Mavenir hails open RAN progress as sales hit $100M

The US software company has seen revenues grow from just $7 million in 2020 and now boasts 30 customers worldwide, according to CEO Pardeep Kohli.

Iain Morris, International Editor

February 6, 2023

4 Min Read
Mavenir hails open RAN progress as sales hit $100M

So much for RCS. The once-ballyhooed technology (standing for Rich Communications Services), a telco answer to the messaging apps of the Internet world, simply "cannot compete with the closed systems of Apple and Google," said Pardeep Kohli, the CEO of Mavenir, a vendor of RCS among other products. It was a different story for open RAN, a telco response to the closed network systems of Ericsson and Nokia. Revenues last year were 14 times higher than sales in 2020, claimed Kohli. Mavenir now has 30 open RAN customers.

Owned by Siris Capital Group and Koch Industries, Mavenir has arguably become America's best hope of producing a local open RAN champion. In the RAN software market where it plays, rival Altiostar has fallen under the ownership of Japan's Rakuten, while Parallel Wireless, another competitor, last year laid off hundreds of employees. Updates of the kind shared by Kohli on LinkedIn are a measure of its progress and a possible indicator of open RAN's health in general.

Figure 1: Open RAN would allow operators to mix suppliers at a given mobile site. (Source: Ericsson) Open RAN would allow operators to mix suppliers at a given mobile site.
(Source: Ericsson)

The concept, as the name implies, is all about opening interfaces between different parts of the RAN, allowing operators to use multiple suppliers at a mobile site (and not buy everything from one big vendor's system). Back in 2020, Mavenir made just $7 million in open RAN sales. Last year it managed around $100 million and had software installed at roughly 8,000 sites worldwide. "We ended the year with new wins from Tier 1 operators in Europe," said Kohli.

This is undeniably positive and suggests deals are in place that have not yet been publicly announced. Mavenir's flagship customer is Dish Network, a US company aiming to build a fourth nationwide mobile network. On that project, it is the main supplier of RAN software, according to John Baker, Mavenir's senior vice president of business development. The Dish project has also shown that Mavenir's software can run on the Graviton chip technology built by Amazon, and not just on Intel's silicon, said Baker. Yet there has been little sign of Mavenir's progress outside the US – where Asian giants Samsung, Fujitsu and NEC seem to have landed the juiciest open RAN deals.

Ups and downs

Detractors will argue that $100 million represents a thin shaving of the roughly $40 billion generated from RAN product sales in a year. Japan's NEC made about $430 million from 5G alone in its 2021 fiscal year, and Mavenir's are spread across "many different configurations," according to Kohli, including 5G standalone, 5G non-standalone and 4G only. Just like NEC, Mavenir has now branched into other parts of the value chain, boasting radios and systems integration expertise besides the software with which it started.

The open RAN signals have clearly been mixed so far this year. Dell'Oro, a market research firm that tracks adoption, recently upped its forecasts, expecting open RAN to account for between 15% and 20% of the total RAN market by 2027. But NEC complained several months ago that brownfield operators have grown more cautious about open RAN following initial trials. Deutsche Telekom had aimed for a commercial deployment of some kind in 2023, but its plans have hit delays, as Light Reading revealed in December.

Another potential concern is the uptick in so-called "single-vendor open RAN," where products are compliant with open RAN specifications but supplied mainly on a given project by one vendor. The Dish rollout is an extreme example of the opposite – with multiple suppliers in every domain – but other companies appear to have leaned heavily on Samsung for open RAN goods. With or without open RAN, if operators continue to prefer dealing with just a few suppliers, specialists could struggle, lacking the research-and-development resources to expand into other areas.

Kohli said 2022 was the third sequential year in which Mavenir generated more than $500 million in sales. But if open RAN has boomed, then other business activities appear to have shrunk. RCS is one such "negative" highlighted by Mavenir's boss in his LinkedIn update. CPaaS (for communications platform-as-a-service) is another. "I was hoping that we could enable our customers to go up the value chain, but operators' regional footprint makes it difficult to compete with global players," he said.

Still, there was good news from Kohli about Mavenir's packet core unit, which also generates around $100 million in revenues and competes in a much smaller market (in dollar terms) than Mavenir's RAN products do. Sales here have soared from $17 million since 2020 (another sign of difficulties elsewhere), and major customers now include Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone. Sustaining those growth rates will be some achievement.

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— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

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