By Kosei Takiishi, Sylvain Fabre, Frank Marsala, Peter Liu, Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, Pulkit Pandey
This Magic Quadrant helps communications service providers identify and evaluate network equipment providers for their 5G network infrastructure. This end-to-end 5G network infrastructure includes RAN, core network, transport and network infrastructure services.
Gartner defines the 5G network infrastructure as capabilities that support communications service providers (CSPs) to provide connectivity services such as mobile broadband, fixed wireless access and voice communication over a 5G network. Gartner considers 5G to be foundational technology, implemented to evolve a CSP’s core business process, including consumer business and enterprise business sectors.
The core capabilities of the 5G infrastructure include:
- Radio access network equipment, including radio units (RUs), baseband units (BBUs) for 5G new radio and 4G LTE. Examples include the following:
- Passive antennas, RU, AAU, virtualized BBU (vBBU), BBU, DU, CU, vDU, vCU and small cell
Additional 5G technologies and capabilities are necessary for supporting CSPs’ effective 5G deployment. These include, but are not limited to:
- Core network equipment, including 5G next-generation core and evolved packet core (EPC):
- UPF, AMF, SMF, PCF, AUSF, UDM, NSSF, NRF, NEF, NWDAF for 5G
- MME, S-GW, P-GW, IMS, HSS, PCRF, EPC/virtualized EPC (vEPC) for 4G LTE
- Transport network equipment: Fronthaul, midhaul, backhaul and wireless backhaul
- Network infrastructure services: Design, build, run and support
This 5G network infrastructure discussed in this research covers both 5G non-stand-alone (NSA) and stand-alone (SA) architecture. Also, 5G dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) that reuses current 4G LTE spectrum bandwidth and 4G infrastructure is covered.
This research addresses wireless CSPs that deploy 5G networks and provide communications services to subscribers over the public network infrastructure. Private mobile networks (for example, private LTE, private 5G and local 5G) that are deployed by enterprises are not included.
The worldwide market for end-to-end 5G network infrastructure mainly includes 10 vendors that provide at least radio access network elements for 5G (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Magic Quadrant for 5G Network Infrastructure for Communications Service Providers
Source: Gartner (February 2022)
Vendor Strengths and Cautions
Ericsson is a Leader in this Magic Quadrant. It is a Swedish multinational networking and telecommunications company that offers services, software and infrastructure in information and communications technology for CSPs. Ericsson has long had a strong focus on 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)-based mobile networks, and it was one of the leaders in terms of numbers of LTE deals. The company’s 5G offerings, including Ericsson Radio System, 5G Core, Orchestration and 5G Transport, together with its professional services, help it maintain a strong position to win 5G business.
- Its leadership in the 5G technology evolution, with improvements such as Ericsson Spectrum Sharing, Uplink Booster and in-house Ericsson Silicon, gave the company a first-mover advantage and has been enhancing its mind share as a market leader.
- Ericsson announced in December 2021 that the company achieved 168 5G commercial agreements with unique CSPs, which include 104 commercial networks. Based on our counting, Ericsson also possesses the largest number of 5G deals, which can be derived from its strong product portfolio and broad market presence.
- Ericsson’s R&D investments in 5G, 6G and adjacent technologies, contributions to various standardization bodies (for example, 3GPP and O-RAN ALLIANCE) and its industry representative Ericsson Mobility Report have maintained its thought leadership.
- Different from other Leaders’ portfolios, Ericsson’s 5G end-to-end portfolio is complemented with its vendor partners related to IP and optical transport. Ericsson has a narrower or limited RU product than some competitors. For example, this includes massive multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) product variations, such as active-passive antenna and IBW 400MHz support, and dual-band and tri-band RUs.
- Ericsson can sometimes lack flexibility and a customer-oriented culture. For example, some CSPs noted that they have to align with Ericsson features, roadmap and delivery priorities, rather than the other way around.
- Although Ericsson launched its Cloud RAN (vRAN) portfolio in 2020 and enhanced it in 2021, its priorities are incumbent 4G/5G CSP clients and the interoperability assurance with its own purpose-built BBU by Ericsson Cloud Link. Ericsson’s approach with Open RAN Fronthaul multivendor integration is conservative, based on Ericsson’s perception of the low level of readiness from both the market and technology.
