Ericsson CEO optimistic on 5G adoption; launches private 5G; global chip shortage to continue
Speaking at Ericsson’s UnBoxed 2021 event, CEO Borje Ekholm said that 5G adoption is accelerating around the world, that the company remains upbeat about the future given the rapid pace of innovation, and advocates “open market.”
“We have always been and always will be believer in open markets and open competition. The concept of global open standards has made mobile technology affordable due to significant economies of scale. 5G adoption is accelerating around the world, and 5G subscriptions globally is estimated to exceed half a billion before the end of the year,” he said.
Consumption of data by 5G subscribers is 2-3 times higher than that of 4G users, Ekholm noted.
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Private 5G Launched:
Ericsson Private 5G offers secure and simple 4G LTE and 5G Standalone (SA) connectivity primarily targeting – but not limited to – manufacturing, mining and process industry, offshore and power utilities, as well as ports and airports. Ericsson Private 5G optimizes and simplifies business operations with cloud-based network management, keeps sensitive data on-premise, has zero downtime upgrades and guarantees high performance through Service-Level Agreements (SLAs).
It is easily installed within hours at any facility and can be scaled to support larger coverage areas, more devices and higher capacity when needed. The product is designed to be flexible and will support a range of deployment sizes, depending on requirements, to suit varied needs. Businesses can manage their networks and integrate with IT/OT systems via an open API.
Ericsson Private 5G builds upon Ericsson’s 4G/5G radio and dual mode core technology, enabling a wide variety of use cases for both indoor and outdoor environments while integrating well with business operations, devices and applications. As a result, companies can improve productivity, give their customers more value and provide better working environments for employees.
Innovative use cases include tracking assets and real-time automation to improve productivity in warehouses, and a digital twin that can help to optimize manufacturing operations. Efficient quality inspections can also be performed via augmented reality or smart surveillance drones to increase worker safety, particularly in potentially hazardous environments such as ports and mines.
Ericsson already has a significant track record of operational 4G and 5G private network deployments with customers worldwide. Ericsson Private 5G builds on the success of that solution portfolio and deployment insights, as well as insights from projects such as 5G-Industry Campus Europe.
Peter Burman, Program Manager Mine Automation, at Swedish mining company Boliden, says: “Automation, and safety through automation in our mining operations is an absolute must for us. Ericsson Private 5G is exactly what Boliden needs to bring high quality, fast and secure connectivity into potentially hazardous environments allowing us to mobilize efficiency and safety improving use cases.
Niels König, Coordinator 5G-Industry Campus Europe, Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT: “Private 5G networks are highly attractive for producing companies because of the uncompromised performance that 5G can bring, allowing them to tackle the challenges of production. Efficiently deploying and using network solutions in enterprises requires simplicity in installation, flexibility in connecting to existing production IT and lean operations while at the same time being able to scale the network to meet future challenges. Ericsson Private 5G delivers exactly these capabilities.”
Leo Gergs, Senior Analyst, ABI Research, says: “With this new offering, Ericsson will be able to address key trends in the enterprise cellular market. The value proposition will appeal to operators and service providers as the solution hides technology complexity and therefore reduces the barrier of entry to deployment for many different flavors of enterprise networks.”
Thomas Noren, Head of Dedicated Networks, Business Area Technologies and New Businesses, Ericsson, says: “With Ericsson Private 5G, we take the best of Ericsson’s current portfolio and top it up with the best of our new technology. We do this to give businesses what they need to improve productivity, enable new offerings and give employees a better working environment. With Ericsson Private 5G, we also give operators a better way to serve business customers and leverage their assets – in short, to grow beyond mobile broadband.”
Effect of Chip Shortage:
The CEO predicted a global chip shortage would continue into 2022, increasing the likelihood the network equipment vendor would be affected after so far managing to mitigate the impact.
Ericsson began diversifying its supplier base almost three years ago, helping it weather current shortages and leaving it positioned to “be able to continue to supply our customers like we have in the past.” Yet he conceded the longer the shortage persists, “the more risk it will be for us”. Given the “lead time to increase capacity is long”, Ekholm expects the shortage to last.
He said global demand for chipsets is increasing with digitalization, making more capacity critical.
Smaller US operators recently told the Federal Communications Commission they need more time to replace Huawei equipment due to the chip market woes.
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The 5G “Reopening” in the U.S. this Summer:
“5G could be the ultimate ‘reopening’ theme, as consumers venture out and demand faster cellular broadband coverage and capacity versus last year’s dependence on Wi-Fi,” wrote the financial analysts at BofA Securities in a recent note to investors.
Verizon – which has been building super-fast 5G in football stadiums, airports and other high-traffic venues that remained mostly vacant during 2020 – agreed.
“We’ve been waiting” for this moment, explained Verizon’s Ronan Dunne in comments this week at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference.
He said the company’s new offer of free 5G phones was contingent on three events: a rise in traffic on Verizon’s mobile network, a return by shoppers to Verizon’s retail stores, and the availability of phones that can support the highband and midband flavors of 5G.
It’s now the “perfect timing” for this kind of a promotion, Dunne said.
The financial analysts at Cowen described Verizon’s new promotion as “aggressive,” though they said it’s not necessarily an indication that Verizon is falling behind the competition.
“In our conversation with Verizon, the company noted the offer comes from a position of strength, rather than one of desperation,” the Cowen analysts wrote. “Verizon believes it can enjoy the higher volumes without notable sacrifice to margins.”
“We’re doing better than some people might tell you,” Dunne agreed.
Of course, executives from AT&T offer a similar stance.
“We’re ready for the competitive responses,” AT&T’s Jeff McElfresh said at the same Bernstein-hosted event.
He said AT&T continues to enjoy success with its own free phone promotions, and that the operator is prepared to continue chasing “accretive, profitable growth.”
“We intend to be the nation’s premier broadband connectivity provider. Period,” he said. “We are not on our heels. We are back on our toes.”
The comments and the new promotions from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Comcast generally indicate the operators are preparing to fight for the shoppers who are keen to re-enter retail stores after a year of being stuck at home. And that they’re going to do so with some of the most aggressive promotions the wireless industry has seen in years.
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