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Huawei recently held its annual analyst event, HAS 2022. While we were not able to attend in person, we participated in various online events. Below we will discuss some of the RAN-related highlights when it comes to expectations for 2022, 5.5 G, 5G B2B, green sites, DIS, and Sub-3 GHz.


Challenges in 2022

Taking into consideration that the US government started banning Huawei from acquiring US components back in May 2020, Huawei has done a remarkable job supporting its 4G and 5G customers, contributing to the stable revenue trends for the broader carrier group over the past couple of years.

And even as Huawei again reiterated that it has enough components to support its 5G Massive MIMO base stations over the near term, Huawei is expecting the external challenges to intensify in 2022.

In addition to the geopolitical situation, Huawei expressed concerns about Covid-19 restrictions, inflation, forex volatility, trade restrictions, and the overall slowdown in the economy.

The direct and indirect implications from China’s zero-Covid strategy are difficult to quantify. In addition to the softer economy – some economists believe the lockdowns in Shanghai could shave off 2% to 3% from China’s GDP – there is a risk that these policies could exacerbate supply chain issues.

While Huawei’s concerns are valid and important to keep in mind for future output analysis, we also need to recognize that it took the operators six months to a year to adjust capex after the GDP deceleration back in 2001 and 2008/2009.

Huawei also stressed the importance of focusing on the variables within their control, especially when it comes to innovation, maintaining competitive RAN products/services, and supporting the customer.


5G Evolution, 1+1+N = 5.5G

The industry as a whole is moving towards the next phase in the 5G evolution. 3GPP Release 18, also known as 5G-Advanced, is scheduled to become a commercial reality by the 2023/2024 time frame.

5G-Advanced will take 5G to the next level and create a foundation for more demanding applications and a broader set of use cases. Nokia envisions 5G-Advanced will help to improve the experience, expand the capabilities, extend the reach of connectivity, and spur operational enhancements.

Huawei is marketing the 5G-Advanced evolution as 1+1+N or 5.5G, to reflect the additional layer needed to realize ubiquitous Gbps speeds (current 5G is marketed as 1+N, where 1 represents the foundation network and N refers to the various capabilities and scenarios).

According to Huawei, the 1+1+N (5.5G) architecture is expected to be more commonplace by 2025. It is worth noting here that the Dell’Oro Group does not expect operators will materially grow capex to support the 5.5 G or 5G-Advanced evolution.




Huawei is engaged in thousands of trials focusing on various 5G private use cases across 20+ verticals such as manufacturing, healthcare, mining, ports, airports, steel production, cement, energy, utilities, and chemistry verticals, to name a few. During HAS 2022, the vendor shared it has installed around 3K 5G base stations to improve the connectivity in 200 coal mines.

And Huawei remains optimistic about the near-term prospects with private 5G. During HAS2022, the vendor implied global 5G B2B small cell growth will approach 100x over the next five years.


Green Sites

Even though the ICT sector only contributes 1.4% (source: Ericsson) of global carbon emissions and 5G sites are projected to drive less than 1% of global electricity consumption (assuming 12 kW per site and 10 M sites), changing the mobile site consumption trajectory is increasingly moving up the priority list for both operators and suppliers.

“Green 5G” was an important topic at the HAS 2022 event. Huawei’s latest MetaAAU, RRU, and SDIF antennas are helping to reduce the overall energy consumption. This taken together with more intelligence in the RAN will ideally help to change the overall energy trajectory.


Digital Indoor System (DIS)

The rapid shift from 4G to 5G is not only fueling macro RAN investments. Huawei’s indoor small cell shipments roughly doubled between 2017 and 2021, underpinned by surging 5G DIS deployments. Even with the elevated baseline, Huawei remains optimistic about the long-term growth prospects – buoyed by stable public MBB growth and robust demand for enterprise 5G.

During HAS2022, Huawei reported decent progress with new technologies, including distributed M-MIMO and 5G positioning. Operators in five countries are currently benefitting from the DL and UL throughput boost provided by Distributed M-MIMO.

