A trio of telecoms trailblazers has claimed the world’s first low-band 5G data session on a commercial 5G modem.
T-Mobile US, Ericsson and Qualcomm were the operator, networking vendor and modem vendors involved, with T-Mobile chosen because the 600 MHz band forms a big part of its 5G plans. The demo was conducted at T-Mobile’s lab in Bellevue, Washington, using Ericsson’s Radio System and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X55 modem.
“This modem will power devices that tap into the 600 MHz low-band spectrum we’ll use to blanket the country with 5G.” said TMUS CTO Neville Ray. “And we’re not stopping there. If regulators approve our merger with Sprint, we’ll have the crucial mid-band spectrum and resources needed to supercharge our network and deliver broad AND deep, transformational 5G across the U.S.”
“Today’s data call marks a significant milestone in 5G’s ongoing rollout across the United States, paving the way for the launch of commercial networks and devices on low-band FDD spectrum,” said Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm President. “This call demonstrates the ability to dramatically increase 5G’s global footprint and we look forward to continuing our work with industry leaders like Ericsson and T-Mobile to unlock the full potential of 5G for consumers and new industries around the world.”
“Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies have successfully tested and commercialized 5G globally across different spectrum bands, and together with T-Mobile we have now reached another major milestone as we are enabling 5G on low bands,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Head of Networks at Ericsson. “This shows that our industry is now ready for building wider 5G coverage that will enhance end user experience.”
That’s about it really, but it’s a Friday in the middle of Summer so news is thin on the ground, alright? As you can see from the canned quotes, ‘firsts’ like these largely exist to give the parties involved a bit of publicity and make them look ahead of the game. Someone had to do 5G over 600 MHz first, we guess, so well done chaps.
US metal band Metallica has been revealed as the surprise inspiration for Ericsson when it’s mulling over how to keep its customers happy.
Well, for VP of Business Operations Dan Kerber at least, for it is he who chose to blog on the matter recently. Kerber’s central point is that Metallica consists of a bunch of middle-aged men who performed their first track (Seek and Destroy, see below) 37 years ago, that remain one of the most successful bands in the world because they do a great job of catering to their audience.
Of course the main reason is that they continue to produce great music, but Kerber maintains that there must be more to having such a large fanbase, encompassing all ages and demographics. He cites a broad range of price tiers and associated ‘experiences’ as one example of the kind of flexibility and attention to detail required to please all the people all of the time, as well as a constantly evolving set list.
This all leads to Ericsson’s own customer experience strategy, which is currently being referred to as ‘The quest for easy’. As you can see from the video below, this seems to be more of a 5G/IoT utopia or dystopia depending on how you look at it. “We all can’t be Metallica, but we can learn from their example,” concluded Kerber.
To be honest the whole blog felt a bit like a thinly-veiled excuse to bang on about Kerber’s favourite band but that’s just fine because the same accusation could certainly be levelled at this story. Your selfless correspondent even trekked down to Twickenham, with son in tow (who will be doing work experience at Telecoms.com next week) for Metallica’s recent gig (see photo). It was great, but one piece of customer experience advice we would give them is to pick a venue that’s easier to get home from in the middle of the night next time. \\m//
Kit vendors Ericsson and Huawei were both quick to bask in the reflected glory of Vodafone UK’s 5G network launch but Nokia kept quiet.
Ericsson proudly declared Vodafone’s 5G network will be powered by its technology – specifically the Ericsson Radio System. The company made an appearance at the launch event and both Ericsson and Vodafone provided canned comments in the press release that were so generic you don’t need to read them. Suffice it to say 5G is a really big deal and both companies are really good at it.
Marielle Lindgren, UK & Ireland CEO of Ericsson, did at least attempt to say something noteworthy. “The UK has taken a leading role in launching 5G services early while much of Europe lags behind, slowed by local regulation,” she said. “This early advantage is likely pay dividends, with superior connectivity forecasted to make a contribution of around £300bn to the UK economy by 2030 according to independent research commissioned by Ericsson.”
This seems to be a dig at European legislators and regulators along the lines of consistent public whinges from Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm, who thinks Europe is lagging behind the rest of the developed world due to excessive regulation and stodgy bureaucracy. It must be really sticking in the throats of the European Union that the UK has got its 5G act together quicker than its core members.
Meanwhile Huawei was sure to highlight the fact that it’s far from shut out of the UK 5G market. “We are proud to be helping Vodafone open up a new world of seamless opportunities with their launch of 5G mobile services in the UK,” said Huawei SVP Victor Zhang. “This reinforces the UK as a 5G leader and builds on our 18 year history of supporting the digital economy here.”
