Samsung is hoping to leverage its success building a nationwide greenfield 4G LTE network for Indian operator Reliance Jio and turn that into a major 5G play. The South Korean vendor is making inroads in the 5G market through its work with Verizon on the company’s fixed 5G wireless deployment that is slated to make its debut later this year.
The Reliance Jio deployment was unique in that the operator worked with just one vendor to provide each layer of the LTE network. For Samsung, which provided the LTE evolved packet core (EPC) and radio access network (RAN) portion of the network, that equated to building a network that was bigger in scale than AT&T and Verizon’s networks combined. Reliance Jio has said it hopes to reach 400 million subscribers by the end of this year.
According to Alok Shah, vice president of business development, strategy and marketing for Samsung’s Networks Division, the scale of the Reliance Jio network was larger than anything Samsung has done before. “The scale of their network was like nothing we had built to that point. As was the speed of the deployment. We were deploying thousands of base stations a day,” Shah said.
Plus Reliance Jio’s subscribers are high data users. On average a subscriber uses about 10 gigabytes of data per month and the operator has more than 170 million subscribers. “The subscribers are using so much data,” Shah said.
Samsung is now embarking on the next phase of the Reliance Jio build, crafting a nationwide narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network for the operator. The NB-IoT network will use Jio’s existing spectrum and base stations but will have a new dedicated cellular virtualized IoT core. The deal was announced at the recent Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain.
In addition, Shah said that Reliance Jio is positioning itself to upgrade to 5G. “With us they are actually deploying 5G-ready massive MIMO [multiple-input multiple-output],” he said.” There hasn’t been a 5G spectrum allocation in India yet but authorities are getting close to that.”
Shah added that because of the capacity requirements of Reliance Jio’s LTE network, the company will be able to upgrade to 5G fairly quickly.
Paving the Way to 5G
Not only did Samsung secure a part of the huge Reliance Jio deal, it also has been on the forefront of Verizon’s 5G fixed wireless deployment.
In January, Verizon said it will use pre-standard 5G gear from Samsung for its fixed wireless deployment in Sacramento, California, which will be the operator’s first 5G market.
In that deal, Samsung will supply 5G routers, base stations, and virtualized RAN elements as well as 5G radio frequency planning. The equipment vendor said that it used its own in-house technology to develop the first 5G modems and millimeter wave (mmWave) radio frequency integrated circuits.
The hardware vendor also worked with Verizon and Cisco in a multi-vendor 5G test in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In that trial, Cisco and Samsung created a multi-vendor end-to-end 5G trial network using Samsung’s virtualized RAN (vRAN) gear, 5G base stations, and home routers.
Shah said that the network vendor is working closely with Verizon on the operator’s transition to vRAN. However, Samsung was not mentioned in Verizon’s announcement earlier this year when it said it was working with Intel and Nokia to develop a vRAN architecture. That architecture will be based upon a trial that Verizon conducted in Oklahoma City using Nokia’s gear.
Aside from Verizon, Samsung also is working on 5G with Sprint. The carrier earlier this year said that it will upgrade to 5G in 2019, and will use massive MIMO antennas to increase network speed and bandwidth. Although the operator didn’t give a lot of details, it said it was working with Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia on the massive MIMO radios.
Of course, Sprint’s 5G plans are somewhat uncertain after T-Mobile’s announcement earlier this week of its plans to acquire Sprint. Both operators have said that they will move forward with their 5G deployments until the deal closes, which is expected to occur no later than early 2019.
Shah said that Samsung is a partner with both T-Mobile and Sprint and would not comment further on what this proposed acquisition will mean for the vendor.