Samsung is riding disruptive 5G technologies like virtualization and automation to score deals with domestic carriers. Among current 5G deployments, Samsung is now sitting alongside Nokia and Ericsson as a dominant supplier to the market’s largest operators.
The vendor currently accounts for half of Verizon’s planned 5G deployments for this year, is a substantial part of Sprint’s plans, and has participated in AT&T’s and T-Mobile US’ network trials. The company has also recently announced plans to invest $22 billion over the next three years in a number of high-tech sectors, including 5G.
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.
Alok Shah, vice president of network strategy and marketing at Samsung, said the vendor has benefitted from the software-centric nature of 5G in gaining market share in the U.S. He said this includes open radio access initiatives that “offer the opportunity for some disruption in the landscape that might have been difficult to penetrate in the past.”
“If we look at the U.S. market, the traditional vendor landscape is pretty limited,” Shah explained. “Operators are having to drive down OpEx in LTE to keep up with unlimited data, and if they are going to do that they need to broaden their supplier landscape and push for more options.”
Along with carriers looking to expand their vendor directory, Samsung is also getting a boost from U.S. regulators that continue to forbid large U.S. carriers from partnering with Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE for network equipment.
Verizon has so far announced four markets in which it plans to launch its fixed 5G services by the end of this year. Those include Houston; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; and Sacramento, California. Samsung has been tapped to provide the radio equipment for Houston and Sacramento.
Those initial deployments will focus on a fixed 5G service. Shah said that the current Verizon equipment has a mostly software upgrade path to supporting mobile 5G services.
“There are a few differences on the physical layer that have an impact on that migration path, but a lot of the functionality will be software upgradeable to NR,” Shah said.
Shah also noted that Samsung had a hand in seven of Verizon’s initial 11 5G test markets.
Virtualization and Automation
Those trials included Samsung working with Cisco in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That trial has Cisco providing its virtualized packet core as part of its Ultra Services Platform, working with Samsung’s virtual radio access network (vRAN) product, 5G radio base stations, and home routers.
Samsung supplied its NFV-based vRAN powered by a common-off-the-shelf (COTS) x86 architecture, its complete NFV stack with hardware, and MANO software. The vRAN itself was deployed in Michigan close to the test market, while the platform is managed by the vendor’s ETSI-compliant MANO software, which was deployed on Verizon’s cloud platform in Westlake, Texas. That management platform was also used to support 5G trials in four other markets.
Shah explained that the 5G architecture from its inception has had a strong reliance on virtualization of the RAN and core.
“Virtualization is front and center for 5G,” Shah said. “I have seen remarkable advances in general purpose processors that allow for being able to do advanced mobile computing for infrastructure on general purpose computing platforms.”
Shah added that eventually these networks will gain greater automation to support use cases like network slicing and massive IoT. “The automation piece will come along more gradually when we get these networks rolled out,” he said.
Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T
Samsung cut its teeth in the U.S. market as part of Sprint’s initial LTE deployment. As part of those plans, the carrier split up the country into three sections, with Samsung, Nokia, and Ericsson all getting a piece of the action. For Samsung, that Sprint deployment includes 13,000 cell sites supporting LTE on the carrier’s network.
Shah explained that the Sprint deal provided the carrier with experience in dealing with different geographical challenges. It also showed that the vendor could handle a wide-ranging deployment. Samsung is also part of Sprint’s 5G plans.