Alok Shah, vice president of network strategy and marketing at Samsung, said the partnership “will span mobile infrastructure and IT solutions, from the radio to OSS/BSS systems to services.” He added that the actual equipment mix and marketing plans were still being decided.
The announcement states that the combined offerings will be “localized for each region with customized services” hinting at a possible software component to allow for such customization. Shah added that Samsung’s angle is to work with operators that are already moving on 5G deployments, noting efforts in the U.S., South Korea, and Japan.
The Japan Times reported that localization could be key for each vendor. It noted that the partnership will focus initially on the Japanese and U.S. markets. This will include Samsung targeting Japanese carriers and NEC marketing its base station equipment outside of Japan for the first time.
Samsung is a dominant player in its home market of South Korea and has started to make significant inroads into North America. This includes recent deals alongside rivals Nokia and Ericsson with most of the largest operators in the U.S.
A recent report from ABI Research listed Samsung as one of the vendors set to benefit from the ongoing 5G deployment push that is expected to generate $26 billion in worldwide sales by 2023. More specifically, a recent Dell’Oro Group report found that Samsung’s revenue share in North American increased three-fold between 2017 and the first half of 2018.
NEC is currently best known for offering equipment in its home market of Japan. The vendor has been working with NTT DoCoMo on various 5G trials. These include software updates to base stations ahead of DoCoMo’s planned 5G launch in 2020, and trials using millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum.
Both vendors have also moved aggressively to update the software components of their portfolios.
Shah recently told SDxCentral that software innovation is underpinning the vendor’s recent push into the 5G hardware space, stating that open source platforms are integral to its 5G core products.
“We believe in open source when it comes to a cloud native core that is flexible and has a path forward,” Shah said in an interview at the recent Mobile World Congress Americas event in Los Angeles. “We think you have to take advantage of OpenStack and these virtualization platforms like containers and the container environment.”
NEC earlier this year updated its Traffic Management Solution (TMS) to handle the higher throughput needs of 5G networks. This includes the ability to provide network optimization for data transfer rates in excess of 5 Gb/s.
The company’s TMS platform, which was initially launched in early 2014, links with SDN to allow mobile operators to manage network traffic. It uses network monitoring and compression technology to automatically scale traffic throughput to the available capacity.
The partnership also comes at a time when some Chinese equipment vendors are being marginalized due to security concerns. Both Huawei and ZTE, which have traditionally been aggressive in terms of gaining market share, have recently been the subject of investigations into collusion with the Chinese government.
In March, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed a ban on the use of money from the FCC’s $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund (USF) to purchase equipment or services “from companies that pose a national security threat to United States communications networks.” Pai’s statement didn’t mention Huawei or ZTE by name, but it’s generally assumed those were the companies he was referring to.
The U.S. government in April forbade American companies from selling components to ZTE for seven years, though it eventually dropped the ban after ZTE agreed to pay a $1 billion fine and replace its leadership.
The Australian government in August banned that country’s telecom providers from purchasing 5G equipment from both vendors. And Reuters reported that a pair of U.S. Senators recently sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking that the Canadian government prevent Huawei from supplying equipment to that country’s operators.