As 5G-related kit goes, the drive-test market is hardly the biggest. Even so, according to Frost & Sullivan, it has healthy growth prospects.
The analyst firm estimates the global mobile network drive test equipment market, fueled by commercial 5G deployments, will reach $522.5 million by 2025. That's up from $253.2 million in 2020 and represents a nippy 15.6% CAGR over the five-year period.
It still remains a small slice of a much larger 5G equipment pie, however. According to Dell'Oro, spending on RAN equipment topped $35 billion last year with 5G NR accounting for between 30% and 50%.
Fast and slow lanes
The mobile network drive test equipment market is not moving at uniform speed. Frost & Sullivan puts the Asia-Pacific region in the fast lane, turbo-charged by China. Smart city initiatives, combined with 5G rollout, are apparently pushing forward sales of drive-test equipment in the region.
Frost & Sullivan projects North America as having the second-fastest growth rate between 2020 and 2025, with Europe and the rest of the world occupying the slow lane.
"Limited 5G deployment" in Europe, and 5G being in the "infancy stage" in other regions, were seen by Frost & Sullivan as putting the brakes on growth outside Asia and North America.
"Deployment of fifth-generation new radio (5G NR) is creating complex and new drive testing requirements," said Sujan Sami, research manager at Frost & Sullivan.
"Today, most 5G networks are rolled out in the 3.5 GHz spectrum band, increasing the demand for drive testing and propagation model tuning."
And the market, added Sami, is set to shift gear from reactive to predictive models.
"The future of drive testing is focused on predictive and proactive testing probes and full automation," he said.
"The market will move from reactive testing to predictive and proactive testing probes due to an increase in 5G NR deployment and ML algorithm initiatives over the next two years."
Sami flagged workflow automation and cloud analytics as "new areas in which drive test solutions need to evolve to a higher level of market maturity."
— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading