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Samsung Puts Ericsson & NSN on Notice

Sarah Thomas

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2012 -- Samsung Corp. may be leading the market on Long Term Evolution (LTE) smartphones, but it's not one of the big names in 4G infrastructure -- at least not yet. But the vendor is aiming to become the third-largest LTE infrastructure vendor by the end of the year, execs say here.

Samsung only has eight commercial LTE deployments now, but it has locked up 30 pilot contracts, according to IP Hong, Samsung's VP of marketing. By the end of 2012, he said, it will catch up to Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Nokia Networks , and climb past Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) to become the segment's No. 3. It's an ambitious goal, and one it plans to achieve without acquiring competitors, Hong said.

"Samsung has eight commercial contracts, but we don't want to just emphasize contracts," Hong said. Instead, Samsung is emphasizing base stations deployed (it claims to have "tens of thousands") and revenue generated from LTE systems.

He measures top-three status by these metrics as well.

Samsung has announced deployments that include working alongside Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent on Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s Network Vision, as well as with smaller carriers MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) and Cellular South in the U.S.

It also powers the first Long Term Evolution Time Division Duplex (LTE TDD) network with Etihad Etisalat Co. (Mobily) in Saudi Arabia, and is working with SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM), KT Corp. and LG U+ elsewhere in Asia. (See CellSouth Taps Samsung for LTE, Mobily Preps LTE TDD Launch, SK Telecom Deploys Samsung LTE Network , LG U+ Launches Samsung LTE, KDDI Selects Samsung for Japanese LTE Build.)

Hong said Samsung has a few more contracts coming in the U.S. that it will announce later. Its gear already covers one-third of the country, he added.

"I am positive about penetrating the market," Hong said of the U.S. "We're looking for additional deals with top-tier operators or regional operators. We are having serious and significant discussions ongoing now."

Europe is another important, and new, market for the vendor, but so far it does not have any contracts there. Hong said that's because the spectrum is becoming available later than in areas like the U.S., Japan and Korea, where Samsung has already been successful. Samsung does, however, have one trial going on with an undisclosed European operator. (See Samsung's Grand Plans for Euro LTE.)

"We're replicating what we've done everywhere else there," he said. "There's a strong focus on Europe now. It's seen as a strategic market for Samsung because a lot of the world's global operators are headquartered in Europe."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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