Samsung toils for recognition

For all the success Samsung has received in the handset market, its infrastructure division remains relatively unheard of.

It's always a little harder to do business when the client has never known of your existence. Not even a household name like Samsung is immune to this problem.

"Operators know the Samsung brand, but some are surprised that we have an infrastructure systems business," said Hung Sung, vice president of the global marketing group for Samsung's Telecommunications Systems division. "That's something we have to get over."

The Korean electronics giant has been aggressively marketing its mobile phones in recent years, pulling into the number three position globally.

Yet there remains, Hung told CNETAsia, low awareness about the other part of its telco business--the networks division. Its customers include Korea's SK Telecom, Japan's KDDI and China Unicom. But in this arena, Samsung plays minnow to the giants of Ericsson, Nokia, Siemens and Motorola.

According to Hung, one of his key difficulties is in unseating the incumbents.

"Telecommunications operators are more conservative than the general consumer electronics market," he said. "They already have infrastructure from other vendors that have been there for a long time. To bring in a new system, there are a lot of different factors to consider... like whether it works smoothly with existing systems."

But despite the challenges and its meager market share, Samsung has no intention of giving up its networks business.

"Once a system is deployed, it stays there for 10, 20 or 30 years. Not just one or two years," he said. "We have to keep supporting them. That's the commitment we make to the operators throughout the region."

At the CommunicAsia trade show in 2002, the South Korea-based Hung expressed his desire for Samsung to be challenging Nokia for leadership in the handset market. Two years on, he carries the same ambitions for the infrastructure business.

"We are far behind Nokia, Ericsson and the big players, and I have a big challenge to move forward," he said. "So I want to be number one. Samsung is famous at being number one for any market segment we have a product for."

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