Samsung buoyed by Dell’Oro report on 5G RAN market share

Samsung booth
Samsung Electronics recorded a 5G RAN revenue market share of 37% for the combined Q4 2018 and Q1 2019 periods. (Fierce Wireless)

A recent study on the mobile radio access network (RAN) market by Dell’Oro Group gave Samsung more to crow about in its quest to boost its 5G market share.

The study found that Samsung Electronics recorded a 5G RAN revenue market share of 37% for the combined fourth quarter 2018 and first quarter 2019 periods. According to Dell’Oro. That places Samsung in the lead for the 5G New Radio (NR) RAN market by revenue share for the two combined quarters.

The report, Mobile RAN Quarterly Report Q1 2019, stated that 5G NR has accelerated at a faster-than-expected pace, with 5G NR already comprising 5% to 10% of the overall RAN market in the first quarter. Dell’Oro estimates suggest that Massive MIMO technology accounted for more than 80% of 5G NR revenues, both in Q4 2018 and Q1 2019.

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According to by Dell’Oro Group analyst Stefan Pongratz, Samsung's initial 5G NR revenue share is primarily a reflection of Samsung’s position in the Korean market, which recorded a notable rebound, underpinned by the synchronized 5G launches across the country.

Samsung has deployed its 5G Massive MIMO Unit (MMU) radio base stations in the Korean 5G market using 3.5 GHz spectrum. According to Samsung, a key characteristic of its MMUs is they are among the smallest and lightest in the industry, ensuring they can be easily installed in an operator’s existing cellular sites with minimal changes.  

In the U.S., Samsung is doing work in 5G with AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. In the past, it has done 5G trial work with T-Mobile US, but it hasn't revealed anything beyond that of late.

Pongratz said it’s still early days for 5G NR in the North America region, though aggregate North America 5G NR growth is projected to improve, with continued acceleration in 5G NR sub 6 GHz and millimeter wave deployments.

Interestingly, he said preliminary estimates suggest Ericsson’s 4G/5G revenue share was higher than Nokia’s for the 2018 and Q1 2019 periods.

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri has said Nokia was a little slow in getting 5G technology up and running, citing merging its own technology plans with those of acquired Alcatel-Lucent as a reason, according to Reuters.

Overall, Pongratz said this year started out on a strong footing. “The upswing that began in the second half of 2018 extended into 1Q19 as market conditions continued to improve fueled by synchronized growth across China, U.S., and Korea to address data traffic growth, low-band LTE expansions, and initial 5G NR deployments, validating the message we have communicated for some time: namely, there are reasons to be optimistic about the mobile infrastructure market,” he said.

RELATED: Industry Voices—Schoolar: Are we at the start of a RAN market shake-up?

Huawei remained the leading mobile infrastructure RAN vendor worldwide measured by revenue, according to Dell’Oro. The vendor has been able to maintain its leading position over the past two years, even when the momentum in the Chinese RAN market weakened and the North American RAN market advanced at a double-digit pace, reflecting Huawei’s strengthening position outside the North American region.

Taking into consideration that Huawei’s overall full-year 2018 mobile infrastructure share was only 1% to 2% in the North America region, the direct implication as a result of the executive order or the U.S. ban will be negligible and should not impact the ability for the existing U.S. cellular equipment providers to move forward with their 5G NR deployments in either the sub 6 GHz or millimeter wave spectrum, Pongratz said.

“Now in the event that that the Entity List designation with Huawei and its affiliates become and remain effective for a longer period of time, inevitably there will be some direct and indirect effects to consider when assessing the overall vendor and market dynamics,” he said.

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Ericsson now has commercial 5G RAN contracts with South Korea’s three major mobile operators.

The Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T has hired bankers at Centerview Partners and Goldman Sachs Group in the talks with Elliott.

MWC Los Angeles 2019 kicks off in just a few days, with vertical industries being drawn into the mobile conversation.