FiberHome Telecommunication Technologies
FiberHome Telecommunication Technologies (FiberHome) is a Niche Player in this Magic Quadrant. FiberHome is a Chinese information and communications technology vendor. As a result of FiberHome’s merger with Datang Telecom Group, the new FiberHome company combines the strength of both and focuses on communications technology in fixed broadband, 3G/4G/5G and information security. In the mobile infrastructure business, the company offers end-to-end solutions for TD-LTE networks and 5G, including core, radio access and optical transport. It also has a strong presence and C-V2X solution in the China transportation market.
- As a state-owned and leading optical company, FiberHome has close relationships with domestic CSPs, which can be leveraged to participate in the scaled 5G rollouts in the Chinese market. The company currently has 3% market share in China 5G RAN and the core market.
- FiberHome is a major supplier of optical transport equipment in China and southeast Asia. The business network that was established for the optical product can be leveraged for FiberHome’s 5G product and service in the region.
- FiberHome has a good portfolio, IP and solution in industrial 4G/5G solutions, especially in intelligent manufacturing, smart energy and C-V2X.
- The company has a limited 5G-related product portfolio in terms of RU and BBU variations. In addition, it does not have a clear strategy in emerging technologies like Open RAN or cloud-native infrastructure. Both of these limited its capabilities in embracing the new technology ecosystem.
- FiberHome is a local 5G equipment vendor of China with a small market share. The company’s lack of system integration, service capability and presence in the global market limited its ability to serve global clients outside of China.
- There is increasing tension between the U.S. and China, as well as increasing political resistance and security concerns about Chinese vendors’ products in certain nations and regions.
Fujitsu is a Niche Player in this Magic Quadrant. It is a Japanese information and communications technology vendor focused on seven key technology areas, including 5G. Because its mobile network infrastructure business up to 4G was very focused on the Japanese market, the company is using 5G to expand its international selling effort. Fujitsu has been promoting open and virtualized base stations, and it is initially focused on selling 5G O-RAN RU (O-RU) to the global market.
- Fujitsu is an active contributor of the O-RAN ALLIANCE and Telecom Infra Project (TIP). Fujitsu’s dual-band and tri-band RUs are O-RAN-compliant and possess new features optimized for wideband signal transmission, including new amplifier technology and an algorithm designed to limit distortion. These RUs have been self-certified by Fujitsu and listed on TIP’s Exchange marketplace. This can allow CSPs to quickly find interoperable solutions and reference designs for 4G and 5G networks.
- A significant share of NTT DOCOMO’s early investment in 5G in Japan went to Fujitsu. Fujitsu also acquired a 5G O-RU commercial contract with KDDI in Japan. Thanks to this leadership and local presence in Japan, Fujitsu can improve its product quality quickly.
- Fujitsu has been proactively achieving multivendor O-RAN-compliant integration testing and plug fests with various BBU and RU vendors. This has resulted in early wins or engagements with DISH Network, Deutsche Telekom and KT.
- Its geographical reach is limited (Japan and U.S.), and the company is still establishing its foothold in Europe and Asia.
- Its go-to-market strategy, including sales plan (direct sales versus channel sales) and target customers, are not clear outside Japan, and its execution is not assured.
- Fujitsu’s 5G infrastructure product portfolio is not as comprehensive as that of the Leaders in this Magic Quadrant, in areas such as Massive MIMO, 5G BBU and 5G core solution, especially in regions outside of Japan.
Huawei is a Leader in this Magic Quadrant. It is a Chinese information and communications technology (ICT) provider, and its business spans carrier business, consumer business and enterprise business. The company’s 5G market success came from its end-to-end robust cellular network portfolio, including macrocells, small cells, single RAN BBUs, converged core, transport network and professional services, together with devices. Huawei continues investing in 5G R&D, with the focus on network performance, capacity and energy efficiency using innovative hardware and software. The company plans to contribute to CSPs by continuously providing an enhanced 5G product portfolio.
- Since 2009, Huawei has been investing in 5G R&D to build a leading technology. Huawei is a leading contributor in terms of the number of 5G basic patents defined by ETSI and the number of 5G submitted contributions defined by 3GPP.
- Huawei continues to be the best technology partner in the 5G domain. The company is leading in product quality and variations (for example, active-passive antenna, multiband RUs and cloud 5G core). Huawei also leads in innovation features (for example, Massive MIMO adaptive high-resolution algorithm, Super Uplink, MetaAAU and artificial-intelligence-driven operation), as well as future roadmaps.
- Huawei has the biggest 5G equipment shipment benefit from the large-scale 5G stand-alone implementation in China. Its 5G business is also well-positioned in some Asia/Pacific and European countries, as well as in the Middle East. Huawei has established a global professional services organization to support its global operation that allows it to respond to customer requirements quickly.