Despite the challenging geopolitical climate, our estimates suggest Huawei’s was the #1 small cell RAN revenue/shipment vendor in 2021 (Dell’Oro RAN).


Sub 3 GHz

Although upper mid-band WB TDD deployments have dominated the 5G RAN market in this initial phase, sub-3 GHz FDD NR activations are firming up and expected to comprise a greater share of the combined FDD+TTT 5G NR market over the 2021-2026 forecast period.

During HAS2022, Huawei announced multiple enhancements to its NR FDD portfolio in order to better support 4T4R, 8T8R, and Massive MIMO – the latest FDD Massive MIMO product is lighter and smaller, weighing around 47 kg.

In short, some of the key RAN takeaways from Huawei’s 2022 HAS event are consistent with the message that we have communicated for some time, namely that even with the overall RAN growth slowing, it is still early in the broader 5G cycle. There is still some long-term upside with public MBB and material opportunities with private 5G. At the same time, there is no shortage of external challenges to navigate over the near-term.


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In less than a month, the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) will host its Fiber Connect event in Nashville, TN. The event’s timing couldn’t be better, as fiber deployments continue to surge in the US and abroad, despite the ongoing headwinds of component and labor shortages, inflation, and logistics snafus. The event should ultimately help to provide some clarity on how the entire industry will balance the rush to expand fiber networks and services with the need to maintain capital in an environment of higher interest rates and costs.

Overall investments in broadband infrastructure—specifically fiber networks—have skyrocketed, with private equity fueling a growing number of buildouts in North America. Investing in network infrastructure—which hasn’t been cool since the late 90’s—is suddenly all the rage. As such, the valuations of fiber networks have increased significantly, driven by increased demand for residential broadband, ongoing 5G network buildouts, and an expectation that fiber networks still need hundreds of billions in new investments to keep pace with expected bandwidth demand. Our own expectation is that spending on new PON OLT equipment (typically a strong indicator of new fiber network expansions in addition to bandwidth upgrade projects) is set to increase by 24% in 2022, with investments in XGS-PON infrastructure set to grow at an even higher rate.

Fiber access networks have reached a major tipping point, driven by the simultaneous catalysts of the shift to next-generation fiber technology and the shift to openness, disaggregation, and automation. North American broadband providers are quickly realizing that the need for increased throughput is matched by the need for a highly-scalable network that can respond quickly to the changing requirements of the service provider, their subscribers, and their vendor and application partners. The need to provision and deliver new services in a matter of hours, as opposed to weeks or months, holds just as much priority as the ability to deliver up to 10Gbps of PON capacity. Although service providers might have completely different business drivers for the move to open, programmable networks, there is no question that the combination of data center architectural principles and 10G PON technology is fueling a forthcoming wave of next-generation fiber networks upgrades.

The service providers that adopt the combination of 10Gbps PON and openness will be best prepared to accomplish three major goals:

  1. Deliver the advanced, 10Gbps capacity, and multi-gigabit services subscribers will expect and require using a cloud-native infrastructure that treats bandwidth and the delivered applications as workflows;
  2. Anticipate and weather rapid increases in traffic demand with a highly-targeted and elastic infrastructure that can be activated without a forklift upgrade;
  3. Develop an access network infrastructure that can process multiple workloads beyond broadband access, including hosted services that can be offered on a wholesale basis, as well as fixed-mobile convergence applications.

These advancements in fiber networks will certainly be discussed at the show, as service providers of all sizes share their experiences with the combined transition to fiber and increasingly automated network environments.

Of course, these discussions regarding specific fiber technologies, their deployments, and evolution, will occur against the backdrop of increased public investments in fiber network deployments. Specifically, the Department of Commerce released its rules for the $42.5B Broadband Equity, Access, and Development (BEAD) program last week and they very clearly favor the funding of fiber networks over satellite or fixed wireless options that use unlicensed spectrum for unserved locations. In addition, the rules clarify that areas that are currently only served by satellite or unlicensed FWA will be considered unserved, opening the door for individual states to use BEAD money to subsidize the deployment of end-to-end fiber infrastructure “wherever feasible.” Unserved areas are defined as those that lack access to speeds of 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream, while underserved areas are those without access to 100/20Mbps service.

