LightTrends Newsletter

The SON keeps shining, the RIC and the SMO are stuck in a lull

October 2023

LightCounting/TÉRAL RESEARCH release the annual Network Automation Report: SON, RIC, SMO

This report tracks the evolution of mobile network automation from 3GPP’s Self-Organizing Network (SON) to the radio access network (RAN) intelligent controller named RIC, and the service management and orchestration (SMO). Our research indicates that the SON market has been stable with little growth while the RIC/SMO market is not taking off. Instead, it’s “Test Too Many/Deploy Nothing” at this point.

“The death of SON has been greatly exaggerated; in fact, the sudden need for more energy saving is keeping the SON vendors busy while the mushrooming RIC and SMO ecosystem is stuck in the starting blocks! Many RIC/SMO players won’t survive the lull,” said Stéphane Téral, Founder and Chief Analyst at TÉRAL RESEARCH.

The involvement of the O-RAN Alliance, the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) set the stage for the SON decomposition into non-Real Time RIC rApps, currently handled by C-SON (centralized SON), and near-Real Time RIC xApps, currently handled by D-SON (distributed SON). In addition, the O-RAN Alliance defined an SMO entity that performs the overall management and orchestration of the open RAN domain for non-latency sensitive activities and is composed of an operations support system (OSS), orchestration, and the non-Real Time RIC.

Our major findings in the report are:

  • The global C-SON software and services market grew again at low single digit in 2022 and similar growth rate is expected by year-end.
  • If all the 800 LTE commercial networks had a C-SON, the global sales would roughly be in the range of the OSS market. But that is not the case and as a result, C-SON software and services sales are just above the $1B bar and growing at a low single digit CAGR
  • From the dozens of C-SON vendors who entered the market as it took off a decade ago, less than 10 are left, market share is led by Nokia.
  • The SMO market is poised for a rapid ramp-up in the 2025-2026 timeframe and will be the largest opportunity. In the meantime, a gigantic RIC/SMO ecosystem is building up and includes SON specialists, traditional RAN and new open RAN vendors, startups, hyperscalers, and system integrators.
  • The near-Real Time RIC market is unleashing D-SON use cases that until now were proprietary and controlled by RAN vendors.
  • By 2028, we expect 95% of C-SON sales and services to be in the form of a non-Real Time rApps

About the report:

Defined by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) at the beginning of this century, SON algorithms configure and optimize mobile networks automatically without human interaction. As networks handle vast amounts of traffic and become more and more complex through the addition of several generations, SON algorithms are blended with machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence algorithms. LightCounting’s Network Automation: SON, RIC, SD-RAN Report tracks the centralized SON (C-SON) software and services revenue market, provides size, forecast and vendor market shares, and analyzes the evolution of C-SON modules and use cases becoming apps in the RIC needed in open RAN, open virtual RAN, and software defined RAN (SD-RAN) architectures. This report also tracks the O-RAN defined service management and orchestration (SMO) market and provides a breakdown between non-Real Time RIC rApps and near-Real Time RIC xApps.

Companies covered in this report include: Acceleran, AirHop Communications, Amdocs, CapGemini, Cellwize (now Qualcomm), Cohere Technologies, Ericsson, HCL Technologies, Huawei, Innovile, Intel, Juniper Networks, Mavenir, Nokia, P.I Works., Parallel Wireless, Radcom, Rakuten Symphony, VMware.

The report is available for download by our clients.

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