- Increasing tension between the U.S. and China, and political resistance and security concerns about Chinese vendors’ products in certain nations and regions, continuously impact Huawei’s existing market presence.
- The geopolitical rivalry over 5G provides uncertainty about its medium-term to long-term supply chain and Huawei’s ability to apply state-of-the-art manufacturing processes to its 5G products.
- Huawei is slow in responding to emerging trends like Open RAN and public cloud partnership. Huawei doesn’t believe Open RAN can bring additional business, user and social value, and has no plan to support it at this moment. This strategy limits Huawei as a vendor in addressing strategic Open RAN/vRAN initiatives and projects pursued by various CSPs.
Mavenir is a Visionary in this Magic Quadrant. It is a privately owned U.S. network software provider in the telecommunications industry. The company launched a fully virtualized 4G/5G Open RAN solution in October 2019 and aims to help CSPs break the vendor lock-in situation and discontinue old legacy business models as fast as possible. The company started as a voice and messaging solution vendor, but through mergers, acquisitions and development, it has expanded to become an end-to-end cloud-native 5G network software provider. Mavenir has also added 2G capabilities, as well as intelligent edge, RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) and private mobile networks, to its portfolio.
- Mavenir has the first-mover advantage and thought leadership of Open RAN/vRAN. It has already acquired 5G vRAN commercial deals/field trial agreements such as DISH Network, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, Orange and Airtel.
- Mavenir differs from other emerging vRAN vendors. It has an Open RAN RU portfolio that includes modular design and products consisting of former ip.access products, its own in-house solutions and also RU partner solutions (for example, Comba Telecom, KMW and Microelectronics Technology Inc. [MTI]). Mavenir also offers a converged core with a focus on 5G stand-alone (SA) and multigenerational support (2/3/4/5G NSA), as well as multivendor system integration.
- Mavenir has already been named as a vRAN partner by major cloud players, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and VMware. Its commitment to cloud-native technology allows Mavenir to provide its solution in an agile and efficient manner when RAN becomes fully virtualized and cloudified.
- Mavenir mainly provides partner products as its 4G LTE RUs but is actively developing in-house 5G O-RUs. This could be a sign for Mavenir to be an end-to-end player directly competing with other incumbent vendors. CSPs should watch to see whether Mavenir can continue to join together with others to promote Open RAN.
- While Open RAN standardizations, including the O-RAN ALLIANCE and TIP, are progressing, multivendor interoperability over interfaces such as Fronthaul, X2, Xn and Xx are not commonly available for CSPs. Mavenir needs to achieve this multivendor integration by working with various stakeholders.
- Mavenir lacks legacy purpose-built solutions for 5G RAN that are currently a major investment area by CSPs.
NEC is a Visionary in this Magic Quadrant. It is a Japanese information and communications technology vendor, and its vision is to be a solution and business co-creator for digital service providers. NEC, along with its fully owned subsidiary Netcracker, is providing reliable 5G networks to CSPs and industry players through the integration of IT, cloud and network technologies. The company is targeting to be a system integration player in addition to product/solution supplier in Open RAN by expanding its NEC Open Networks solution.
- The unique generally available Open RAN-based sub-6GHz Massive MIMO RUs, which can only be provided by NEC currently, is drawing attention. These RUs were awarded TIP’s “Requirements Compliant Ribbon” in October 2021.
- NEC announced various 5G deals and commercial deployments with CSPs in the past 12 months. While NTT DOCOMO commercialized NEC’s 5G next-generation (NG) core and selected NEC as a joint development partner of RIC, another Japanese CSP, Rakuten Mobile, deployed NEC’s 5G NG core. European CSPs — Vodafone UK, Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica group — selected NEC as a 5G Open RAN partner. Telefónica group has selected NEC as the prime system integrator to implement multivendor Open RAN solutions across its networks in the U.K., Spain, Germany and Brazil.
- NTT took a 5% stake in NEC in June 2020. The partnership aims to ensure Japan has its own homegrown 5G technology and to collaborate on next-generation 6G and NTT’s proposed Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) — to be delivered globally.
- NEC plans to sell its products and solutions directly or through partners such as Rakuten Symphony and NTT DOCOMO in foreign markets, but its execution ability is not assured.
- The 5G partnership between Samsung and NEC was enhanced to establish a global sales team in June 2019 and realized multivendor connectivity with new CU/DU in the NTT DOCOMO network in September 2020. However, there is no clear go-to-market strategy or public reporting of business progress.
