T-Mobile rumored to be eyeing 5G equipment from Samsung

'We have heard speculation that Samsung would win something at T-Mobile, most likely at Nokia's expense,' wrote the Raymond James analyst. Officials from Nokia and Samsung aren't talking though.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

April 18, 2023

3 Min Read
T-Mobile rumored to be eyeing 5G equipment from Samsung

According to the financial analysts at Raymond James, T-Mobile may add Samsung to its lineup of 5G equipment vendors.

"We have heard speculation that Samsung would win something at T-Mobile, most likely at Nokia's expense," the analysts wrote this week in a note to investors. "To date, the T-Mobile 5G deployment has been roughly 50-50 Ericsson/Nokia. Sprint had deployed gear from Samsung, which was part of the rationale why T-Mobile might do a deal with the Korean supplier."

Officials from T-Mobile, Nokia and Samsung either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.

Figure 1: (Source: Chris Willson/Alamy Stock Photo) (Source: Chris Willson/Alamy Stock Photo)

A T-Mobile shift to Samsung wouldn't come as a total surprise. Prior to T-Mobile's purchase of the company, Sprint launched a 5G network across nine cities: Ericsson built Sprint's 5G networks in Dallas, Atlanta, Houston and Kansas City; Nokia built Sprint's networks in Los Angeles; New York City; Phoenix; and Washington; and Samsung built Sprint's network in Chicago. T-Mobile has since dismantled that network.

Further, Samsung has been making progress among other US network operators. Verizon inked a major $6.6 billion 5G supply deal with Samsung in 2020 that represented a setback for Nokia. More recently, Dish Network purchased 24,000 5G radios from Samsung and is in the process of installing them, while Comcast named Samsung its prime 5G radio vendor for its planned 3.5GHz CBRS and 600MHz network buildout.

However, T-Mobile has traditionally leaned on Nordic vendors Ericsson and Nokia. The company in 2018 inked $3.5 billion agreements with each of them. Then, in 2021, T-Mobile announced new five-year, "multi-billion-dollar agreements" with both Ericsson and Nokia for the further expansion of its 5G network.

But things are changing at T-Mobile. The company's longtime networking chief, Neville Ray, recently exited the company. He has been replaced by Ulf Ewaldsson (a former Ericsson executive) and John Saw (a former Sprint executive). Moreover, T-Mobile has a new network equipment procurement officer: Mike Simpson. According to his LinkedIn profile, Simpson spent three years at Nokia before joining Clearwire (which was eventually subsumed by Sprint).

For its part, T-Mobile is in the process of finishing up its initial 5G network buildout following the close of its $26 billion merger with Sprint in 2020. Next, the company will likely look to augment that network with T-Mobile's fresh 2.5GHz, C-band and 3.45GHz spectrum holdings.

Further, the company has been eyeing the open RAN technology that Samsung is selling to Dish Network. "O-RAN is maturing," T-Mobile's Neville Ray said earlier this year, prior to his departure from the company. "I think some of the vendors have matured ... I think the O-RAN team is maturing."

Ray's comments on open RAN are noteworthy considering he voiced some serious concerns about the technology in 2020.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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