My Reacquaintance With Millimeter Wave Equipment Vendors

Back in the mid-’00s when I worked as an industry analyst for NPRG, I penned our Fixed Wireless Carriers Report, marking our foray into off-the-shelf report-publishing in the microwave and millimeter wave space, and I’ve followed its progress ever since. Off and on, at least. Or I thought I did. I recently stumbled across the forays of both Fujitsu and Samsung into the millimeter wave waters, so I dug a little to find the backgrounds of their ventures into this space, assuming they had acquired some of the several vendors who had divvied up the market a decade ago. Indeed, no, these were ground-up systems these technology giants had developed over a number of years. Even as I’ve followed the carrier usage of these systems with interest – point-to-point millimeter wave service is getting increased attention for its backhaul prospects – clearly my vendor knowledge had slipped a bit. So it’s time to re-engage.

Of course, back when I wrote that report, microwave comprised a lion’s share of the fixed wireless market, particularly in the cellular backhaul space, and this 2016 Sivers IMA report summary suggests very little has changed in that regard.

As for the vendors, a quick search brought up this Global Industry Analysts report, and three of the nine major players (as noted in this more detailed table of contents) were among the top vendors when I wrote my report more than a decade ago. Also notable, Fujitsu and Samsung aren’t listed – indeed, eight of the nine vendors seem to be small, specialized equipment manufacturers – which means the market has not yet been overtaken by major multi-product equipment manufacturers, even as NEC has made inroads and at least a couple more of the big boys are beginning to sniff around. Notably, as I did just a little digging, while Fujitsu’s 5G millimeter wave research is touted, articles and press releases from the last 3-4 years seem to suggest it was geared toward autonomous driving purposes more than for telecom.

As for market size, the first few reports I stumbled upon seem to expect a $2.5 to $9 billion dollar market by the ends of their forecast periods, ranging from 2023 to 2025 with 2016 and 2017 market levels in the $500 to $600 million range.  Again, back when I did my research in the mid-’00s, the fixed wireless market was still microwave-dominated, so much so that I never bothered to call out a market size for the nascent millimeter wave market; indeed, it has grown by now to a respectable size.

With all of these interesting developments, it seems like a good time to refresh my millimeter wave knowledge.

Also of interest, though not exactly “breaking” news but helpful for an introductory piece, is this link to a Ceragon blog post from a couple months ago. It contains a wavelength x frequency graphic showing where decimeter wave (500 MHz-3 GHz), centimeter wave (3-30 GHz), and millimeter wave (30-300 GHz) fall, as well as indicating the segment of the spectrum commonly referred to as microwave (5-42 GHz). Of course, this article places a distinct cutoff point between microwave and millimeter wave at 30 GHz without overlap. Since millimeter waves are microwaves, the definition of microwave is definitionally arbitrary, though in the U.S., if I recall from a decade ago, the spectrum set aside for millimeter wave communication is in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, so the specific cutoff point isn’t important in practice, as there’s an FCC-defined cutoff point, at least for the purpose of telecom.

And, with that, this kickoff piece is officially “all over the place.” But watch this space as I’ll be making a concerted effort to include a lot of millimeter wave coverage in the coming weeks and months. I assume it’ll be a mix of targeted bits and the occasional general piece reacting to news articles and/or my own surfing for specific links (and the rabbit hole it takes me down). Also, if you’re one of my longtime industry contacts, expect to hear from me this year. And whether you’re an existing industry friend or someone I haven’t yet met, if you’d like to reach out to me proactively, don’t forget I have a contact form. I’ll appreciate your outreach and look forward to making your acquaintance.

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