- NEC’s 5G infrastructure product portfolio — such as multiband RUs, 5G BBU and mmWave support, especially in regions outside of Japan — is not as comprehensive as that of the Leaders in this Magic Quadrant.
Nokia is a Leader in this Magic Quadrant. It is a Finnish multinational telecommunications and IT company. While Nokia’s telecom infrastructure business has grown through multiple acquisitions and mergers, such as Alcatel-Lucent, a new CEO took the helm of the company in August 2020 and announced a new operating model and strategy refresh. Its business focuses on mobile, fixed IP and optical networks, cloud, and network services, supported by patents and standards from Nokia Bell Labs. Nokia is one of the market leaders in terms of numbers of 4G LTE deals and is pursuing the same path with 5G contracts.
- Nokia possesses one of the broadest end-to-end in-house 5G product portfolios, which includes radio and core networks, transport, network management, security products and professional services, together with devices (for example, fixed wireless access customer premises equipment).
- Nokia announced more than 130 5G deals with CSPs that include 72 live commercial networks in November 2021. This number also includes 59 stand-alone 5G CSP customers. Based on our counting, Nokia is one of the market leaders in terms of the number of 5G deals, which can come from its strong execution capabilities and customer-oriented culture.
- Nokia’s Enterprise Business Group, which provides telecom-grade networking capabilities, including private LTE and 5G networks to enterprises, is seen as an industry promoter regarding the number of private LTE/5G deals globally.
- While Nokia raised its product shipments rate to equip its own 5G ReefShark chipsets in 2021, one more year is anticipated to achieve 100% ReefShark chipset integration to its product shipments, different from other Leaders. CSPs should be sensitive about its chipset development, delivery and product integration.
- Nokia has reduced its market share with a few incumbent CSP clients in advanced markets such as China and the U.S. at the transition from 4G to 5G. This could result in missed opportunities for Nokia, including product enhancements and business profitability from early 5G investments in leading markets.
- Nokia emphasizes its leadership of Open RAN/vRAN, but it has not yet commercialized its 5G Open RAN/Cloud RAN solutions. Furthermore, its commercial deployments — including CSPs (for example, Antina [a joint venture between M1 and StarHub in Singapore]) and enterprise early adopters in advanced markets — would start in the 2022 to 2023 time frame.
Rakuten Symphony is a Niche Player in this Magic Quadrant. Rakuten Group launched Rakuten Symphony to accelerate adoption of cloud-native, Open RAN-based mobile networks worldwide in August 2021. Rakuten Symphony is taking the operational, network and knowledge management software and hardware products and platforms already adopted in Rakuten Mobile’s commercial 4G and 5G network in Japan and selling them as its Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) to global CSPs. RCP is a cloud-native telecom platform that is highly scalable, demand-elastic and automated. RCP includes Rakuten Symphony’s own developed software products and solutions, Rakuten Group’s acquired software products and solutions, and various third-party vendors’ products and solutions by enabling co-innovation and openness.
- The use of the Open RAN supply chain alignment and RCP has enabled Rakuten Mobile to achieve 90% 4G Open vRAN nationwide population coverage with 22,500 base station sites in the past two years and deployed more than 2,000 5G base stations in the past year. This also aims at maintaining flat operational headcount through automating operational, business and management processes. This early best practice contributed to its first Open vRAN deal with CSPs — 1&1 in Germany.
- Altiostar Networks, which was acquired by Rakuten Group in August 2021, was a leading vRAN vendor. This acquisition will expand Rakuten Symphony’s Open RAN/vRAN portfolio, especially by adding 4G and 5G vRAN capabilities, which are missing in its own product portfolio.
- Rakuten Mobile’s claims of 40% capital expenditure savings and 30% operating expenditure savings have been independently verified by third parties.
- Rakuten Symphony’s low mind share as a vendor and shortages of existing business and local support with CSPs could become a barrier to commercial contracts with incumbent CSPs. CSPs should validate Rakuten Symphony’s capabilities through trials/proofs of concept on a large scale.
- Product-oriented and preintegrated/configured solutions derived from some specific vendor combinations by the Rakuten Mobile commercial network in Japan would not attract many CSPs that are considering Open RAN to mitigate the vendor lock-in by incumbent vendors. Rakuten Group’s experiences in Japan cannot be directly exported to other foreign markets.
- Altiostar’s solution does not include legacy 2G and 3G vBBU solutions.
