Verizon first to deploy Samsung’s new 5G NR Access Unit

Samsung booth
Samsung said the integrated NR access unit eliminates the need for fronthaul from the digital to radio unit. (Fierce Wireless)

LOS ANGELES—Samsung Networks this week unveiled what it touts as the industry’s first 3GPP 5G NR-compliant integrated radio Access Unit (AU) for millimeter wave spectrum.

The AU, announced at Mobile World Congress Los Angeles, supports 28 GHz spectrum and somewhat unsurprisingly, Verizon is confirmed as the first operator that will use the unit in 5G deployments.

Samsung 28 GHz AU
Samsung's new 28 GHz AU (Samsung)

Verizon holds the lion’s share of 28 GHz spectrum in the U.S., which it’s used in initial 5G deployments, while other carriers have leaned on 39 GHz or other spectrum holdings.

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Combined in the AU are radio, antenna and digital units in one box that results in a more compact form factor. Samsung said this will help accelerate infrastructure deployments by easing installation on things like streetlight poles and building walls.  

Samsung’s Derek Johnston said most infrastructure that has been deployed in the U.S., including the vendor’s own first generation 5G base stations, involved separated radio and digital units. The digital unit for baseband processing usually sits at the bottom of a tower and was connected to fiber, requiring fronthaul from the digital unit to radio.  

“With this new NR unit, we’re eliminating that fronthaul component,” Johnston said. “So it’s conserving fiber for the operator.” The 5G AU is also more compact, about 25% smaller and more power efficient than its predecessor, he added. It can deliver capacity of 10 Gbps throughput, according to Samsung.

The product is a 4T4R solution, compared to most other solutions on the market, according to Johnston, which are 2T2R. This translates to more capacity and more coverage and capabilities for operators, he noted.

While the first iteration supports 28 GHz, Samsung is also developing units that support additional mmWave bands including 24 GHz, 26 GHz, and 39 GHz.

The new AU is partly made possible partly by Samsung’s first 5G NR system-on-a-chip (SoC) modem, announced in conjunction with the access unit.

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