Competition between Samsung Electronics and Huawei of China in the telecom equipment market is expected to be rekindled in the second half this year as telecom companies will begin to establish 5G standalone (SA) networks for migration from the initial non-standalone (NSA) networks.
According to telecom industry analysts, Korea’s three mobile service providers -- SK Telecom, KT, and LG U+ -- are planning to draw up schedules for the selection of 5G SA equipment suppliers as early as in the first quarter of this year.
The telecom trio finished the selection of NSA equipment vendors for their initial 5G services last year. At the moment, their services are based on NSA networks, which are a combination of 4G LTE and 5G networks. However, beginning this year, the 5G equipment market will shift to SA equipment, which only supports 5G services.
Some 5G services such as those for autonomous vehicles are not provided on an NSA network, which bridges LTE and 5G. In the coming era of autonomous vehicles and robots, mobile carriers have to establish 5G SA networks that fully support super-connected and extremely low latency services in order to fully implement killer services.
"The part that changes in the transition from an NAS system to an SA system is the core area that was called switchboards in the past," said an industry expert. "While NSA systems are strongly tied to LTE switchboards, separate switchboards are used for 5G in SA systems."
Korean mobile carriers are expected to begin building 5G SA systems in the 28 GHz band when nationwide 3.5 GHz networks are completed.
Industry watchers expect that mobile operators will decide on SA equipment that does not need to work with LTE networks when they select 5G equipment for the 28 GHz band.
"Nokia will launch SA equipment this year, and is in discussion with some corporate customers about SA architecture," said Kai Sahala in charge of Nokia’s 5G business in Asia, the Pacific and Japan (APJ).
Samsung Electronics and Huawei are expected to compete in the 28 GHz 5G equipment market this year. Samsung Electronics aims to hold a 5 percent share of the global 5G equipment market this year. The company is expected to have stiff competition with foreign equipment companies including Huawei in the domestic market.
Samsung Electronics was selected as a supplier of 5G equipment for Verizon and AT&T last year. In November of last year, the company partnered with SK Telecom to develop core technology for SA-based 5G switchboards and SA-based 5G prototype equipment.
In particular, Samsung Electronics has been focusing more on equipment for the 28 GHz band than on equipment for the nationwide network in the 3.5GHz band. "Samsung Electronics possesses stronger technological power and sales ability in 28 GHz equipment than other companies," said an official from the Ministry of Science and ICT.
Huawei, which inked a supply deal only with LG U+ among the three Korean mobile carriers last year, is seeking to sign more deals with them in this year. In particular, industry experts say that as the SA standard is not related to LTE networks in terms of compatibility, if security issues are resolved, Korean mobile carriers may consider using Huawei equipment, which is said to have a high cost performance ratio. Huawei came through with the first call of SA-based 5G telecommunications for the first time in the world. "Information about our 28 GHz SA equipment is still confidential," said an official of Huawei Korea.