Ericsson benefits from Telia Norway’s snub of Huawei and Nokia

Ericsson has announced it will be the sole RAN vendor for Telia Norway, with the pair driving towards completing a nationwide rollout by 2023.

While the duo already had a relationship in place, Huawei might have hoped this was a market it would benefit in. At the end of September, the Norwegian Government indicated it was not going to pass a wide-spread ban on Huawei equipment, while the Chinese vendor has signed an MOU with the telcos parent company and does have a relationship to supply 4G network infrastructure equipment with the Norwegian subsidiary.

Telia Norway might not be the biggest telco, nor does it have the largest network, though being announced as a sole supplier is an ego boost if nothing else. The fact that this is a Nordic deal win might have some extra significance in Ericsson’s rivalry with Nokia. Being Swedish you might expect Telia to favour compatriot Ericsson, but it has no problem working with Nokia in Finland. Maybe Telia didn’t appreciate having one of its execs poached by Nokia.

“We are pleased to strengthen our position in the Nordic countries,” said Ericsson President of Europe and Latin America Arun Bansal. “As Telia Norway’s sole radio access network vendor, we’re working closely with them to bring the best possible commercial 5G experiences to their subscribers.

“5G is an innovation platform that not only delivers fantastic enhanced mobile broadband experiences but will also enable Telia Norway to pursue innovation opportunities with customers in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0. across industry, enterprise and society.

“We are currently live with commercial 5G in 19 customer networks across 15 countries, spanning four continents. We look forward to adding Telia Norway to that list in 2020, alongside many other new customers in Europe and beyond.”

As part of the agreement, 5G New Radio will be deployed across the network, while Ericsson’s spectrum sharing software will also be implemented, allowing Telia to share its spectrum between 4G and 5G use. The plan is to launch commercial services next year, with the intention of hitting nationwide coverage by the end of 2023.

What is worth noting is that while Huawei might have been in the picture during the trial period, let’s not forget the Telia parent company is headquartered in Sweden, and the business has been running extensive trials with Ericsson for some time.

In Stockholm and Tallinn, TeliaSonera and Ericsson entered into a strategic partnership to let enterprise customers test 5G services in mid-2018, while the pair turned on the country’s first 5G network together at KTH the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in December. Ericsson has also been working extensively with the Telia team in Estonia, focusing on the Port of Tallinn amongst other areas.

The Telia Norway agreement now takes the number of publicly named commercial 5G contracts at Ericsson up to 27. Although this might not be as high as its direct competitors, Nokia has 48 and Huawei has 50, Ericsson equipment is now part of 19 live network launches around the world.

Ericsson and Nokia both claim to be KDDI primary 5G partner

In a strange turn of events, both Ericsson and Nokia have made announcements claiming to be the primary partner for the efforts of Japanese telcos to drive towards 5G.

Unless there is a different definition of ‘primary’ in the Nordics, someone is up to a bit of funny business.

Looking at the Ericsson announcement first, the Swedes are claiming to be the primary 5G vendor with the first commercial live 5G services to be available from March 2020. As part of the agreement, Ericsson will supply KDDI with Radio Access Network equipment, including products and solutions from the Ericsson Radio System portfolio.

“Having established our important partnership with KDDI in 2013, we have now expanded our collaboration efforts,” said Chris Houghton, Head of Market Area North East Asia for Ericsson. “We are excited about our involvement in KDDI’s 5G network buildout, which will provide a sound basis for our future collaboration as well as allowing our partner to offer users a whole new generation of mobile services.”

Over in Finland, Nokia has said it has been selected by KDDI as a primary partner. There might be a bit of nuanced language here, though it would certainly be unusual to have more than one primary.

Looking at the two statements, Ericsson is claiming to be “the” primary partner while Nokia is claiming to be “a” primary partner. This might be the slight difference we have been searching for to understand why such little regard has been afforded to the dictionary.

If more than one company is being granted the title of “primary”, in our opinion, it undermines the concept entirely.

“This deal will allow KDDI to get ready for the 5G era and we are honoured and excited to continue our long-term relationship,” said John Harrington, Head of Nokia Japan. “As an end-to-end supplier of multiple technologies to KDDI, we look forward to transforming the network and launching 5G for consumers and industries.”

Nokia’s agreement suggests its radio access solution AirScale will be used to support both cmWave and mmWave 5G frequency bands across its network.

As it stands, Nokia currently has 48 5G commercial contracts in place, though it is not clear how many 5G base stations the company is manufacturing or shipping each month. Alongside this agreement, Nokia also signed a pact with Vodafone New Zealand last month, with the telco planning to launch 5G services towards the end of 2019.

In Sweden, Ericsson has signed 25 5G commercial contracts, while it announced deals with Nex-Tech Wireless and RINA Wireless earlier this month. These are not the biggest deals you could imagine, both the telcos are regional US carriers, though considering the size of some of the areas covered (Kansas, Utah, Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Oregon) they are useful contracts to collect. Ericsson is also not unveiling how many base stations it has shipped to date.

Ericsson is claiming to be involved with two-thirds of the live deployments worldwide, while Nokia has said it is providing equipment to 11.

The two announcements with KDDI are perfectly demonstrative of the situation both Nokia and Ericsson are in currently. With Huawei running riot through the 4G era, these two vendors will have to prove their on-point heading into the 5G epoch. It might be little more than chest-beating for the management team to prove to investors they are not falling that far behind the Chinese rival.

Huawei has claimed to so far gained 50 5G commercial contracts and shipped more than 150,000 base stations. With the Chinese vendor under severe pressure from the US Government, some would have assumed both Nokia and Ericsson would have benefitted greatly, though this does not appear to be the state-of-play currently. They are both doing well, but given the context, is it good enough?

Over the last few years, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri has promised 5G would bring fortunes for the company, while Ericsson was forced into replaced its CEO in early 2017 to steady the ship. Börje Ekholm has done a perfectly reasonable job though rumours have emerged he is ready to step down.

What should be worth noting is that Ekholm was CEO of Investor AB prior to assuming control at Ericsson. Investor AB is a notable investor in Ericsson, so it would have been reasonable to presume his time at the top would have been limited. Saab CEO Håkan Buskhe has announced he will be leaving the automotive company, with local press suggesting he is in-line to take over.

Ericsson is yet to provide clarity on the situation, though Nokia has suggested KDDI would be able to clear up the situation.