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Verizon first to use Samsung’s new indoor 5G mmWave small cell

Samsung today unveiled its indoor 5G millimeter wave small cell that Verizon plans to deploy later this year.

Last week Verizon said lab trials were underway with Samsung to test the product, along with field tests of an in-building 5G cell site from Corning.

The first iteration of Samsung’s Link Cell supports 28 GHz and can combine four 100 MHz channels of spectrum for gigabit speeds. At 3.8 liters in volume, the South Korean electronics giant says the compact small cell is one of the smallest in the industry, combining the baseband, radio, and antenna elements. It’s also lightweight at 2.8 kilograms (or just over 6 pounds).  


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According to Samsung, it’s one of the first commercially available indoor mmWave small cells and deployments only need one technician to do the job, with a single Ethernet cable to provide backhaul for each unit. It can be positioned like a Wi-Fi access point, affixed to walls or ceilings in places like manufacturing facilities, corporate offices and public venues.

Verizon’s currently focused on using high-capacity 28 GHz millimeter wave for 5G, which has limited signal reach and poor penetration. In-building solutions are key in order to link the carrier’s outdoor 5G services with indoor connectivity, and support potential future private enterprise 5G networks.

“Verizon continues to rapidly advance our 5G deployment, and the addition of indoor cell sites will extend the availability of the fastest 5G service in the U.S. This is a key step in providing industry-changing, scalable, latency-sensitive, robust 5G solutions for enterprises,” said Adam Koeppe, senior vice president of Technology Planning and Development at Verizon, in a statement.

Samsung’s been working with Verizon on millimeter wave for some time and was one of its 5G suppliers early on, alongside Ericsson and Nokia. The carrier was the first to deploy Samsung’s 5G NR integrated mmWave access unit, which helped hit 4.2 Gbps speeds during a live network demo in February. This month Verizon handed Samsung a multi-year 5G network deal worth $6.65 billion.

Samsung’s also working with Verizon on network virtualization, providing its commercial 5G vRAN solution.

As for the new Link Cell unit, Samsung said it adjusts to optimize RF performance, so users can transition from the outdoor macro 5G network to in-building connectivity without interruption, or use it for specific mobile applications on-site. It uses Qualcomm’s 5G RAN Modem-RF technology and Durga Malladi, SVP and general manager 4G/5G said in a statement that the infrastructure “addresses the challenging power and size requirements for enterprise deployments.”

While Samsung’s network business is smaller than those of telecom equipment giants Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei, it’s been a challenger and supported commercial 5G launches in markets like the U.S. and South Korea. T-Mobile is the only major U.S. operator that hasn’t used Samsung for 5G – but the vendor has deals with AT&T, U.S. Cellular, in addition to Verizon. It’s also supporting 5G deployments in Japan, and expanded to markets like Canada and Spark in New Zealand.

Indoor sub-6 GHz 5G

In addition to the new mmWave 5G small cell, Samsung is also introducing indoor 5G products that support low- and mid-band spectrum.

One is an active antenna system for medium to large enterprises. The other is designed for venues that already have distributed antenna systems (DAS), according to Samsung, to provide sub-6 GHz 5G services over existing in-building infrastructure.

Kyung Mun, principal analyst at Mobile Experts, which closely tracks the DAS and small cell markets, said delivering on the promise of 5G, including high-speed and low-latency services, is going to require coordinated deployment of sub-6 GHz and mmWave bands.

“We see a growing need for 5G infrastructure solutions that can support both millimeter wave spectrum and sub-6GHz licensed bands,” said Mun in comments emailed to Fierce. “Samsung’s indoor 5G solutions portfolio is an example of such solution that addresses this need in support of the traditional mobile broadband and enterprise market opportunities in private wireless.”

Samsung expects commercial deployments of its indoor sub-6 GHz 5G products to start in the first quarter of 2021.

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