Samsung is teaming up to reach regional service providers, especially those in rural or remote areas, with a particular eye on CBRS and fixed wireless access (FWA).
The vendor has partnered with t3 Broadband, a company that specializes in network equipment deployments for hard-to-reach areas, to provide 4G and 5G-capable equipment to regional carriers. Together they’ll deliver Samsung’s Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) radio access network gear as well as core network portfolio.
T3 already works with major carriers and other OEMs. The company has over 150 service provider customers, more than 50 of which it’s deployed networks for, according to Rob Falkner, chief technical and commercial officer at t3.
He said customers include most Tier 1 and Tier 2 service operators, most tower owners and many regional operators across the U.S., including Cincinnati Bell.
The partnership with t3 will augment Samsung’s direct-to-provider sales relationships, expanding its ability to reach rural providers with CBRS gear, according to Alok Shah, VP of business development and marketing for Samsung America’s networks business.
“So far, FWA is the primary use case for which we are seeing opportunities in rural America, but we anticipate others expanding over time,” Shah said via email.
Samsung has been targeting FWA for rural areas using CBRS since at least 2019 when the vendor launched its initial CBRS-certified outdoor small cell. It’s since grown, including OnGo Alliance-certified 4T4R radio units and 64T64R Massive MIMO radios.
Spectrum in the shared 3.5 GHz CBRS band became available through priority access licenses (PAL) at auction and general authorized access (GAA) – with the latter subject to certain rules but with availability more similar to unlicensed spectrum.
When it comes to designing and deploying for remote and hard-to-reach locations, infrastructure is usually the most common issue, according to Falkner. That includes availability of power, road accessibility, fiber and backhaul and access to POPs (points of presence, or where customer locations are).
T3 has an in-house engineering and deployment team with significant experience and unique process and tools for FWA, Falkner noted.
“We tend to see location density and the type/speed of service offered by our customers as the balance between high-speed/high quality of service and the economics to provide a specific service, particularly without government subsidies,” he said via email.
CBRS can help replace fiber as last-mile connectivity, deliver FWA service, and give providers a path to 5G.
“CBRS provides a great balance of capacity and coverage for providing the fixed wireless solution, as well as a lightly licensed approach allowing for improved economics for service providers compared to more heavily licensed spectrum targeting mobile providers,” Falkner said.
It's providing opportunity for Samsung as well, particularly as the supplier looks to make greater inroads with regional and rural carriers.
“CBRS has increased the market opportunity across our customer base as the spectrum is being put to use in many different ways,” Shah said. “In rural areas, fixed wireless access is seen as an important tool in getting more homes and businesses connected.”
In the U.S. some smaller and regional carriers also are in the process of picking technology for the rip and replace program that requires U.S. service providers to remove existing insecure network gear from Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE. There's $1.9 billion in reimbursement available from the FCC.
Big RAN players and Samsung competitors Nokia and Ericsson have each recently announced rip and replace contract wins. So has Mavenir, which is implementing open RAN technology for fixed wireless provider Triangle Communications as it swaps out equipment.
Shah said Samsung couldn’t comment on any specific rip and replace projects with regional operators at this time.
In regard to interest in the program, he said “Samsung is strongly supportive of the FCC’s efforts to support regional operators in replacing untrusted networks, and more generally in their efforts to reduce the digital divide.”
On the vendor side, Falkner said t3 provides Ceragon microwave transport products, optical transport from Infinera and Ciena, Radisys for PON/XGS-PON FTTx networks, as well as services for all tier 1 and many tier 2 OEM products.