On Ericsson’s 1st quarter 2021 earnings call this past week, CEO Börje Ekholm said that while Ericsson is focused on growing its core business of networks and digital and managed services, it’s also putting energy into building an enterprise business. The Swedish based company is “seeing a very strong development, strong demand for 5G and enterprise applications.”
The CEO believes that the 5G market cycle will be both longer and bigger due to entering a complete new application area with enterprise applications. What’s encouraging is the progress Ericsson is making on their product portfolio. In Q1-2021, the company announced the ultra-lightweight, high-performance Massive MIMO radio portfolio.
“We have continued to consolidate our position as market leader in 5G with 136 commercial contracts and 85 live networks in 42 countries. What’s also encouraging is that organically, FX-adjusted, we saw sales grew 10% during the first quarter. And if we actually add — or adjust for the IPR revenues, organic growth was 14% in our business. So that is really driven by a strong growth in networks that, again, if you would adjust for IPR, actually grew 19% in the quarter, which is fairly significant growth.
If we look at the market areas, we saw good growth in four out of five market areas. Northeast Asia, we grew by 80%, which is really driven by the non-Chinese markets, primarily. If we look at — the next one is Southeast Asia, Oceania, and India, where we saw good growth, driven by 5G in Australia, as well as 4G rollout in India, of a little touch more than 20%. Moving on to Europe, where we had good growth, 15% in Europe.But that was partly offset by more flattish development in Latin America. And, of course, Latin America suffers from the pandemic and the macroeconomic effects following the tough situation with the COVID-19. If we then look – MANA had a strong development based on continued rollout of 5G. And there, we see, actually, good progress also on our cloud-native portfolio in digital services.So we had a growth of 10% — more than 10% organically. And we’ve been able to also strengthen our market position, which is, long term, going to be very attractive for us. We also saw the completion of the C-band auction, so we expect that to result in deployments during the second half of the year. And if we look then at our last market area, Middle East and Africa, we saw sales falling by 16%.That is really an effect of the pandemic in Africa impacting the macroeconomic and the spend environment, but we’re also seeing a slowdown in Middle East following the large investments last year. So one of the cornerstones of our strategy has been to grow gross margin, and it’s a fundamental indicator of success or progress on the focus strategy. So it is encouraging that we continue to see our gross margin strengthen in the business, and we are able to see that strengthening despite lower IPR revenue. As a matter of fact, we fully compensate for the lower IPR revenue in the gross margin development.”
In the enterprise market, Ericsson is starting to see good progress on its 5G IoT offering, but we’re also seeing that Cradlepoint becomes integrated into our business and seeing the growth opportunities now materializing in the numbers from Cradlepoint.
Ekholm said that the expects to see the U.S. C Band auction result in deployments during the second half of this year. Verizon, in particular, has indicated that it wants to have 7,000 to 8,000 C Band sites ready to go when the spectrum is cleared in late 2021.
Ekholm also briefly addressed Ericsson’s supply chain. AT&T CEO John Stankey raised the potential for C Band equipment supply chain issues this week during AT&T’s quarterly call with investors. Asked about the carrier’s plans for C Band deployment, Stankey said that global supply chains are “stretched” and as a result, he is “a little skittish,” adding that the company is “seeing dynamics that are occurring in the global supply chain where unexpected things are popping up, and it is possible that we could see certain element shortages that start to crop up as everybody’s racing to put stuff up on towers.”
The CEO categorized 2021 as an investment year for Ericsson, particularly in its Digital Services segment, and that the company is incurring costs ahead of revenues — some of which might come as soon as the fourth quarter, but “we’re really going to see revenues coming in 2022,” he said.
Ericsson and Singapore communications service provider Singtel, are accelerating their 5G partnership in Singapore through the deployment of high-end 5G technology enabled by 5G New Radio (NR) Standalone (SA) and dual-mode 5G core network products and solutions, including real-time rating and policy control.
The energy-efficient, end-to-end 5G network will operate on Singtel’s 3.5GHz and 28GHz spectrum bands, spanning outdoor and indoor 5G coverage. Millimeter wave (mmWave) connectivity will also be deployed in hotspots across the city state.
Ericsson’s radio and core solutions will ensure that residents, enterprises, industry and government authorities in Singapore – renowned the world over as early technology adapters and hi-tech innovators – are among the first in the world to benefit from the highest performance that 5G can offer.
5G-enabled application use cases could include cloud gaming, immersive virtual reality/augmented reality, robot-human collaboration in real-time, autonomous transport, remote healthcare, precision smart manufacturing and smart-nation connectivity.