Each state will be eligible to receive $100M from the BEAD program as an initial allocation. Any remaining funds for each state will be determined based on revised coverage maps scheduled to be released by the FCC later this year. Once those revised maps are released, the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) will determine how much additional funding each state can receive.

The near-exclusive focus on fiber means that broadband expansion projects that had been placed on the back burner or were scheduled to be completed using unlicensed FWA or satellite will likely shift to fiber, assuming the additional costs of deploying fiber are fully covered under the program. That should mean an extension of the current fiber spending boom here in the US beyond 2024, which is when we had expected spending on PON infrastructure to slow as funding sources dried up.


Buy American Requirements and Supply Chain Constraints

One of the requirements for BEAD funding is that all construction materials must contain at least 55% domestic content. This requirement encompasses everything from fiber optic cable to PON OLTs and ONTs. A number of industry trade groups and equipment suppliers have requested waivers from the Buy American requirement since so much of the active electronics in fiber network buildouts are manufactured outside the country.

Indeed, given the current supply chain constraints, increased demand for new equipment and infrastructure, and increasingly global nature of equipment design and assembly, the Buy American requirement seems poorly timed. The intention, of course, is laudable. But it is inconsistent with the reality on the ground, which is that telecommunications infrastructure is one of the most globalized product segments in the world.

We are looking forward to conversations with vendors, network operators, consulting engineers, and industry trade organizations to understand the likelihood of waivers being granted so that projects can be initiated and completed in a more reasonable timeframe.


Now, what do you do with all that fiber?

With so many service providers constructing and expanding networks and helping to create a once-in-a-lifetime fiber boom, an important component of the Fiber Connect event will be how to make sure service providers maximize their investment. Whether it’s through the addition of new residential service tiers based on new parameters such as latency and upstream speed or whether it’s expanding to enterprise or wholesale mobile backhaul services, operators are going to want to hear from their peers on how to ensure the long-term success of their new fiber-based networks.

Service providers who deploy fiber will likely be surpassing their traditional cable competitors when it comes to billboard speeds. Obviously, that puts them at a perceived competitive advantage among potential subscribers. Nevertheless, going beyond competing simply on speed is where fiber providers will have to focus. Providers will have to provide the best in-home experience, making sure that the CPE they provide delivers WiFi coverage throughout a subscriber’s home, but also gives them the ability to remotely monitor and manage that device without having to roll a truck unless absolutely necessary. Residential gateway software has evolved considerably since the early days of TR-069, making it far easier to diagnose and troubleshoot subscribers’ network issues without sending out a technician.

But that the same time, in-home networks have also evolved and become far more complex than before. The number of connected devices has increased exponentially, as has the number of access points used to deliver WiFi coverage throughout homes. Service providers have to strike a balance between the sheer number of devices they are willing to provide a customer to ensure connectivity vs. the cost and management issues of those additional access points. With WiFi 6e and WiFI 7 providing access to the 6GHz band, service providers have to determine whether to use that band for access point backhaul or to provide direct connectivity to devices within the home.

With so many questions surrounding in-home networking, providers must also determine whether there is a business case behind charging their subscribers for managed WiFi services. The argument in favor of doing so certainly has increased with Plume, Calix, Adtran, DZS, and Minim all offering devices or a hosted service for operators. But there remain many operators who have not yet jumped on board. Their upgrades to fiber might push them into offering managed WiFi services. But for these operators, the business case has to be airtight.

Finally, providers wouldn’t be putting all this fiber into the ground if they weren’t expecting bandwidth requirements to continue to increase at annual CAGRs of 25-40%. So, what are the applications that will continue to drive that growth, and will speed boosts be enough or will operators need to have more granular control over latency and other parameters? Immersive video and 8k video have both been identified as short-term drivers of additional bandwidth, but also of reduced latency. Combine those services with prolonged work-from-home options and operators have to be smart about how they allocate bandwidth per service.

