Samsung's Grand Plans for Euro LTE

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) wants to be a player in the European LTE infrastructure market.

The Korean vendor's opening gambit will be a trial of its LTE gear at a multinational European operator later this year, and it's hoping to win its first LTE commercial contract in Europe in 2012, an ambition the company revealed at the LTE World Summit in May. (See Samsung Expands Euro Activities .)

Samsung is actually on the European LTE device scene already, as it supplies USB dongles to Telia Company and Vodafone Germany for their LTE services. But now, it wants to provide the network equipment too. (See TeliaSonera Beefs Up 4G Dongles and Vodafone Germany Gears Up for LTE .)

The company's LTE infrastructure credentials include customer wins in the Asia/Pacific region, the Middle East and North America. These customers are KDDI Corp. , SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM), LG Telecom , Etihad Etisalat Co. (Mobily) , MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) and Cellular South . (See SK Telecom Deploys Samsung LTE Network , LG U+ Launches Samsung LTE, KDDI Selects Samsung for Japanese LTE Build and CellSouth Taps Samsung for LTE.)

But why Europe and why now? Up to now, Samsung has not been able to compete in Europe because it did not support the GSM standard in its equipment. But now its multistandard base stations support not only GSM, but also LTE, WCDMA, WiMax and CDMA.

Some suggest that now is a good time to go after European operators for LTE contracts, even though many don't even have the spectrum for it yet, because many operators are looking to refresh their radio access networks, as much GSM equipment is nearing end-of-life. As part of these network updates, operators want to add future support for LTE in any new base stations they deploy.

But what does Samsung have that established suppliers Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Nokia Networks or Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) don't? Everything, Samsung would argue -- that is, everything from the chipset in the devices and systems to the equipment in the network. And this is what the company hopes will set it apart from other infrastructure vendors: being able to get devices and network equipment all from one supplier.

Other vendors have devices as well as network infrastructure in their arsenals, of course -- Ericsson and NSN have Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), respectively. Huawei does both, too. But, arguably, their device and infrastructure businesses are not as integrated as Samsung's. In January, Samsung combined its mobile device and telecoms systems divisions into one business unit, which is led by JK Shin, president of Samsung mobile communications.

"We have the complete package for mobile operators," says IP Hong, vice president of marketing at Samsung's telecom systems business, in an interview with Light Reading Mobile. "They need a new vendor in 4G [in Europe]."

But it won't be easy going up against companies that have long histories with European carriers and thousands of employees in the region to support those operator customers. Samsung only established its LTE European outpost, located in Chertsey, U.K., in May.

The size of the challenge for Samsung in Europe, though, has not dampened the company's ambition:

"We can change the situation in Europe," Hong says. "We are ready to go."

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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