Microwave Journal

Another Down Year for BTS Antenna-Radio Shipments Before 5G Kicks In

August 27, 2019

Earl Lum, principal of EJL Wireless Research sees 2019 as another down year before 5G drives a recovery in 2020.

“The last several years have been choppy, due to the transition from 4G to 5G, coupled with the U.S. export ban on ZTE in 2018 and continued mobile operator consolidation. LTE networks are mature and now migrating to LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) and LTE-Advanced Pro configurations,” said Lum.

Remote radio unit (RRU) and antenna radio system (ARS) shipments declined 13 percent in 2018 after growing in 2017.

He is bearish on 5G mmWave, seeing mmWave ARS shipments proceeding “at a snail’s pace” in the U.S.

Antenna-Radio Evolution

Initial sub-6 GHz 5G ARS are using an 8 x 8 MIMO configuration with traditional 8T8R RRUs and passive antennas. Higher capacity massive MIMO ARS, configured as 64T64R, will only be deployed in high data traffic areas.

By geography, “China is the main driver for 5G NR massive MIMO 64T64R ARS shipments in 2019, followed by massive MIMO 32T32R ARS in South Korea and 8T8R RRU/massive MIMO 64T64R ARS in Europe,” says Lum.

Operators upgrading LTE networks to LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), will drive demand for dual-band RRUs, as well as sector splitting to increase overall capacity and throughput, rather than adopting massive MIMO.

He does not believe the U.S. export ban on Huawei will impact RRU/ARS shipments this year. “However, 2020 is a different story altogether.”

Lum’s full analysis is available in Global Macrocell RRU/ARS Market Analysis and Forecast, 2019-2023 3rd Edition, published by EJL Wireless Research. The firm provides proprietary market analysis and consulting services on the wireless technology ecosystem, including telecommunication standards, regulatory issues, spectrum availability, mobile operators and mobile infrastructure equipment vendors. Lum also addresses the enabling technologies, including RF semiconductor materials and RF semiconductor components and subsystems.