends Newsletter

Japan proceeds to become the world’s first open vRAN nation

September 2021

LightCounting releases its Japan Wireless Infrastructure Update Report

September 30, 2021 -- LightCounting’s latest report provides an update on 4G and 5G developments in Japan, including macroeconomics, geopolitics, and technology. After a slow 2020 marked by a pandemic that compounded a looming recession, 1H21 saw RAN sales grow by 40% YoY, mostly driven by Rakuten Mobile’s aggressive 4G rollout that is now ahead of schedule. Overall, 4G was much stronger than 5G.

“Despite a slower economic recovery than what the Japanese government anticipated at the beginning of the year, the 2021 RAN market is looking up and the incentives to accelerate 5G rollouts are working. In fact, it is following the U.S. lead and pushing the open vRAN agenda with a series of initiatives, prompting the 3 dominant mobile operators NTT DOCOMO, KDDI and Softbank to actively test open vRAN and to adopt the novel architecture in the next phase of their 5G rollouts,” said Stéphane Téral, Chief Analyst at LightCounting Market Research.

Our major findings in the report are:

  • Economic data released by Bank of Japan in January 2021 suggests the nation was already entering a recession in 2H19. Then, the emergence, the rapid spread, and the persistence of COVID-19 throughout 2020 accelerated the real GDP decline. 1H21 economic activity points to a slower recovery than what the Japanese anticipated at the beginning of the year.
  • The slower than expected economic recovery is not affecting the RAN market that is still expecting to surge this year. We raised our 4G forecast and kept 5G intact.
  • Rakuten Mobile’s site cost structure triggered a drop in the BTS average sales price.
  • Propelled by Rakuten Mobile, Altiostar gained market shares at the expense of Nokia, Ericsson stays #1 and Samsung is showing a strong momentum
  • Japan’s new economic recovery and 5G rollout directives is driving a RAN market surge in 2021, which is also marked by substantial open vRAN testing activity across the board
  • Large scale commercial open vRAN deployments are expected to start in 2022

About the report:

Japan Wireless Infrastructure Report focuses on Japan’s mobile market and analyzes the implications of the introduction of Rakuten Mobile and the Japanese government’s open RAN push. The publication date is scheduled a few weeks after the 4 services providers (e.g., KDDI, NTT DOCOMO, Rakuten Mobile, and Softbank) provide their interim report so that we can gather many details about 1H21 and provide a 2H21 outlook, a 5-year RAN forecast, and a 3-year capex outlook. This report also includes subscriber and base station (BTS) numbers and RAN vendor market shares and analysis.

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