Huawei vs. Samsung: who leads the global communication equipment race?

Daniel Chiang, Taipei; Vyra Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

In a market landscape fraught with geopolitical tensions, Huawei has managed to retain its top position globally in the communication equipment sector for 2023.

A testament to its high-value product offerings, Huawei's resilience comes even as it faces mounting pressure to exit the European market. Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics finds itself grappling with intensifying competition, slipping to a distant fifth place.

Omdia data, as reported by Chosun Biz, underscores Huawei's dominance with a 31.3% market share in 2023. Trailing behind are Ericsson at 24.3%, Nokia at 19.5%, and China's ZTE at 13.9%. Collectively, these four giants command nearly 90% of the market. Samsung's market share, in contrast, shrank to 6.1%, marking a decline of 1.6 percentage points from the previous year.

European nations have been steadily distancing themselves from Huawei since the US imposed sanctions in 2019. The UK began a phased replacement of Huawei's 5G infrastructure in October 2023. Germany, too, issued advisories to its telecom operators to curtail the use of Huawei and ZTE equipment starting September 2023. Romania went a step further, outright rejecting Huawei's 5G equipment proposal slated for March 2024.

While Huawei's market share has seen a marginal decline from its 2020 peak of 38.1%, the brand has managed to hold steady at 31.3% in 2023. This suggests that European sanctions have yet to deal a significant blow to Huawei's global standing.

Euronews analysis reveals a complex picture: despite most EU member states having legislation against Huawei and ZTE equipment, compliance is patchy. Only 10 out of 27 countries have fully complied. The sluggish pace of Huawei equipment removal can be attributed to Europe's stalled 5G rollout and the immediate challenges in substituting Huawei's cost-effective solutions.

Samsung, on its part, has been making concerted efforts to gain traction in overseas markets, including Europe. However, fierce competition has thwarted its ambitions. With European telecom operators showing a preference for Nokia and Ericsson, the void left by Huawei has been quickly filled by these two industry stalwarts.

In emerging markets such as Southeast Asia and South America, there's a clear tilt towards Chinese equipment. Huawei's rapid expansion in China's domestic market is also noteworthy, with over 3.1 million 5G base stations deployed in 2023, a staggering 17-fold increase from 2018.

Back home in South Korea, the appetite for communication equipment remains subdued. Major carriers such as SK Telecom, KT, and LG U+ have been hesitant to invest in the 5G 28GHz band due to profitability concerns. This has further compounded Samsung's woes, resulting in a significant dip in its market share.

The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) of South Korea opines that for countries less swayed by US influence, there's little rationale to bypass Huawei's competitively priced, quality equipment. With Samsung's global influence waning, its prospects for market share growth appear constrained without robust domestic support.

Yet, Samsung remains undeterred in its global ambitions, particularly in the Southeast Asian 5G arena. As reported by The Guru, a recent meeting between Vietnam's Info-Com Minister Nguyen Manh Hung and Samsung's Network Business division chief Woojune Kim culminated in a consensus on 5G collaboration. Samsung is set to play a pivotal role in Vietnam's 5G infrastructure, fostering ecosystem-wide development.