Samsung might not fit the UK bill as a viable RAN alternative

It might be a case of preparing so much for tomorrow that the challenges of today are overlooked, at least that is the opinion of BT and Vodafone.

With the telecoms industry desperate for additional competition in the network infrastructure segment, Samsung looked to be making the right noises at the right time.

Speaking to the Science and Technology Committee in the UK, Samsung EVP Woojune Kim suggesting the firms 5G RAN market share is somewhere between 14-20%, with the capability and capacity to step in and deliver the connectivity revolution the UK is searching for.

In fairness, Samsung has positioned itself as a competitive force in the RAN segment, though the numbers might be slightly misleading. Thanks to the aggressive 5G deployment in its domestic market Korea, where Samsung is the primary supplier to the telecoms operators, the numbers might be distorted.

A more accurate picture of the RAN market might appear towards the end of the year. When other nations start to scale 5G networks and catch-up with Korea, the commercial contracts for Samsung’s rivals will balance out the equation. We suspect Samsung’s market share will be considerably lower before too long, as Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei are still the firm favourite of CTOs around the world.

You do have to offer some credit to Samsung, however. It has closed the gap and could be considered by some to be a tier one RAN vendor. Samsung has directed all its R&D investment towards 4G, 5G and 6G technologies, which might sound like a smart idea, but it might be its downfall in some markets.

“We cannot ignore the fact that there is a lot of our customers and businesses that rely on 2G/3G technology,” Andrea Donna, Head of Networks at Vodafone UK, said during the same Committee hearing.

“There are devices which are 2G/3G only enabled. The transition to a fully blow 4G/5G has to go hand-in-glove with our commercial colleagues to replace the devices on the ground and ensure that only 4G/5G devices are present before we can completely move away from 3G and 2G technology.”

The same issue has been raised by BT. With so much voice traffic travelling across the 2G and 3G networks, and numerous devices not compatible with 4G and 5G, it becomes a redundant conversation is Samsung is not prepared to support the forgotten generations of mobile.

This is perhaps one of the most significant issues the Government and UK telecoms operators face. If Huawei and ZTE are going to be removed from the competition equation, and Samsung is not an adequate replacement, an uncomfortable scenario emerges. OpenRAN is years away from being market ready, despite being a very promising ecosystem, meaning competition in the network infrastructure segment will naturally shrink.

One comment

  1. Avatar Joe Light 14/07/2020 @ 3:20 am

    UK needs to invite Japan’s Docomo to share their experience of building world’s first multi-vendor 4G/5G NSA network relying on O-RAN X2 profile built on 3GPP specifications. Samsung has also done similar work in South Korea with the open X2 interface. The opening of X2 interface is DIFFERENT to the overlay technique that Nokia proposed in 2019. It is disappointing to see big operators falling into vendor lock-in traps by not insisting on open interfaces and adopting flexible network evolution approaches. Why is China building 5G SA network directly?

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