Samsung wins 5G deal with NTT DoCoMo in Japan

Samsung Electronics won another important contract in 5G infrastructure with the addition of Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, including open Radio Access Network (O-RAN)-compliant solutions. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Samsung said its solutions will play a crucial role in expanding the operator’s network coverage and improving the 5G user experience. Samsung’s 5G radios will be deployed as part of the agreement.

“Samsung will support DoCoMo with its innovative 5G technology, including O-RAN-compliant solutions, to bring enriched 5G services to users, advance digital transformation for businesses, and improve society at large,” Samsung said in a press release.  

Although a big name in the Android handset market, Samsung historically was not the first name to spring to mind in the RAN market, where Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia and ZTE dominate. But with geopolitics eliminating Huawei as an infrastructure provider in the U.S. and other markets and Samsung’s increasing emphasis on networks, its profile is rising.

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In 2020, Samsung ranked No. 5 in the global RAN market, with a revenue share between 5% and 10%, according to Stefan Pongratz, vice president at Dell’Oro Group.

In Japan, Samsung also has a deal with KDDI, where it’s been providing various radio base stations supporting mid-band (3.7-3.8 GHz and 4.0-4.1 GHz), as well as millimeter wave at 28 GHz, and virtualized RAN.

Samsung’s other major markets include its home territory of South Korea, with all three major operators, as well as in India with Reliance Jio. In the U.S., it won a $6.6 billion contract with Verizon last year, and provided gear to Sprint before it merged with T-Mobile. It also has some business with AT&T, although that’s mostly for fixed wireless access (FWA) using Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum at 3.5 GHz, Pongratz said.

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“In short, Samsung is now a major player in India, Korea, U.S./Canada, and Japan,” he said.

DoCoMo targets 70% coverage

DoCoMo is the largest of Japan’s major mobile operators, with nearly 82 million users. It earned a reputation as being at the forefront of technology during earlier wireless migrations and it’s still viewed as a technology leader relative to its peers, according to Pongratz.

Late last year, DoCoMo announced that, along with Qualcomm Technologies, they were able to carry out the world’s first commercialization of 5G sub-6 GHz carrier aggregation to bring multi-gigabit mobile experiences to DoCoMo customers.

5G carrier aggregation enables better 5G performance. With select devices powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform with the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System, customers can get download speeds up to 4.2 Gbps.

DoCoMo’s 5G sub-6 GHz carrier aggregation combines 100 MHz carrier in band n78 and a 100 MHz carrier in band n79 to boost 5G performance and network capacity.

DoCoMo began commercial operation of the 28 GHz millimeter wave band in September 2020.

The operator, which launched its 5G service a year ago, is targeting 70% 5G coverage by the first half of 2023. KDDI and SoftBank also launched 5G in March 2020, with Rakuten launching 5G in September.