The 5G contract award takes the partnership between Ericsson and Singtel to new levels, as Industry 4.0 gathers pace globally. Singapore was recently named world’s most competitive economy for the second successive year in the latest IMD World Competitiveness Ranking.
Image Credit: Singtel
Mark Chong, Group Chief Technology Officer, Singtel, says: “As the leading telco in Singapore, Singtel is committed to building a secure, resilient, world-class 5G network that will serve as the backbone of Singapore’s digital economy. We are pleased to be working with Ericsson, leveraging on its industry-leading 5G capabilities and to deliver innovative applications and transformative customer experiences for our consumers and enterprise customers.”
Martin Wiktorin, Head of Ericsson Singapore, Brunei and Philippines, says: “Singtel is determined to play a leading role in keeping Singapore at the cutting edge of technology innovation and to ensure that the whole nation benefits from 5G. To do so they need the best 5G technology on the market. At Ericsson, our global leadership is evidenced by our extensive deployment experience with 75 live 5G networks worldwide. As a long-standing partner, we are equally determined to work alongside Singtel to ensure its subscribers and business customers enjoy the best experiences and opportunities that 5G has to offer.”
Earlier this month, Singtel said it was using 28 GHz mmWave spectrum, in addition to the 3.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz bands, to boost its 5G deployment in Singapore.
Singtel has switched on mmWave in several locations across the island, including Orchard Road, the Padang area and Marina Bay Sands Expo. Singtel also reports it has achieved 5G speeds of 3.2Gbps at its pop-up store dubbed Unboxed.
Singtel’s 5G network will take advantage of mmWave through a combination of the latest cellular technologies including massive MIMO, carrier aggregation and beam-forming solutions. Singtel customers with 5G plans can expect to experience mobile speeds of up to 3 Gbps speeds when mmWave-enabled handsets arrive in Singapore next year, the carrier said.
The largest telco inSingapore had initially launched its 5G non-standalone (NSA) network in September, using spectrum in the 3.5 GHz frequency as well as existing 2.1 GHz spectrum. Singtel was officially awarded a 5G license issued by Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in June 2020.
Singtel and Ericsson will deploy 5G SA networks beginning in January 2021 and will be required to provide coverage for at least half of Singapore by the end of 2022, scaling up to nationwide coverage by the end of 2025.
According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, there are signs of an acceleration in 5G deployments. Ericsson estimates that by the end of this year, more than 1 billion people – or 15 percent of the world’s population – will live in an area with 5G coverage. This is expected to reach 60 percent in 2026, when there will be an estimated 3.5 billion 5G users in the world.
Ericsson raised its year-end 2020 estimate for global 5G subscriptions to 220 million, due mainly to faster take-up in China [1.]. More than one in ten Chinese mobile subscribers are expected to use 5G by year-end, and they will account for almost 80 percent of all 5G users in the world (175 mln). The growth in China is driven by a national strategic focus, intense competition between service providers, as well as increasingly affordable 5G smartphones from several vendors, Ericsson said.
Note 1. We have argued for quite some time that China government numbers on 5G (and everything else) can’t be trusted.
North America is the second-largest market for 5G, says Ericsson, with an estimated 4 percent of subscribers using 5G by the end of 2020. Commercialization there is now moving at a rapid pace and by 2026, Ericsson forecasts that 80 percent of North American mobile subscriptions will be 5G, the highest level of any region in the world.
Europe is seeing a slower roll-out of 5G, due in part to delays in spectrum auctions earlier this year. Ericsson predicts the region will end 2020 with about 1 percent of mobile users on 5G subscriptions.
The report further looks at some of the emerging 5G applications, such as cloud gaming and mission critical IoT, which covers real time-sensitive services (e.g. ultra low latency). However, that won’t happen unless URLCC is completed specified/performance texted in 3GPP Release 16 and then implemented.
The Ericsson report has this to say about cellular networks and public safety:
“2020 has also proven to be an exceptional year for cellular networks used for public safety applications. Together with AT&T, we have looked into how FirstNet – the nationwide network deployed to serve first responders in the US – stood up to the test of this year’s emergencies related to the pandemic, one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, and severe wildfires. As society rapidly changes, it is clear that cellular networks are a critical infrastructure that will continue to support many aspects of our everyday life.”
Ericsson also found that almost two-thirds of 5G operators are offering some form of fixed-wireless access (FWA) service. The company forecasts FWA connections to grow more than threefold and reach more than 180 million by the end of 2026, accounting for about a quarter of total mobile network data traffic.
A very interesting point is that 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), which is not even an IMT 2020 Use Case, is being deployed and gaining market traction (along with 4G FWA). The report states that FWA connections will more than threefold by the end of 2026, reaching over 180 million. That service is forecast to account for ~25 percent of total mobile network data traffic globally.