Samsung is a Visionary in this Magic Quadrant. It is a South Korean multinational conglomerate that includes Samsung Electronics, Samsung Heavy Industries, Samsung Engineering and Samsung C&T. Samsung Electronics is responsible for the network business and is a relatively late participant in the business of 3GPP-based cellular technology. While Samsung’s local CSP clients adopt both RAN and core solutions, its global 5G network business comes mainly from RAN. It is an early innovator of new cellular technologies, such as vEPC, small cell, vRAN and Open RAN.
- Samsung contributed to the world’s earliest massive commercial adoption of 5G in South Korea, leading in share at the top three local CSPs. Given its leading experience in South Korea, it has driven advanced features and capabilities such as massive MIMO RUs, in-house chipsets and virtualized solutions that translate well to other markets.
- While its previous 4G LTE business was mainly limited to South Korea, the U.S., Japan and India, the company has already acquired new 5G contracts in the U.S., Canada, Japan, the U.K. and New Zealand. With a flexible approach to its network solutions, supporting various architectural approaches (single RAN vendor, multivendor or vRAN), Samsung has the potential to become another vendor partner candidate for CSPs. This is especially the case for those that have some difficulties with finding multiple vendor partners for their 5G network.
- Samsung is one of the most influencing innovators related to Open RAN and vRAN. The company has already acquired 5G Open RAN/vRAN commercial deals/field trial agreements with CSPs such as KDDI, NTT DOCOMO, Orange, TPG Telecom, Verizon and Vodafone UK.
- Samsung’s lack of presence in the 2G/3G/4G network infrastructure market globally hampers its ability to expand its share of the 5G network infrastructure market, as CSPs tend to favor incumbent vendors for upgrades.
- The 5G partnership between Samsung and NEC was enhanced to establish a global sales team in June 2019 and realized multivendor connectivity with new CU/DU in the NTT DOCOMO network in September 2020. However, there is still no clear go-to-market strategy or public reporting of business progress.
- Samsung’s 5G infrastructure product portfolio — such as multiband RUs, active-passive antenna, and 2G/3G support by its BBU and core network solution, especially in regions outside of South Korea — is not as comprehensive as that of the Leaders.
ZTE is a Visionary in this Magic Quadrant. ZTE is a Chinese information and telecommunications technology vendor that provides three core businesses: telecommunications equipment, smartphones and other mobile terminals, as well as system integration services. The company has a complete telecommunications product line — covering wireless and wired infrastructure, core networks, software systems and services, and Internet of Things — that enables it to meet diversified requirements.
- ZTE has a strong end-to-end 5G portfolio covering 5G RAN, 5G core and transport network, as well as related services that address all-scenario and full-band 5G deployment, to meet a variety of requirements. It provided advanced features such as Radio Composer, SuperMIMO, SuperDSS and Fusion Assisting Super TDD (FAST) to enhance its competitiveness.
- ZTE is fast and advanced in its own chipset design and manufacturing through partners. The company already commercially adopted chipset with 7 nm process nodes for its 5G products, and plans to ship 5G products based on more advanced chipset technologies in 2022.
- ZTE is the second-largest telecom vendor in China. ZTE’s participation in large-scale and complex Chinese 5G stand-alone rollouts allow ZTE to quickly mature its products. It also taps into global markets, including southeast Asia, Europe and Africa. ZTE is also a reliable partner in different markets for its swift response to customers’ requirements.
- The increasing political resistance about Chinese vendors’ products in certain nations and regions continuously impact ZTE’s global expansion strategy as well as the ability of winning more 5G contracts outside China.
- ZTE’s brand awareness in the market, mind share of CSPs and influencing power in the industry are not as strong as Leaders. CSPs should observe what kind of new innovations/disruptions the company introduces and is pursuing.
- ZTE is slow and lacks prioritization in supporting Open RAN and vRAN, which reduces its opportunities to address strategic Open RAN/vRAN initiatives and projects pursued by various CSPs.
Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria
Network equipment providers (NEPs) in this Magic Quadrant need to possess radio access network equipment (at least either Macro RU or BBU) for 5G, and these products should be generally available. General availability is defined as something a vendor’s clients have in a production environment, rather than something they are testing or evaluating. Vendors are also required to possess at least one 5G RAN commercial contract with CSPs.
Vendors could be excluded if they do not demonstrate market commitment by responding to our formal RFI process.
