Shipments of macrocell radio transceivers (TRx) increased by 41 percent in 2016, achieving another year of record shipments according to Earl Lum, founder and president of EJL Wireless Research. Chinese equipment vendors, principally Huawei and ZTE, accounted for 66 percent of the total shipments, gaining share against Ericsson and Nokia (which now includes the acquired Alcatel-Lucent).

With China making major investments in 5G and expected to be one of the first countries to commercially launch 5G services by 2020, Huawei and ZTE are expected to dominate their home market and leverage that scale in other regions.

While the 5G standard is being finalized, Lum forecasts that the macrocell TRx market will decline 4 percent in unit shipments in 2017, reflecting lower capital investments in China, Asia Pacific and other regions.

Looking beyond 2017, “We forecast that the migration of mobile networks towards 4.5G LTE-Advanced Pro technology with 4T4R remote radio units will essentially double the total available market for radio TRx, while massive MIMO antenna radio systems will increase the multiplying factor by another 4 to 32x,” says Lum.

Lum believes the development and deployment of 4.5G and 5G will create a “period of prosperity” for the compound semiconductor industry, as LDMOS power amplifiers cede share to GaN and GaAs. He forecasts that 5G and fixed wireless access transceivers at 28 GHz will exceed 20 million units by 2021, and 5G new radio (NR) transceiver shipments will represent 80 percent of all macrocell shipments by 2021.

Lum’s full analysis and forecast are available from his latest report, Global Macrocell BTS Transceiver Market Analysis and Forecast, 2017-2021 13th Edition.

Lum has more than 20 years experience within the wireless industry, including eight years as an equity research analyst covering the industry.