While Samsung Electronics America's networks business in the United States has been involved in plenty of 5G tests and trials, the next generation—or revolution—in wireless technology represents an opportunity for the Korean company to break into the U.S. wireless infrastructure market in a big way.
The company is well known for its R&D in 5G in the U.S., but its actual market share with operators is minimal. The company is a femtocell supplier to Verizon, but that’s pretty much it for the big guys. It is, however, a supplier to the smaller Sprint and involved in trials with the other U.S. operators.
With 5G, “we’ve definitely gained, maybe not in a PO fashion or revenue yet, but if you look throughout the industry, Samsung’s leadership in 5G has been acknowledged by a number of people,” said the vice president of the Next Generation Business Team at Samsung Electronics, Woojune Kim.
Every time there’s an inflection point in the industry, there’s opportunity. “Samsung Networks has always been very patient,” he told FierceWirelessTech. “We’ve been in the U.S. for over 20 years, our networking business has been around for about 40 years,” and while it hasn’t seen the kind of rocket growth rate that the mobile handset division has seen, every time there’s been a change, “we’ve sort of gained market share,” starting with CDMA and then onto LTE.
Elsewhere, Samsung has won some big networking deals with operators. In India, for example, Samsung was a key provider of network infrastructure for Reliance Jio, which built one of the largest mobile networks in the world. Samsung deployed more than one million cells as part of that network.
Earl Lum, president of EJL Wireless Research, said Samsung’s place in the U.S. is very interesting in 5G compared to where it’s at in 4G. As one of its primary suppliers, Samsung has a decent footprint with Sprint right now with CDMA and LTE.
Samsung has an opportunity to grow market share with the other operators in 5G, but how much is obviously tough to say at this point. “If you look at where 5G will be, they have an opportunity to grow that share, given the fact that when you deploy 5G, you can do it in islands or cities/towns of 5G” and you don’t need a nationwide footprint when you deploy 5G, Lum told FierceWirelessTech.
On top of that, no one else has an end-to-end solution that includes the customer premise equipment and the infrastructure.
Related to that, Kim said he could not speak to the availability of handsets for the 3.5 GHz CBRS band in the United States, except to say that they will be along “pretty soon.” In a demo that Samsung did at its booth at Mobile World Congress Americas in San Francisco last week, it used 24 Samsung handsets but they were built for the 3.5 GHz in Japan, where handsets already have that support.