Ability to Execute
Product or Service
This criterion includes products and services offered by the vendor that compete in the defined market (that is, radio network elements for 5G carrier infrastructure, as well as core/transport network equipment and network infrastructure service). This includes current product and service capabilities, quality, feature sets and skills, whether offered natively or through OEM agreements or partnerships, as defined in the Market Definition/Description section.
This criterion includes an assessment of the overall organization’s financial health, which underpins the financial and practical success of the relevant 5G business unit. It also considers the likelihood of that business unit continuing to invest in the product, offer the product and advance the state of the art within the organization’s portfolio.
Market Responsiveness and Track Record
This is the vendor’s ability to respond, change direction, be flexible and achieve competitive success as opportunities develop, competitors act, customers’ needs evolve and market dynamics change. This criterion also considers the vendor’s history of responsiveness, its market share and its market traction demonstrated through 5G contract wins. In addition, it covers the vendor’s ability to adapt and scale activities to work with its own partners, as well as crucial third parties (such as regulators, municipalities and civil works contractors). In other words, it assesses the vendor’s ability to “cast a wide net” while still being able to execute and scale quickly when opportunities turn into actual 5G contracts.
Disclaimer statement: In this subcriteria, Gartner has applied contract data information and considered only publicly verifiable 5G contracts with named customers. Please note that vendors evaluated in the Magic Quadrant may have a larger number of won 5G contracts that they can’t reveal publicly due to nondisclosure agreement limitations.
This criterion includes the clarity, quality, creativity and efficacy of programs designed to deliver vendors’ messages to influence the market, promote vendors’ brand and business, increase product awareness, and establish a positive identification with vendors’ products, brand and organization in CSPs’ minds. This mind share can be driven by a combination of publicity, promotion, thought leadership, referrals, word of mouth and sales activities. The quality of the response to our Magic Quadrant RFI is also considered.
This criterion includes relationships, products, services and programs that enable CSPs to succeed with the products evaluated. Specifically, this includes the ways in which CSPs receive technical support or account support. It can also include ancillary tools, customer support programs (and the quality thereof), the availability of user groups, SLAs, ecosystem of vendors and prepackaged solutions for services leveraging the 5G network.
We determined each vendor’s position by evaluating it against the criteria in Table 1.
Table 1: Ability to Execute Evaluation Criteria
Source: Gartner (February 2022)
Completeness of Vision
This criterion includes the ability to understand CSPs’ needs and translate them into products and services. These vendors show a clear vision of their market — listen, understand customer demands, and can shape or enhance the market changes with their added vision. The ability to see 5G in the wider context of CSPs’ overall network modernization strategies is of particular importance, provided this insight is reflected directly in the product roadmap of the vendor.
This includes clear, differentiated messaging consistently communicated internally and externalized through social media, advertising, customer programs and positioning statements. It involves alignment of the vendor’s 5G marketing strategy with its current market position and its overall 5G portfolio strategy, including a market segment focus.
Offering (Product) Strategy
This criterion includes an approach to product development and delivery that emphasizes market differentiation, functionality, methodology, and features as they map to current and future requirements. This includes differentiated approaches to the different 5G segments, including 5G product segments and Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 CSPs.
This criterion includes the vendor’s ability to cross-pollinate between industries. It includes bringing best practices from other industries to CSPs and helping CSPs take communications capabilities to other industries. The strategy directs resources (sales, product and development), skills and products to meet the specific needs of individual market segments, including verticals.
This criterion includes direct, related, complementary and synergistic layouts of resources, expertise or capital for investment, consolidation, defensive or preemptive purposes. This also includes sustained evidence of technological expertise and leadership, demonstration of appropriate budget for R&D planning, active participation and leadership of 5G standardization and following technologies, and support for ecosystem partners via interfaces and interoperability. Co-innovation facilities and participation with partners, customers, academic institutions and others.
This criterion includes the vendor’s strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of geographies outside the “home” or native geography, either directly or through partners, channels and subsidiaries, as appropriate for that geography and market.
We determined each vendor’s position by evaluating it against the criteria in Table 2.
Table 2: Completeness of Vision Evaluation Criteria
Source: Gartner (February 2022)
Leaders typically have a significant number of commercial references for the 5G network equipment market. They also have momentum in this area, as exemplified by new contract wins. They have a broad portfolio and, even where they need partners, they are the preferred prime vendors for CSPs. They appear in nearly all CSP procurements and trials of 5G infrastructure as de facto suppliers, and their presence in the Leaders quadrant tends to be fairly stable. These are high-viability technology providers. They are well-positioned with their current product portfolios and are likely to continue to deliver leading products. Leaders do not necessarily offer the best solution for every customer requirement, and their products may not be “best of breed” in every area. Overall, Leaders provide solutions that offer relatively low risk and can achieve and sustain deployments of high quality.
