Virgin Media O2 enters into 4G, 5G trials with Samsung

Telco embarks on technical trial with comms network technology provider as part of what it calls a milestone in its journey to provide optimised possible 5G experience for customers as well as boosting 4G network

Recently merged UK telco Virgin Media O2 is to conduct trials with Samsung Electronics to verify the capability and performance of 4G and 5G network systems in its commercial network.

Beginning life in June 2021, the business claims 47 million connections across broadband, mobile, TV and home phone in the UK and offers connectivity services, applications and digital solutions to tens of thousands of UK businesses and public sector organisations. During the trials, the two companies will set out to demonstrate the capability and performance of 4G and 5G, and will also assess the interoperability between Samsung’s latest systems and Virgin Media O2’s 2G and 3G legacy networks.

For the trial, Samsung will provide its advanced solutions, which include its baseband unit5G Massive MIMO radios, as well as 4G radios on both low-band and mid-band spectrums, while being Open RAN compliant with some configuration changes and additional support in the future.

The company claims its latest baseband unit offers improved performance with industry-leading capacity and throughput, while supporting both 4G and 5G technologies in a single unit. Samsung also sees the design of its 5G Massive MIMO radios enabling simple installation for operators, as well as increased coverage and data speeds for driving enhanced 5G end-user experiences.

“With this trial, we are excited to join hands with Virgin Media O2 to demonstrate the readiness of our 5G network solutions for deployment in the UK and our capabilities in bringing immersive and reliable 4G and 5G mobile experiences to users,” said Woojune Kim, executive vice-president, head of global sales and marketing, networks business at Samsung Electronics. “At Samsung, we are continuously enhancing mobile experiences through powerful network solutions that advance and drive 5G to new levels.”

Virgin Media O2 chief technology officer Jeanie York added: “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.”

The trial also has the backing of the UK government, which formulated a diversification strategy in December 2020 following its decision to remove Huawei equipment from national infrastructures. The strategy has three key pillars: supporting incumbent suppliers, which will continue to be a major part of the UK market and will help the nation meet its ambitious digital infrastructure plans; attracting new suppliers into the UK market; and accelerating open-interface and interoperable technologies, such as Open RAN.

The Future RAN Competition (FRANC) scheme aims to tackle the world’s over-reliance on a small number of telecoms suppliers by developing what are hoped to be “new, innovative solutions” in the UK. It is hoped this will help to build confidence in the security and resilience of new 5G technology as it delivers major social and economic benefits for people and businesses.

Julia Lopez, minister for media, data and digital infrastructure, said: “We’re investing £250m to put the UK at the forefront of 5G innovation so more people and businesses can benefit from improved and secure connectivity. It is fantastic to see 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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