So, getting fiber into the ground and to subscribers’ homes is really just the beginning of an evolution for thousands of service providers around the world. How to maximize that investment will be the key question to answer for these providers.



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Though fiber technologies and deployments continue to capture the most attention when it comes to broadband, two technology demonstrations at CableLabs 10 G Showcase provided clear evidence that DOCSIS 4.0 will keep cable operators competitive with their current outside plants. Furthermore, the advancements shown during each of the demonstrations could potentially accelerate the deployment of DOCSIS 4.0 technologies across a wider network footprint than previously thought. Assuming supply chain issues are resolved later this or early next year and lead times for next-generation silicon improve, DOCSIS 4.0 lab testing could move beyond the prototype stage earlier than expected.

Charter and Comcast both took to the stage during the CableLabs event to demonstrate their respective approaches to DOCSIS 4.0. Charter is the biggest proponent of the extended spectrum (ESD) variant of DOCSIS 4.0, whereby the outside plant spectrum is increased to 1.8GHz from today’s 850 MHz to 1 GHz, while Comcast is behind the full-duplex (FDX) variant, which uses 1.2 GHz of the spectrum but allows for the shared use of that spectrum for both downstream and upstream bandwidth.

The deployment of both technologies is predicated on the rollout of distributed access architectures, either remote PHY (R-PHY) or remote-MACPHY (R-MACPHY). Those products are available today, with Comcast already having deployed over 30k R-PHY devices (RPDs) in their network. Charter favors remote MACPHY and demonstrated an R-MACPHY node from Vecima Networks using first-generation silicon from Broadcom, which gives them the ability to provide service to a single service group today, growing to 2 service groups with the second generation chipset that should be ready later this year.

Regardless of the difference in technological and architectural approaches between the two major operators, both demonstrations focused on how the dramatic speed improvements expected with DOCSIS 4.0 could be realized without significant impact on the existing outside plant. In both cases—whether ESD or FDX—operators are going to need to upgrade their outside plant, specifically taps and amplifiers. There is no getting around that. However, if operators can make changes to the individual outside plant elements without having to disrupt the location of those elements and the power required to drive them, then that is a win-win all around.

First, Charter demonstrated speeds of nearly 9 Gbps down and 6 Gbps up using a cascade of 4 amplifiers. The amplifiers had been upgraded with 1.8 GHz modules from Teleste that can be installed in the existing amplifier stations without having to change any of the spacing between those stations. Charter also demonstrated signal levels and MERs (Modulation Error Ratios) all the way to a 2 GHz tap from ATX Networks and a prototype cable modem that are within similar ranges of today’s DOCSIS 3.1 networks. These results are critical in demonstrating that Charter could conceivably achieve near-10Gig speeds without having to go beyond the network changes they are planning to make. Those changes include simple faceplate changes to the taps (which don’t disrupt service) and module swaps at each existing amplifier station.

Eliminating the requirement to pull fiber deeper and alter their existing amplifier cascades further means Charter will reduce its capex spend and increase the speed with which it rolls out DOCSIS 4.0 to subscribers. It also means the operator’s current efforts to move to high-split DOCSIS 3.1 architectures will not be a stranded investment. Instead, those upgrades will simply be a stepping stone to what was shown in their demonstration.

Finally, another interesting element of Charter’s demo was its use of a GAP (Generic Access Platform) node housing for its R-MACPHY device. Charter has been a major proponent of GAP because it helps Charter solve its problem of having dozens of different node housings from several different vendors in their networks. It also gives Charter a modular platform that can be used to deliver DOCSIS 4.0, FTTH, and wireless services. It also incorporates the ability to add edge compute functions. Although the GAP node in the demonstration did include a compute module from Intel, that module wasn’t used in today’s demonstration. Nevertheless, with CableLabs focused on providing “optionality” for its cable operator constituents, the combination of GAP nodes plus the ability to harness edge compute functions so deep in access networks opens a world of service options for Charter.