Check out the following two FWA related graphs from the report:
Some of the topics covered in the report include:
- Time-critical communications with 5G
- Mobile cloud gaming – an evolving business opportunity
- Service provider strategies ( three alternative paths to success)
- But the big numbers are still important, So what’s happening with global mobile network growth, 5G in particular?
- 5G’s population coverage is projected to hit 15 per cent this year – over 1 billion people (that’s covered, not all connected)
- 5G’s subscription total will be 3.5 billion in 2026 with 220 million 5G subs expected by the end of this year
- There are around 7.9 billion mobile subscriptions now but this will increase to 8.8 billion by the end of 2026, and 91 percent of those will be for mobile broadband.
- Smartphones account for about 75 per cent of all mobile phone subscriptions
- Cellular IoT has not followed through on all those early, but wildly optimistic projections for cellular IoT. In 2026, NB-IoT and Cat-M technologies are expected to make up just 45 percent of all cellular IoT connections.
- North East Asia leads in cellular IoT connections (China, South Korea and at the end of 2020 is expected to account for 64 per cent of all cellular IoT connections, a figure set to increase to 69 percent by 2026.
This post is actually three separate articles concerning “Ericsson in the news” today. Rather, than read all three parts, simply scroll down to the story that interests you. Let me (and others) know what you think by commenting in the box below the article.
1. Multi-User MIMO demo with T-Mobile US
T-Mobile US and Ericsson demonstrated a 16-layer multi-user multi-input multi-output (MU-MIMO) [1.] on one channel of 2.5 GHz spectrum. The peak cellular data rate was more than 5.6 Gbps.
During the test, engineers connected eight separate smartphones to the same 5G radio and resources using MU-MIMO and beamforming in a specific direction to achieve more than 700 Mbps data rate on each device.
Note 1. Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) is a set of multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) technologies for wireless communication, in which a set of users or wireless terminals, each with one or more antennas, communicate with each other.
In contrast, single-user MIMO considers a single multi-antenna transmitter communicating with a single multi-antenna receiver. In a similar way that OFDMA adds multiple access (multi-user) capabilities to OFDM, MU-MIMO adds multiple access (multi-user) capabilities to MIMO. MU-MIMO has been investigated since the beginning of research into multi-antenna communication.
Using MU-MIMO, T-Mobile US could potentially connect many more devices to the same cell infrastructure and still deliver very fast speeds to all of them. Using that set of technologies, wireless telcos might be able to deliver even better 5G performance to more people than was expected.
Using a commercially available massive MIMO radio with 64 antennas from Ericsson and OnePlus 8 5G smartphones T-Mobile sells today, 16 unique data streams were transmitted. Each stream was capable of transmitting/receiving at more than 350 Mbps. With two data streams for each device, that’s 700+ Mbps for each smartphone, all using the same radio resources at the same time.
With 100 MHz of total 5G spectrum used in the demonstration, T-Mobile US was able to achieve a 50+ bps/Hz in spectral efficiency. That is much higher than the single digit efficiency typically experienced today.
“This is what you get when you pair T-Mobile’s unmatched spectrum portfolio with the best damn team in wireless — innovation that changes the game for the entire industry,” said Neville Ray, President of Technology at T-Mobile. “We have a 5G network that’s second to none, and it’s getting better by the day thanks to our amazing engineers and partners. Just wait until you see what they do next for our customers!”
T-Mobile US expects to begin deploying this technology in 2021 as they continue the goal of building America’s best 5G network.
For more information about T-Mobile’s 5G vision, visit: www.t-mobile.com/5g. To see all the places you’ll get T-Mobile’s current 5G down to a neighborhood level, check out the map at www.t-mobile.com/coverage/5g-coverage-map.
2. Ericsson partners with Telefónica on Spain 5G launch
Ericsson is providing new 3.5Ghz radio equipment and software upgrades to 5G-ready Ericsson radios in Telefónica’s network. With Ericsson Radio System products already deployed in parts of Telefónica Spain’s network, fast, flexible, and cost-efficient 5G activation is made easier.
Joaquín Mata, CTO, Telefónica Spain, says: “The launch of our 5G network constitutes a leap forward towards the hyper connectivity that will change the future of Spain. We are very pleased with the collaboration with Ericsson to build one of the best 5G networks in Europe.”
Arun Bansal, President of Ericsson Europe and Latin America, says: “With our leading technology, Telefónica will offer its customers 5G faster and support them to reach 75 percent coverage of the population by the end of the year. With our swift 5G roll-out, Spain is ready for the next digital revolution and Ericsson is proud to be powering it together with Telefónica.”
