Samsung marries 5G RAN, core with Ciena’s transport

Samsung and Ciena are partnering to offer the companies’ respective 5G products for transport, radio and core to service providers and enterprise as a pre-integrated solution.

The collaboration, announced Wednesday, involves an end-to-end set that’s immediately available. It includes Ciena’s xHaul Routing and Switching portfolio and next-gen MCP domain controller alongside Samsung’s 5G Core and RAN portfolio including virtualized RAN, baseband units and radios.   

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Part of the aim is simpler, faster and more compatible implementations of 5G – with a pre-validated product – as network environments become more disaggregated.

While 5G architecture is becoming more distributed, Samsung VP Alok Shah explained how key network domains are becoming more closely knit.

“What used to be clear lines between sections of the network have started to blur in a 5G world – RAN and xHaul are a great example of that,” Shah, VP of strategy, business development and marketing for Samsung’s Network Business, told Fierce. “Today, RAN, Core and Transport have become tightly coupled, and therefore, it has become necessary to present comprehensive network solutions that combine these solutions. With this collaboration, the Samsung and Ciena offerings are pre-integrated, making life simpler for our customers.”

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The partners already pre-validated interoperability of the products for several 5G use cases, which benefits operators by taking that step out of the equation and speeding 5G deployments. Work included end-to-end interoperability, functional and performance tests between products from Samsung and Ciena.

Another aim is to help operators handle increasing 5G data volumes at the edge of the network more efficiently and into the cloud.

The dual offering is primarily targeting network operators and enterprise customers. Samsung has already racked up some significant customer wins for its vRAN technology – including Verizon in the U.S., KT and other South Korean operators, Vodafone in the U.K., and KDDI and NTT DoCoMo in Japan, among others. Virgin Media O2 just tapped the South Korean vendor for 4G and 5G trials in its commercial network in the U.K.

RELATED: Virgin Media O2 chooses Samsung for 5G trials

Why do Samsung and Ciena make good partners? Shah said they expect both companies can benefit from complementary geographical footprints, bringing each other’s solutions into diverse markets.

“As both companies are leading innovators in our respective spaces with strong customer bases for these portfolios, this powerful collaboration leverages our collective leadership to create best-in-breed 5G networks that are open, scalable and adaptive,” Matt Cook, VP of the Global Partner Organization at Ciena told Fierce.

In terms of go-to-market, the companies expect each customer engagement to be unique but with two primary models: a Samsung-led RAN solution coupled with xHaul, and a co-sell model where the partners are working together to provide a fully integrated end-to-end solution for the customer.

Dell’Oro Group has tracked the markets of SP router/switch, transport, mobile core and RAN for some time, and analyst and VP Stefan Pongratz said that the firm’s data suggests operators historically haven’t prioritized E2E offerings across all of these domains – but indicated that could shift with changing architectures.

“However, as the backhaul becomes fronthaul, the transport requirements will change which could impact the value of pre-integrated solutions,” Pongratz told Fierce.

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xHual from Ciena refers to fronthaul, midhaul, and backhaul transport networks, which interconnect cell sites to each other, to the core network, and ultimately to data centers.

In a blog post explaining xHaul, Ciena’s Brian Lavallee, senior director of solutions marketing, explained how fixed wireline networks need specific traffic management capabilities across those domains that go beyond increasing capacity to support 5G services. That includes supporting requirements for guaranteed end-to-end network slices, for example.

Ciena already helps support wireless backhaul networks for large mobile operators, and its Blue Planet software is getting incorporated in Dish Network’s 5G build to advance the operator’s network slicing ambitions.  

RELATED: Ciena stakes its claim in 5G networks with new transport routers

In terms of the collaboration helping to boost market share or reach new segments, Pongratz noted the companies’ products focus on different elements of the equipment market.  

“Partnerships can be tricky, especially if there is material overlap, though clearly that is not the case here,” Pongratz said of Samsung and Ciena’s tie up.

To highlight, below is a Dell’Oro chart showing vendor shares for the overall telecom equipment market (the sum of Broadband Access, Microwave Transport, Optical Transport, MCN, RAN, SP Router & Switch) in the first half of 2021.

“Ciena’s telecom equipment revenues are primarily driven by its optical transport and SP switch portfolio while Samsung focuses on the RAN and MCN (mobile core) markets,” he noted.

Vendor shares for the telecom equipment market in 1H2021. (Credit: Dell'Oro Group)

There are no plans currently to jointly develop new hardware or software services, according to Samsung, but it’s something the partners might explore in the future.

Rakuten Symphony just yesterday announced co-development of a new product with Intel and Juniper that combines Altiostar vRAN software with Juniper’s transport routing stack on a common general purpose server with Intel Technology. The aim is to simplify open RAN deployments and reduce the amount of needed hardware per site.