Comcast followed Charter and demonstrated multiple access network configurations, all supporting production traffic and all being driven by a vCMTS core located in a Comcast headend not too far from CableLabs headquarters in Louisville, CO. Comcast first demonstrated a DOCSIS 3.1 high-split architecture using an RPD and 1.2GHz amps. From the same node, Comcast also demonstrated a 10G EPON OLT. This particular demonstration has direct applicability today, as Comcast is in the midst of an edge-out strategy, expanding its networks from an existing node base or hub site location. In some cases, these edge-outs will be done with fiber; in other cases, they will use coax. In both scenarios, Comcast can leverage the existing vCMTS core for the MAC layer and subscriber management control of both physical media, making it easier to turn up subscribers and achieve ROI.

Comcast’s other demonstration included prototype amplifiers with built-in echo cancellation, allowing them to deliver FDX in a node plus two environments. Up to this point, any FDX deployments at Comcast were in node plus zero environments, where Comcast had pulled fiber into neighborhoods and eliminated amplifier cascades altogether. For the vast majority of cable operators, node + 0 based FDX just hasn’t been justifiable from a capex perspective. The high cost of deep fiber rollouts is what led to the development of extended spectrum DOCSIS and its ability to be delivered over existing amplifier cascades.

But with Comcast proving that FDX can work in a node + 2 environments, using amplifiers with built-in echo cancellation, suddenly the deployment cost comes down considerably for operators. Is it enough of a cost reduction to garner interest among a large enough contingent of MSOs? That remains to be seen.

Potentially the most meaningful development of today’s showcase wasn’t even part of a technical demonstration. Instead, it came when Comcast’s Elad Nafshi said that the operator’s goal is to prove FDX can work in a node + 6 architecture. Comcast has promised to provide more information about the FDX amplifier concept and its performance and use cases later this year. But if Comcast can deliver an FDX amplifier and product set that delivers FDX across existing amplifier cascades, then, similar to Charter’s demonstration of ESD across existing amplifier cascades, the rollout of DOCSIS 4.0 can occur more quickly and less expensively than previously thought.

The net result of both technology demonstrations is that any concerns around the value of upgrading to DOCSIS 4.0 relative to the cost are now taken off the table. Instead, the question now shifts to one of timing. Operators around the world were firmly in the camp of one technology or the other, with all agreeing that some level of fiber would be a major part of any future network upgrade. Now, operators have two similarly-performing technology options in front of them, each requiring upgrading of existing amplifiers, but with two very large questions around timing and availability of key components.

Nevertheless, after today’s demonstrations, the value and relevance of DOCSIS 4.0 just improved significantly. With theoretical speeds matching those offered by today’s XGS-PON technologies, cable operators can easily buy themselves more time and continue to maximize their DOCSIS networks for many years to come.

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Outlook Remains Favorable

Preliminary findings suggest 5G NR mmWave investments improved in the fourth quarter but this was not enough to change the full-year growth momentum. Following two years of exponential growth, mmWave revenues increased 15% to 20% in 2021, propelling 5G NR mmWave to account for 1% to 2% of total sub 6 GHz plus mmWave RAN revenues.

Worldwide RAN Revenue - Dell'Oro Group

While mmWave NR investments have for the most part surprised on the upside relative to the expectations outlined three to four years ago, mmWave RAN revenues were weaker than what we outlined going into the year. Still, we are not concerned about the slowdown and the implications for the long-term business case and see this more as a short-term calibration reflecting the fact that the sub-6 GHz spectrum still provides the most compelling RAN economics.

Additional mmWave highlights from the 4Q 2021 and 5-Year RAN reports:

  • Ericsson leads the mmWave RAN market.
  • The mismatch between capex and data consumption when comparing the sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum will evolve gradually over time – global 5G NR mmWave revenues are projected to reach $1 B to $2 B by 2026.
  • Mobile remains the primary focus, however, gNB and repeater technology advancements are expected to improve the FWA business case.

