Samsung's 4G Breakthrough

10:40 AM -- While Samsung Corp. was dealt some bad news on Friday with regards to its patent battle with Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), the South Korean company also had some good news in Europe. (See Jury: Apple Guilty, But Samsung Much Guiltier, Apple vs. Samsung: Who Is the Biggest Loser?, Apple Patent Win Puts Carriers in Driver’s Seat and OS Watch: Apple, Samsung Both Guilty in Korea.)

Samsung won its first contract in Europe to supply Long Term Evolution (LTE) base stations and core network. The customer is the U.K.'s smallest mobile operator Three UK , which is part of 3 Group owned by Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (Hong Kong: 0013; Pink Sheets: HUWHY).

In Europe, Hutchison's 3G operations had a total of 22.2 million customers at the end of June this year across Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Sweden and the U.K.

Such news is understandably overshadowed by developments in the smartphone patent court cases in the U.S. as well as South Korea, but I think that this contract is a milestone for Samsung. The company has been rattling its saber about breaking into the European LTE infrastructure market for more than a year. And that means, at the very least, I can cross off my list of stories to chase the one that goes along the lines, "So Where's That Samsung Euro LTE Deal Anyway?" (See Samsung Puts Ericsson & NSN on Notice, Samsung's Grand Plans for Euro LTE and Samsung Expands Euro Activities .)

Samsung will supply the LTE radio access network equipment as well as core network gear to 3 for a trial this year in the U.K. with plans for commercial network launch in 2013, according to the press statement.

The vendor already supplies LTE network equipment to Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) in the U.S.; KDDI Corp. in Japan; SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM), KT Corp. and LG Telecom (U+) in South Korea; as well as Etihad Etisalat Co. (Mobily) in Saudi Arabia. (See SK Telecom Deploys Samsung LTE Network , LG U+ Launches Samsung LTE, KDDI Selects Samsung for Japanese LTE Build.)

Granted, 3 UK is no Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) or Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) in terms of the weight of this contract, but it's certainly a start. The new U.K. deal does leave Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), 3's existing 3G equipment supplier in the U.K., licking its wounds and perhaps a bit worried, along with Nokia Networks , Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), who all now face a new challenger in Europe.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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