This will just be the RAN, of course, with Huawei involvement in the core out of bounds for any country interested in staying in the good books of the US, but that’s still more than Nokia can claim. As reported by Light Reading earlier this year Nokia is being phased out of the Vodafone UK network, which explains its sullen silence on this matter.
Kit vendor Ericsson has announced it’s going to build a smart factory in the US to make some of its 5G gear.
This will apparently be Ericsson’s first fully-automated smart factory and is expected to be up and running in early 2020. Since we’re only at the stage of announcing plans half way through 2019, Ericsson might want to get a shift on if it’s going to hit its deadline. This initiative is being positioned as part of a broader US investment strategy announced last year.
So what exactly is a fully-automated smart factory? Do you just flick the switch and leave it to it, go and have a beer, and when you come back pick up all your shiny new gear? It’s probably a bit more complicated than that and inevitably 5G has a big part to play. Fast, secure, reliable wireless communications enable things like automated warehouses, connected logistics and automated assembly, packing and product handling, and the use of autonomous carts.
In other words automation in this context seems to refer to what we generally assume it to mean these days: reducing headcount. Apparently this new factory will only employ around 100 people, which doesn’t seem like a lot, and presumably a lot of them will be there mainly to make sure the machines don’t become self-aware and try to take over the joint.
“We continue to focus on working closely with our customers and supporting them in the buildout of 5G globally and in North America,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Head of Networks at Ericsson. “With today’s announcement, we conclude months of preparations and can move into execution also in the U.S. In addition, we are digitalizing our entire global production landscape, including establishing this factory in the U.S. With 5G connectivity we’re accelerating Industry 4.0, enabling automated factories for the future.”
The new factory will make Advanced Antenna System radios for 5G but it also seems to have symbolic significance on a couple of levels. Firstly, as Jejdling was keen to stress, it shows how into the US Ericsson it, which is very wise since it’s Ericsson’s biggest market and it’s not going to face competition from Huawei or ZTE there anytime soon. Secondly it’s a showcase for smart factory tech in general, which Ericsson is touting as a key 5G use-case. Expect to see stage-managed factory tours in the media by this time next year.
Analyst outfit GlobalData has claimed the first competitive landscape assessment of the 5G RAN vendor market, naming Huawei as the clear leader.
The methodology isn’t detailed, but it seems to consist of giving each of Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE marks out of five on the following criteria:
Radio unit portfolio
Nobody scores less than three in any category but, as you can see from the table below, Huawei gets top marks across the board. GlobalData then aggregates those to make an aggregate score, with everyone getting four except Huawei on five. This seems a bit generous to Samsung and ZTE, both of whom averaged 3.5/5.
“The 5G RAN market is extremely competitive in these early stages,” said Ed Gubbins, Principal Analyst at GlobalData. “Operators’ decisions today will direct the next decade of global telecom investment and ultimately usher in fundamental changes to the way we live and work in the 5G era.”
“The first wave of 5G RAN equipment, called ‘non-standalone 5G’ relies on existing 4G LTE infrastructure for some functions. So in the race to win 5G deals with operators, each vendor has a strong advantage with operators that already use their 4G gear.
“Standalone 5G, which requires a 5G core, will give vendors a better chance to penetrate new operator accounts and grow their global market share. We expect the standalone 5G RAN market to start ramping up in 2020.”
Conspicuously absent from all this analysis are geopolitical considerations. It’s all very well Huawei having the best offering, but if much of the western world won’t allow it to be involved in its 5G markets that doesn’t count for much. It’s also interesting to note that the report suggests Nokia’s radio unit portfolio is much better than Ericsson’s, which in turn is easier to install.
South Korean operator SK Telecom is hoping to take the lead in the development of 5G towards 6G in partnership with most of the big kit vendors.
Specifically SKT has signed those memorandum of understanding things with each of Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung Electronics. The mutual understanding reached between SKT and the vendors is that they promise to cooperate with each other when it comes to research and development of 5G and 6G technologies.
The 5G stuff is as expected: ultra-reliable and low-latency communications, enhanced MIMO, millimetre wave and standalone 5G. Despite banging on about 6G in the press release, SKT didn’t feel confident enough to specifiy the nature of the 6G R&D, just committing to draft technical requirements and new business models for the next generation of mobile tech.
