Samsung expands small cell portfolio into CBRS, tests 5G with Charter

escalator (Pixabay)
Samsung's LAA small cell solution targets indoor environments.

Samsung Electronics America is going after the small cell space in a big way, announcing it will be expanding its small cell portfolio with a line of 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) products, as well as LAA small cells—and it’s collaborating with Charter Communications in 5G trials.

The company says its first CBRS products for outdoor deployments are due to enter U.S. Tier 1 operator field trials in the fourth quarter of this year, with commercial availability expected at that time. Samsung is showcasing its small cell portfolio at Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCA) this week.

“We feel there is real opportunity for the shared spectrum band help operators and new entrants cope with the market forces” that are driving more demand on the network, said Alok Shah, vice president, Networks Strategy, Business Development and Marketing at Samsung Electronics America. “We believe it’s a great time for CBRS to be coming to market.”

Entering trials is an outdoor, two-carrier small cell that is CBRS only and designed for new entrants into the market that are looking at CBRS to offload traffic from other networks or provide private LTE capabilities.

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Samsung also is preparing to launch its first LAA product. LAA has many of the same benefits as CBRS; the 5 GHz band is wide and offers the opportunity to boost capacity when used in conjunction with a licensed carrier, Shah said. Samsung’s LAA solution enables the combination of one licensed LTE carrier with two unlicensed LTE carriers for increased capacity in indoor areas. Trials for the LAA small cells are due to take place in early 2018.

It’s also launching a cloud managed service to simplify the complexity of these deployments because at some  point in time, there will be licensed LTE, LAA, CBRS and Wi-Fi small cells, all in different combinations. As a company that offers all of those, “we think it’s very important to have a managed core that can actually configure and control all of those disparate networks through one interface and one cloud offering,” he said.

Samsung recently conducted interoperability testing with the Federated Wireless Spectrum Controller, which allocated frequency blocks within the FCC’s spectrum-sharing framework for the 3.5 GHz band in the U.S.

RELATED: Charter wants to conduct 28 GHz 5G experiments in Florida

Samsung has been active in the LTE-U Forum but from a timing perspective, “we’ve sort of shifted our focus to LAA,” Shah said. LTE-U is already commercially deployed in the U.S. and will continue to have some life, “but where our customers are going at this point, there’s more of a push around LAA.”  

Besides all the activity around small cells, Samsung is executing two different trials with Charter Communications, the second largest cable company in the U.S., with one of them focused on 5G fixed wireless. The trials started this past summer and will run through the end of this year.

The 5G trial at 28 GHz involves a couple different geographic areas that have different environmental properties where one is relatively flat with limited foliage and the other has more foliage and more hills.

The other trial involves 4G and Samsung’s CBRS LTE small cell technology in an outdoor environment to evaluate mobile use cases.

Samsung has a long-standing relationship with Charter around set-top boxes and other collaborations so the expansion into the mobile infrastructure space isn’t a big surprise.