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Virgin Media O2 taps Samsung for 5G trials

The Korean tech giant has been seen as a suitable alternative to Huawei

Virgin Media O2 has tapped Samsung as a potential new Open Radio Access Network (RAN) vendor as it begins trialling the Korean tech giant’s 4G and 5G network solutions.

The tests aim to determine the “capability and performance” of Samsung’s 4G and 5G network solutions in Virgin Media O2’s commercial network, as well as its interoperability with Virgin Media O2’s legacy 2G and 3G networks.

This trial will include testing Samsung’s baseband unit, 5G Massive MIMO radios, as well as 4G radios on both low-band and mid-band spectrums. 

Samsung has been seen as a suitable alternative to Huawei, which had dominated the UK’s 5G market until its equipment was banned due to national security concerns. The order to strip Huawei equipment from their 5G infrastructure became another impediment to the UK’s 5G rollout, and made it fall further behind other European countries.

The UK’s minister for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure, Julia Lopez, said that the government is “investing £250 million to put the UK at the forefront of 5G innovation so more people and businesses can benefit from improved and secure connectivity”. 

Commenting on the news of the trial, she said that it’s “fantastic to see [the] industry supporting this push with Virgin Media O2 and Samsung working together to increase competition, resilience and choice in the 5G supply market”.

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Although an established hardware giant, Samsung is comparatively new to the UK’s networks market, which is currently dominated by Nokia and Ericsson.

In June, Samsung was chosen by Vodafone to participate in a project to deliver the first commercial deployment of RAN in Europe, “a major market breakthrough for Samsung”, according to CCS Insight analyst Richard Webb.

Samsung has not only been capitalising on the Huawei ban in the UK as last year the company won a $6.6 billion (£5.05bn) order to provide wireless communication network equipment to Verizon in the US until the end of 2025.

Virgin Media O2 CTO Jeanie York said that vendor diversity is “crucial to developing safe, secure and more efficient networks”.

“We look forward to undertaking these initial trials with Samsung, which is another milestone in our continued journey to provide the best possible 5G experience for our customers, as well as boosting our 4G network, as we look to upgrade the UK,” she added.

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