Challengers have strong market execution capabilities and good solutions, but overall, their products lack the breadth and depth of those of Leaders. Their solutions do not indicate a clear vision for how the market is evolving, and they are not as innovative or advanced as those of Leaders.
Visionaries demonstrate a clear understanding of the market and provide key innovative elements that are illustrative of the market’s future. They lack the ability to influence a large part of the market, or have not yet fully expanded their sales and support capabilities to achieve global reach, or do not yet have the funding and scale to execute with the capabilities of Leaders.
Niche Players tend to offer products that focus on a particular segment of the market (for example, a given country, such as Japan) or a subset of functionality (such as vRAN). They also tend to be more specialized with regard to technology and products. This can be an advantage, because CSPs aligned with the focus of Niche Players can find these vendors’ offerings very suitable. In some cases, Niche Players have made specific decisions about where and where not to compete, so being a Niche Player does not preclude having a well-defined strategy. They could also prove to be attractive partners for some of the larger vendors in this market, thanks to their market specialisms or technological strengths.
Use this Magic Quadrant as a reference, but explore the market further beyond these providers. The Magic Quadrant is not the sole Gartner tool for creating a vendor shortlist. Also consider other Gartner reports (see the Recommended by the Author section) and discussions with Gartner analysts.
Gartner advises CSPs to base their choice of external NEP on the following:
- An evaluation of multiple vendor selection (at least two) for 5G infrastructure to enable service continuity and smooth negotiation
- The NEP’s willingness to work together with other stakeholders (sometimes their competitor) to achieve CSPs’ overall network modernization strategies
- Business value assessment against the most important goals of their organization
As of December 2021, more than 180 3GPP-compliant 5G networks in 74 countries/territories have been commercially launched, according to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA). Most of them deployed 5G networks relying on an anchor in the 4G radio access and core network. This is so-called non-stand-alone (NSA) architecture, and it is natural for incumbent mobile CSPs to adopt this as an interim solution. According to GSA, about 20 CSPs were known to have launched 5G SA public networks as of November 2021. Just launching 5G SA is not enough to achieve end-to-end network modernization, however. To provide real 5G value, CSP networks need to be more agile, flexible and reliable by implementing technical innovations, including edge computing, software-defined network/network function virtualization (SDN/NFV) and cloudification, orchestration/automation, and network slicing.
The journey of 5G has begun with small steps, and this technology and related business and services will evolve in the next 10 years. Currently, 5G coverage is limited in most countries, and 5G subscription plans and capable devices are expensive. These challenges of CSPs’ consumer business will be solved gradually in the next several years and are similar to those CSPs encountered with the introduction of 2G/3G/4G in the past. However, the monetization of 5G enterprise business will be a key challenge for the telecom industry in the 2020s. A “radio access only” or “technology-oriented” approach will not be enough to make CSPs succeed in 5G. 5G NEPs need to contribute to CSPs to identify client demands and provide issue-driven solutions. Although the current vendor lock-in situation could stagnate the 5G monetization, various vendors and solution providers related to vRAN, vEPC, network function virtualization infrastructure (NFVI) and cloud-native platform, and others are emerging. Their momentum is driven by virtualization, cloudification, open source and network automation.
This Magic Quadrant examines vendors of end-to-end 5G network infrastructure, with an emphasis on RAN solutions: RAN is mandatory for inclusion in the Magic Quadrant, and core network, transport network equipment and network infrastructure services are optional. Gartner also monitors various vendors that do not yet meet the minimum criteria for inclusion because they do not offer end-to-end 5G network infrastructure, instead focusing on only some component business segments. For example, JMA Wireless, Parallel Wireless and Radisys (now a member of the Reliance Industries family) provide vRAN solutions; Baicells, Comba Telecom, Microelectronics Technology Inc. (MTI) and STL provide Open RAN solutions; and CommScope, KMW and Mitsubishi Electric offer radio antenna products. In addition, Affirmed Networks (a Microsoft company), Casa Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Oracle provide vEPC and 5G core; and AWS, Dell, Red Hat and VMware provide NFVI and cloud-native platforms.