“Through strengthened cooperation with Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung Electronics, SK Telecom will be able to secure the world’s best 5G quality and lead the way towards 6G mobile network communications,” said Park Jin-hyo, Chief Technology Officer and Head of ICT R&D Center of SK Telecom.
Conspicuously absent from this happy band are Huawei and ZTE. South Korea, of course, has long had a complicated relationship with China, but with the current trade tensions between the US and China currently focusing on Huawei as a proxy, many US allies are moving to distance themselves from it and ZTE just to make sure they stay out of trouble. With Huawei making it clear it’s investing heavily in technological autonomy, there is a real possibility of 6G R&D becoming balkanised.
Kit vendor Ericsson has released some new software designed to help operators with their move so standalone 5G NR when they eventually get around to it.
The early 5G we’re getting now still relies on a 4G core and hence is known as ‘non-standalone (NSA)’. It’s largely a way for the industry to start banging on about 5G a year or two earlier than it would otherwise have been able to. Proper 5G, known as ‘standalone (SA)’, will come with release 16 of the 5G standard, which won’t even be finalised until March next year.
Ericsson’s latest announcement is designed to equip its customers to jump on the SA bandwagon and also to augment its narrative about Existing Ericsson gear being software upgradable to 5G. The latest software not only supports what is expected to be SA architecture but also enables inter-band carrier aggregation, which will be handy for combining the coverage characteristics of low-frequency spectrum with the capacity potential of high-frequency beams.
“We continue to focus our efforts on helping our customers succeed with 5G,” said Ericsson Networks boss Fredrik Jejdling. “These new solutions will allow them to follow the 5G evolution path that fits their ambitions in the simplest and most efficient way.”
Not Fred’s most comprehensive canned quote, but it seems to cover the essence of the announcement. Ericsson also launched a couple of new radios to support mid-band 5G and refreshed its NFV infrastructure offering in ways the video below attempts to illustrate. Lastly it got some analysts to say how great all this is, which is nice.
In its latest mobility report, Ericsson has upped its forecast for global 5G subscriptions significantly thanks to everyone getting their act together quicker than it expected.
Ericsson now reckons global 5G subscriptions will hit 1.9 billion by 2024, 27% up from its November forecast of 1.5 billion. This is a response to the number of operators around the world that have flicked the 5G switch earlier than even Ericsson, which must have a fair bit of visibility into these things, anticipated. The company is revising a bunch of other expectations accordingly.
“5G is definitely taking off and at a rapid pace,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Head of Networks at Ericsson. “This reflects the service providers’ and consumers’ enthusiasm for the technology. 5G will have positive impact on people’s lives and businesses, realizing gains beyond the IoT and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, the full benefits of 5G can only be reaped with the establishment of a solid ecosystem in which technology, regulatory, security, and industry partners all have a part to play.”
Here are a bunch of charts taken from the report. In the first you can see how pretty much all mobile subscriptions are expected to be driven by 5G. The second shows the regional split, with North America expected to lead the way in terms of 5G subscriptions, while the third shows how smartphone subscriptions are expected to evolve between now and 2024. Lastly we have a look at the types of devices that will be launched to support the various 5G frequency bands.
Swedish kit vendor Ericsson opted to draw on in-house talent to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Helena Norrman.
Ericsson’s new Head of Marketing & Corporate Relations is Stella Medlicott. She has spent the past couple of years performing the same function for the Europe and Latin America market area and prior to that spent seven years running the marketing for Red Bee Media, the media services business Ericsson acquired in 2013, but tried and failed to sell a few years later.
“With the introduction of 5G we are at an exciting time in the industry,” said Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm. “Our ability to differentiate our offering, articulate the value we bring to our customers and build strong relationships with our stakeholders will be key to build a strong company position for this next phase of industry development. Stella has the right background, experience and capabilities to lead this work going forward and I am very glad to see her stepping up to this role”.
“I really look forward to take on this exciting new role and to work together with both the global marketing and communications team and the executive team,” said Medlicott. “This is the time where the mobile industry is being transformed through 5G, generating innovation and new business opportunities across industries. Our marketing and communications abilities are key to leveraging our technology leadership in 5G.”
As both comments stress, Medlicott has stepped up to the top marketing job at an opportune time. Not only are we at the start of a new technological cycle in the telecoms world, but Ericsson’s own fortunes seem to be on the up. After the nadir of end of the Vestberg era, Ekholm has steadied the ship and, you never know, might even decide it’s safe to empower Medlicott with a bit more marketing budget.