As the industry evolves towards RAN virtualization, with virtual RAN or Open RAN (O-RAN), it is important that a risk-based approach is taken to adequately address security.Virtualization throughout the network and a service-based architecture means that security needs to be handled in a new way.5G will accelerate innovation and provide transformative use cases across multiple global sectors. However, it will also bring new security challenges for the mobile ecosystem, with broader attack surfaces, more devices and increased traffic loads. We must have networks that are trustworthy, resilient, and secure at every phase of the system lifecycle. These new security challenges are addressed by 3GPP’s SA3 security work group.
Expanded threat surface
The introduction of new and additional touch points in O-RAN architecture, along with the decoupling of hardware and software, has the potential to expand the threat and attack surface of the network in numerous ways, including:
- New interfaces increase threat surface – for example, open fronthaul, A1, E2, etc.
- Near-Real-Time (RT) RIC and 3PP xApps introduces new threats that could be exploited
- Decoupling of hardware increases threat to Trust Chain
- Management interfaces may not be secured to industry best practices
- (not exclusive to O-RAN): adherence to Open Source best practices
These and other areas are explored in greater depth in Ericsson’s report, Security considerations of Open RAN. Many of these items are being studied in several O-RAN Alliance working groups, including the Security Task Group, a consensus-based standards group that will ensure that O-RAN implementations meet the levels of security expected by the industry.
Ericsson is committed to providing leadership and guidance in the O-RAN Alliance on these emerging areas of study. In the meantime, let’s take an in-depth look at just one of these new areas of risk:
Weakened Links in the Trust Chain
Virtualization and the use of cloud platforms give the possibility to utilize hardware resources better between different applications, but it will also introduce security risks as isolation between applications are only “logical” in software without physical isolation across hardware resources. Recently discovered vulnerabilities like Meltdown and Spectre reveal that there can be increased security risks when sharing hardware resources.
To establish a secure and trusted communication channel between two endpoints, one needs first to authenticate each side before a secure (confidentiality and integrity-protected) channel can be established. To authenticate each endpoint, a unique identifier and one or more credentials that shall be kept secret are needed. To protect the credentials in a computer environment, hardware security functionality such as Trusted Platform Module (TPM), Hardware Security Module (HSM), and secure enclaves, are used to establish a hardware root of trust.
In the case of virtualization and cloud environments, there are many layers that need to be considered to ensure the trust chain is maintained between applications and the underlying hardware. The authentication process is the base for establishing a secure communication channel, but it must trust the layers underneath to attest that the node, layer or data set has not been compromised. For example, a node could request a valid service, authenticate correctly to the system and be authorized to use that service yet still represent a malicious threat if it is running on compromised firmware.
As there are different layers between the hardware and its security functions and the application, one needs standardized interfaces and APIs to use the hardware security functions and allow those to attest to and validate the layers above. Together with standardized and interoperable APIs, there must also be a transparency to how the different layers use and provide the security functions in the chain, especially as different hardware vendors may have different security functions, capabilities or implementation variances.
Ericsson will continue its leadership role within the O-RAN Alliance and its Security Task Group to incorporate security best practices, ensuring that new deployments are ready to meet the level of security, resilience and performance expected by service providers and their customers.
The Open RAN Policy Coalition, a U.S. special interest (i.e. lobbying) group looking for U.S. government funding for Open RAN technology, today announced several new members (American Tower, Broadcom, GigaTera Communications, Inseego, Ligado Networks, Nvidia, RIFT, Texas Instruments and Xilinx). Ericsson is not a member, but arch rival Nokia is. Cloud giants AWS, Google and Facebook are members. Obviously, Chinese vendors aren’t welcome to join the Coalition. The complete Coalition membership list is here.
Coalition members believe that by standardizing or “opening” the protocols and interfaces between the various subcomponents (radios, hardware and software) in the RAN, we move to an environment where networks can be deployed with a more modular design without being dependent upon a single vendor. The Coalition will promote policies that:
- Support global development of open and interoperable wireless technologies;
- Signal government support for open and interoperable solutions;
- Use government procurement to support vendor diversity;
- Fund research and development;
- Remove barriers to 5G deployment; and
- Avoid heavy-handed or prescriptive solutions
The FCC is scheduled to host an open RAN forum on September 14th. FCC Chairman Pai will host experts at the forefront of the development and deployment of open, interoperable, standards-based, virtualized radio access networks to discuss this innovative new approach to 5G network architecture.
Panelists include representatives from Nokia, Parallel Wireless, Mavenir, Altiostar, HP Enterprise, Dell, VM Ware, and other would be Open RAN hardware/software vendors. But Ericsson will not be among them.