Based on our Market Share: Communications Service Provider Operational Technology, Worldwide, 2020, the market share of the top four vendors (Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia and ZTE) on the mobile carrier network infrastructure was about 90% in 2020. While “greenfield CSPs” such as DISH Network and Rakuten Mobile are deploying 5G supported by new vendors of Open RAN and vRAN, incumbent CSPs such as Airtel, Etisalat, Telefónica and Vodafone are accelerating the similar initiatives using Telecom Infra Project. Open ecosystems could destroy the existing vendor lock-in situation and require multivendor interoperability between different network nodes. Incumbent NEPs, such as Fujitsu, NEC, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE, have also committed to Open RAN and vRAN. This competition will contribute to the future success of 5G by CSPs.
The race to win business in the 5G infrastructure market is still in the early stages of the full life cycle of 5G, and vendors are achieving different degrees of traction when it comes to securing commercial contracts with CSPs. To gauge how well vendors meet the requirements, Gartner scores them using criteria that we developed to capture their capabilities when it comes to addressing CSPs’ evolving wants and needs for end-to-end 5G infrastructure, as described above. These criteria are summed up in our framework as vendors’ Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision.
This evaluation is based on the following information sources:
- A detailed survey sent to vendors addressing their global capabilities. The survey covered the evaluation criteria discussed in this document.
- Vendors’ representation of their organizations through other briefings, meetings, press releases, annual reports and additional publicly available information.
- Discussions between Gartner analysts and clients throughout the year about the companies featured in this research.
- Other Gartner research covering the vendors from additional angles, as well as input from other Gartner analysts who follow the represented companies.
- Surveys conducted to investigate all available and relevant commercial contracts for 5G involving the vendors concerned.
- Country- and region-specific views, provided by local Gartner analysts, as appropriate.
Evaluation Criteria Definitions
Ability to Execute
Product/Service: Core goods and services offered by the vendor for the defined market. This includes current product/service capabilities, quality, feature sets, skills and so on, whether offered natively or through OEM agreements/partnerships as defined in the market definition and detailed in the subcriteria.
Overall Viability: Viability includes an assessment of the overall organization’s financial health, the financial and practical success of the business unit, and the likelihood that the individual business unit will continue investing in the product, will continue offering the product and will advance the state of the art within the organization’s portfolio of products.
Sales Execution/Pricing: The vendor’s capabilities in all presales activities and the structure that supports them. This includes deal management, pricing and negotiation, presales support, and the overall effectiveness of the sales channel.
Market Responsiveness/Record: Ability to respond, change direction, be flexible and achieve competitive success as opportunities develop, competitors act, customer needs evolve and market dynamics change. This criterion also considers the vendor’s history of responsiveness.
Marketing Execution: The clarity, quality, creativity and efficacy of programs designed to deliver the organization’s message to influence the market, promote the brand and business, increase awareness of the products, and establish a positive identification with the product/brand and organization in the minds of buyers. This “mind share” can be driven by a combination of publicity, promotional initiatives, thought leadership, word of mouth and sales activities.
Customer Experience: Relationships, products and services/programs that enable clients to be successful with the products evaluated. Specifically, this includes the ways customers receive technical support or account support. This can also include ancillary tools, customer support programs (and the quality thereof), availability of user groups, service-level agreements and so on.
Operations: The ability of the organization to meet its goals and commitments. Factors include the quality of the organizational structure, including skills, experiences, programs, systems and other vehicles that enable the organization to operate effectively and efficiently on an ongoing basis.
Completeness of Vision
Market Understanding: Ability of the vendor to understand buyers’ wants and needs and to translate those into products and services. Vendors that show the highest degree of vision listen to and understand buyers’ wants and needs, and can shape or enhance those with their added vision.
Marketing Strategy: A clear, differentiated set of messages consistently communicated throughout the organization and externalized through the website, advertising, customer programs and positioning statements.
Sales Strategy: The strategy for selling products that uses the appropriate network of direct and indirect sales, marketing, service, and communication affiliates that extend the scope and depth of market reach, skills, expertise, technologies, services and the customer base.
Offering (Product) Strategy: The vendor’s approach to product development and delivery that emphasizes differentiation, functionality, methodology and feature sets as they map to current and future requirements.
Business Model: The soundness and logic of the vendor’s underlying business proposition.
Vertical/Industry Strategy: The vendor’s strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of individual market segments, including vertical markets.
Innovation: Direct, related, complementary and synergistic layouts of resources, expertise or capital for investment, consolidation, defensive or pre-emptive purposes.
Geographic Strategy: The vendor’s strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of geographies outside the “home” or native geography, either directly or through partners, channels and subsidiaries as appropriate for that geography and market.