Dell’Oro Group’s RAN Quarterly Report offers a complete overview of the RAN industry, with tables covering manufacturers’ and market revenue for multiple RAN segments including 5G NR Sub-6 GHz, 5G NR mmWave, LTE, macro base stations and radios, small cells, Massive MIMO, Open RAN, and vRAN. The report also tracks the RAN market by region and includes a four-quarter outlook. To purchase this report, please contact us by email at

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OFC 2022 was held in San Diego, California with a large number of active participants at the show, filling the exhibit halls after two years of mostly virtual attendance. However, to accommodate those unable to attend in person, OFC held many virtual sessions. I was one of those remotely attending. Even though I attended OFC virtually, I think my experience, while different than attending in person, was really good. That is, I learned a lot. Here are four of the things I learned and found the most interesting at OFC 2022.

The top of my list was the announcement by EFFECT Photonics that the company was buying the coherent DSP and FEC technology from Viasat. This combination brings together the most valuable components in any coherent transponder: InP-based photonic integrated circuit that includes a high-performance tunable laser, modulator, amplifier, and receiver all on one chip along with the high-speed digital electronics. The only items that EFFECT Photonics will need to source are the TIA and Driver when producing coherent pluggable optics in the future. To put this in perspective, one of the key attributes for both Acacia’s and Inphi’s value was having all of these technologies in-house.

The second thing I learned during OFC was the volume of coherent DSPs shipped by Cisco (Acacia), but maybe more importantly, how fast the ramp of shipments is occurring for the company’s newest coherent DSP (Greylock) that are used for 400 Gbps pluggable optics. During OFC, Cisco announced that cumulative shipments of the company’s 600 Gbps-capable DSP (Pico) by port volume was 100k, which converts to 50k DSP chips since each DSP supports two ports. The Pico DSP is primarily used for metro and long haul spans that require the best-performing optics. Cisco, also, announced that the cumulative shipments of Greylock was at 50k with nearly half shipped in the most recent fiscal quarter and with most being sold in a 400ZR QSFP-DD; The remainder is used in 400 Gbps CFP2-DCO. This is a very fast ramp for Greylock, considering it was introduced over a year after Pico.

The third item of focus at OFC this year seemed to center around what comes after 400ZR. While there was talk about the progress of 400ZR and the possibility of 800ZR in a few years, I felt the discussions were more about 400ZR+. It seems 400ZR+ will continue to be a marketing term and not a standard. That is to say, companies were announcing better-performing 400ZR+ compared to competitors. And as you know, better performance, product differentiation usually translates to non-standard. However, one thing in common is that the vendors are producing 400ZR+ in a QSFP-DD plug. I had originally thought that 400ZR+ would generally be used in a CFP2 package due to thermal requirements, but many of these companies have solved that problem and can deliver better-performing 400 Gbps with just an extra watt or two of power. Of course, this makes me wonder (out loud), would operators be willing to forgo the standards-based 400ZR with a 120 km limit for a non-standard based 400ZR+ with span limits that could exceed 600 km if it is also a QSFP-DD and consumes only a couple watts more? I think we all know the direction Windstream chose with the partnership with II-VI (400 ZR+ in QSFP-DD to enable the use of a ROADM line system).

The last item I want to mention is the excellent tutorials and classes that OFC holds every year where people volunteer their time to share what they do and to present informational sessions. I wasn’t able to watch all of the sessions that OFC recorded and made available to virtual participants, but the ones I watched were all done well and the presenters did an excellent job. One, in particular, that stood out for me was a session by Alexander Nikolaidis of Meta (Facebook) called Building a Global Content Provider Network at Scale. He gave a really good overview and understanding of how the company thinks through building and scaling a large content delivery backbone. He walked the audience through the choices and trade-offs that are considered. Interestingly, many of these choices and trade-offs are similar to those made by the largest telecom operators. So, at the end of the day, the challenges and choices for scaling a large backbone network aren’t that different whether it’s a large Internet content provider or a tier-one communication service provider.