AT&T 5G deal marks a first for Samsung in U.S.

Samsung Networks sign
Samsung's expertise in millimeter wave technology is helping propel its 5G business in the U.S. (FierceWireless)

AT&T’s announcements this week naming Samsung among its vendors for both 5G and 5G-ready Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) networks signal yet another coup for Samsung in the U.S.

In separate announcements, AT&T said it has selected Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung to help build its mobile, nationwide 5G network. Samsung was also identified this week as the vendor of CBRS 5G-ready gear, where it's supplying CBRS-compliant radios and base station equipment.

The CBRS equipment is software-upgradeable so the system architecture allows the upgrade to 5G to happen, according to Wilf Norrlinger, vice president of the networks division at Samsung Electronics America. He declined to discuss specific markets, deferring to AT&T on that.

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It was previously disclosed that Samsung was involved in a consumer trial with AT&T in South Bend, Indiana, where the operator used Samsung 5G home routers, radio access units and a foundation built on Samsung’s 5G RFIC chipset, virtualized core and vRAN.

Samsung’s hope is these two awards will lead to a more solidified partnership with AT&T in the future. “We’re really excited to be a network vendor to AT&T. This is a new position for us to be in,” said Alok Shah, vice president of networks strategy, business development and marketing at Samsung Electronics America, in an interview with FierceWireless.

RELATED: AT&T selects Samsung, CommScope for CBRS network deployment

Samsung also is working with other operators. Both Verizon and Sprint have named Samsung among their 5G suppliers, while T-Mobile has announced deals with Nokia and Ericsson.

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Just a year ago, Samsung’s market share with U.S. operators was minimal. The company supplied femtocells but then seized on the 5G opportunity and got involved early with 5G tests and trials with operators. The former president of Samsung Research America, Farooq Khan, is one of the authors of a groundbreaking millimeter wave presentation back in 2011; he left his position at Samsung in 2016 to pursue the startup Phazr, which has developed a 5G network solution that has been tested by the likes of Verizon.

AT&T this week also announced it is working with CommScope in the role of Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrator. It’s not clear if AT&T plans to work with other potential SAS administrators, which include Google and Federated Wireless. An AT&T spokesperson said CommScope is the only SAS it’s ready to announce at this point.