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. According to Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, 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.

According to Cédric Malaquin, team lead analyst for RF activity within the power and wireless division at Yole Intelligence, "The RFFE market for macro BTS reached US$3.2 billion in 2022 and is forecast to grow to US$3.8 billion in 2028. In 2023, we expect to see significant increases in volume and value, mainly driven by the launch of India’s 5G network. 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 mmWaves, but the technologies have difficulty penetrating the market. The growth is slow because the industry is focusing on C-Band massive MIMO deployment. Nevertheless, we anticipate 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 US$400 million in 2028.

In this context, Yole Intelligence releases its new market and technology report: RF for Radio Access Network (RAN) 2023. This study provides insight into RAN vendors that play an essential role in the market, as they act as an interface between Mobile Network Operators and chip makers. It also aims to give the highest possible level of detail regarding the RF component vertical. Specific focus is placed on final-stage amplification, representing the most significant market among RFFE components in the telecom infrastructure segment. 

Cyril Buey, Ph.D., technology and market analyst in RF and Wireless Communication at Yole Intelligence, said, “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. Huawei and ZTE have increased their market share thanks to massive deployment in China, and Samsung is capitalizing on its early adoption of v-RAN and O-RAN strategies.”

Open-RAN and network virtualization 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 percent 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 percent 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 U.S./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.