Samsung’s bid to become a major player in the telecoms equipment market has been boosted by a major contract with US operator Dish Network to supply radio access network (RAN) hardware and software for its planned 5G network.

The Korean electronics giant will provide Dish with Open RAN-compliant virtualised RAN (vRAN) technology as it seeks to meet its target of covering 20% of the US population with 5G coverage by June 2022, expanding to 70% by 2023.

Open RAN is a vendor-neutral approach with standardised designs that allow a variety of firms to supply hardware and software. This in theory should increase competition, innovation, and flexibility, whilst reducing cost.

Samsung 5G kit

Samsung has traditionally had a limited presence in the telecoms equipment market but sees 5G as a huge opportunity.

Central to its pitch is that unlike other vendors, Samsung is focusing its resources on 4G, 5G and 6G rather than legacy technologies, and can deliver an end-to-end proposition that combines chipsets, radios, and cores. It has also taken a keen interest in Open RAN, working with UK operator Virgin Media O2, while it also has an agreement with another US operator, Verizon Wireless.

“Samsung is excited to join this 5G journey with Dish, a pioneer in bringing new experiences to households and businesses around the country, leveraging openness and virtualisation that sit at the heart of network evolution,” said Mark Louison, head of the Networks Business, Samsung Electronics America.

“Our advanced 5G vRAN and radio solutions bring telco-grade quality and cloud-based agility together, building on these benefits to enable more customers to experience the full value of commercial 5G Open RAN.”

Dish is best known for its satellite television business but is expanding into the mobile space after purchasing spectrum assets and pre-paid mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Boost Mobile from T-Mobile and Sprint as a condition of the two companies’ $26 billion merger in 2020.

Competition authorities wanted to ensure that the merger would not reduce the number of major operators in the US from three to four and were eager to promote another player.

As part of that deal, Dish retains an MVNO agreement with T-Mobile so it can serve customers before its own network is ready. The deal with Samsung and the use of Open RAN technology is critical if Dish is to meet its regulator-imposed targets. 

“Samsung’s 5G solutions will play an integral role in our network expansion, giving us the flexibility to deploy our cloud-native network with software-based solutions that support advanced services and operational scalability,” said John Swieringa, president and chief operating officer of Dish Wireless.

“We look forward to working with Samsung, whose industry leadership in vRAN and Open RAN innovation will help support our vision of delivering open, interoperable cloud-based 5G services to consumers and enterprises across the US.”

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