Samsung recently opened the doors to its North American Samsung Networks Innovation Center in Plano, TX, further boosting its presence in the region. This state-of-the-art facility, supported by development centers and well-equipped labs, not only helps Samsung Networks and its partners to optimize, test and showcase their 5G products and services, but it also signifies the company's strong commitment to support the needs of customers and build new partnerships in the region.
I got to tour the Innovation Center and the labs firsthand a couple of weeks ago and was impressed by the facilities. The opening of the Innovation Center is even more opportune, considering that we are at the cusp of the second phase of 5G, driven primarily by architecture like vRAN/open RAN, new business propositions like private networks, new and exciting use cases such as Industrial IoT, URLLC and XR. This center will be a valuable asset for Samsung Networks and its customers and partners in experiencing new technologies in real life, and ultimately helping make those technologies mainstream.
This is yet another step in the remarkable global growth of Samsung Networks in the 5G era, which I have documented in the article series here.
Showcase of the best of Samsung Networks' technology
The front end of the expansive Samsung facilities is the Innovation Center, which houses many live demonstration areas highlighting various technologies and use cases. The current set-up includes demos of vRAN/open RAN with network orchestration, fixed wireless access (FWA) both FR-1 (Sub6 Ghz) and live FR-2 (mmWave) systems, private network with low-latency based IIoT use cases, X.R. and others.
The most impressive for me was the Radio Wall of Fame — a vast display of Samsung Networks' radios deployed (and ready to be deployed) in the Americas, supporting a wide range of the spectrum, output power, form factors, bandwidths, bands and band combinations, MIMO configurations and more. It is awe-inspiring that in a short span, Samsung Networks has developed almost all the configurations desired by customers in the Americas.
Optimizing and perfecting technologies for the Americas
The hallmark of any successful infrastructure player is to "think global and act local," as markets are won by best addressing the specific needs of local and regional customers, which might often be disparate. Like other major cellular infra players, most of Samsung Networks' core development happens offshore. But most, if not all, the customization and optimization happens in the country, including the crucial lab and field testing.
The best example of this localization is the fact that Samsung supports spectrum bands and band combinations needed for U.S. operators, including its unique shared CBRS band. There are estimated more than 10,000 possible band combinations defined by 3GPP, many of which are necessary in the USA. "Supporting and testing all the band combinations operators require is an arduous task, and that's precisely where our well-equipped labs come into play," says Vinay Mahendra, director of engineering, Networks Business, Samsung Electronics America, "The combinations are tested for compliance, optimized for performance, and can be demonstrated to operators at this facility before deploying them in the field." This applies to many other local needs, such as configurations, deployment scenarios, and use cases. The new Plano Innovation Center is the showcase, and existing labs there and elsewhere in the country serve as the brains and plumbing.
Testing ground for partners
A 5G network is an amalgamation of different vendors, and seamless interoperability between them is a basic need. This need elevates the complexity to a new level with vRAN/open RAN, where software and hardware are disaggregated and might come from different vendors. A typical multi-vendor open RAN network could have different RU, D.U., CU vendors, cloud orchestration and solution providers, chip and cloud providers, etc. Integrating all those hardware and software pieces and making the system work together is no small task. It requires close collaboration among vendors, ensuring the system is thoroughly tested and pre-certified, so that the disruptions and issues in the field and hence the time and costs can be minimized. That's exactly the role of the Innovation Center and the labs.
The next phase of 5G will be driven by non-traditional applications, services and use cases, such as IIoT, mission critical services, X.R., private networks, and many others that we haven't even imagined yet. Those must be developed, tested, perfected, and showcased before being offered on commercial networks. Being a market leader, Samsung, with its partners, is in the driving seat to enable these from the network side. Again, a task cut out for its Innovation Center.
Samsung Networks' Innovation Center in the U.S. is opening at the critical juncture when 5G is ready for its next phase in the country, exploring new deployment models, architectures and use cases. The center and the adjoining labs will serve as a centerpiece for the company and its partners to develop and commercialize that next phase. It will help Samsung Networks showcase its innovations and partner technologies and show company's commitment to its customers in the region.
I am looking forward to seeing new technologies and concepts being demonstrated there.
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Prakash Sangam is the founder and principal at Tantra Analyst, a leading boutique research and advisory firm. He is a recognized expert in 5G, Wi-Fi, AI, Cloud and IoT. To read articles like this and get an up-to-date analysis of the latest mobile and tech industry news, sign-up for our monthly newsletter at TantraAnalyst.com/Newsletter, or listen to our Tantra's Mantra podcast.
Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors — often industry experts or analysts — who are invited to the conversation by Fierce Wireless staff. They do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Fierce Wireless editorial board.