Ericsson, Nokia win India 5G deals, but Samsung makes crucial headway

Both Nokia and Ericsson made announcements yesterday that they're working with Reliance Jio in India. But a key gainer of the 5G vendor deals in India may still be Samsung, which has not only extended the ongoing partnership with Reliance Jio but has also gained a new customer in the country.

Jio will be working with Nokia and Ericsson for the first time. It will use products from Nokia’s AirScale portfolio, including base stations, 5G Massive MIMO and Remote Radio Heads. It will also use Ericsson’s 5G RAN and E-band microwave mobile transport solutions to set up a 5G standalone (SA) network.

But these companies join a network that already uses Samsung gear. The Korean giant started its Indian journey when it was appointed the exclusive 4G radio access network (RAN) vendor for Reliance Jio.

Now with 5G, Samsung has recently taken the next big step in India by acquiring a new customer with Bharti Airtel. Bharti awarded a part of its 5G RAN business to Samsung, apart from its regular partners, Nokia and Ericsson. While Samsung is known to have conducted a few trials in the past with Bharti Airtel, it is only recently that it was appointed as its vendor. 

This marked a significant moment in Samsung’s journey in India. With two of the top three service providers as its customers, it has created a place for itself in the country. India’s third prominent service provider, Vodafone Idea, is yet to announce its 5G vendors, so it is possible that it may gain a third telco client in India. 

Gaining at Huawei’s cost 

This is unlikely to have happened without the "unofficial" ban on Chinese vendors in India. Huawei and ZTE were not only allowed to participate in the 5G trials last year, but they were also unable to procure the trusted vendor certification required for any new vendor deals from the Indian government.

Over the last few years, Huawei had made a place for itself in the Indian telecom market. All the Indian telcos, barring Reliance Jio, were working with Huawei. The low-cost gear, coupled with easy payment terms offered by Huawei, ensured that it was able to create a niche for itself.

With the Chinese vendors out of the fray, there was a gap in the market for a third vendor. Samsung, which was already working with the market leader, seems to be perfectly placed to fill this market gap.

Not just in India, Samsung seems to have benefited from anti-Chinese sentiment globally. MTN Consulting says that Samsung’s market share grew by 0.3% last year and this seems to be at Huawei’s cost. A recent Dell’Oro Group report says that Samsung improved its RAN share in the first half of this year and improving its market share last year as well.

Samsung has also applied to the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme in India and will start manufacturing 4G and 5G equipment here. This would possibly allow it to offer the gear at improved rates for the Indian telcos. Other vendors, including Nokia and Ericsson, have also applied in the PLI scheme, introduced by the government, to boost telecom manufacturing in the country.