RCom boss opts to pay Ericsson bill rather than go to prison

Indian telco Reliance Communications owed kit vendor Ericsson millions of dollars but didn’t feel like paying up. The threat of jail time seems to have changed its mind.

At the start of the year Ericsson requested RCom Chairman Anil Ambani be locked up unless his company settles its debts but a couple of months later it still hadn’t coughed up. The Indian court gave him until 19 March to find the cash and now, with one day to spare, it’s being widely reported that Ambani managed to scrape together enough shrapnel to remain a free man.

The precise amount handed over was 462 crore rupees, which we’re going to take Reuters’ word for that being equivalent to around $67 million because we can’t get our head around India’s number system. That still seems to leave $10 million or so outstanding, but is presumably enough to placate the Indian courts for now.

Had he not paid Ericsson Ambani would have been held in contempt of court because it had been judged that he had the cash handy, but just felt like holding onto it. We’ve all felt that from time to time and, if we’re honest, sometimes it’s only the law that keeps us honest. RCom’s shares were down 9% at time of writing and are trading at around the quarter of their price a year ago.

Huawei CEO tries to deflect cybersecurity spotlight onto Ericsson and Cisco

It was just a matter of time before Huawei played the whataboutism card and Founder/CEO Ren Zhengfei couldn’t resist in a recent interview.

Chatting to CNN in Shenzhen Ren said the following when referring to the US ban on Huawei gear: “They have to have evidence. Everybody in the world is talking about cyber security and they are singling out Huawei. What about Ericsson, what about Cisco, don’t they have cybersecurity issues? Why has Huawei been singled out? There’s no Huawei equipment in the US networks but has that made the US networks totally safe? If not how can they tell other countries that your networks will be safe without Huawei?”

When Huawei announced its lawsuit against the US government we figured it would have a pop at Cisco sooner or later, but Ren decided to involve Ericsson for good measure (but not Nokia). He has a bit of a point, we suppose, but there are a couple of flaws in this fallacious approach. Firstly, if he thinks any other vendors might be a security risk then he is subject to the same burden of proof he is applying to the US. Secondly, even if they are dodgy that doesn’t mean Huawei isn’t.

The main theme of this resumption of the Ren roadshow was to augment the points Huawei made when in its lawsuit. Ren stressed he would rather shut the company down than let the Chinese state muck about with it and said US tactics will result in scaring away investment in the country. He also tried playing the martyr card, insisting that what doesn’t kill Huawei will make it stronger and even suggesting this aggro represents a timely wake-upcall for complacent Huawei employees.

Ren’s media tour coincides with parallel attempts to win hearts and minds among US allies, but it looks like those are being trumped by a more direct approach from the US. A recent report from Bloomberg reveals German spooks think Huawei is just too dodgy to be allowed into the country’s 5G networks.

Apparently the German intelligence officials remain unconvinced by Ren’s vows never to collaborate with the Chinese state and are also worried about upsetting the US. “It’s above all a matter of trustworthiness and of the impact on our relationship with our allies,” a Foreign Ministry official told some parliamentary committee.

On top of that the EU has recently been publicly expressing concerns about Chinese 5G kit in general so, for the time being at least, momentum seems to have swung back in US favour. Ren’s attempt to metastasise the aggro to other networking vendors must be causing some alarm, not least because it raises the prospect of them being caught in the orbit of the law suit. If we’re on a Huawei to hell, we’re taking you with us, seems to be the message.

 

BSS – change and adapt, or die

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Tony Gillick, Tony is GVP Solutions Management at Openet, takes a look at the current state of the BSS business.

Recent news from Ericsson that it is spending SEK 6.1billion (approx. £530million) to restructure its BSS business comes as little surprise. Approaches to operator mobile service monetisation and underlying BSS has changed beyond recognition over the past few years. Traditional delivery mechanisms, when operators tied themselves to one major vendor for all its service monetisation needs are over – and the telecoms industry needs to accept it and move on.

The big bang approach to BSS transformation doesn’t work. For Ericsson to base their Revenue Manager solution on an end to end BSS stack that would replace existing legacy BSS was a brave move. The rewards could have been very high, but then again so were the risks.

Monetising new services is already going to be an uphill struggle for operators, adopting the right tools can make life all the more easy for them. These tools will see the overhaul of service delivery models and service architectures, and the brave adoption of new technologies and approaches. For the telecoms industry, such change is daunting and risky but more important than ever before.

A chance at survival

In today’s world, everywhere you turn there’s a vendor or an operator talking about change and the need to evolve. Yet, for many, it’s evident that the definition of digital transformation remains unclear. Operators and vendors must remove themselves from the echo-chamber in which they find themselves. They need to find a new source of truth, one that encourages and promotes innovation and new thinking, but also highlights their failings, and allows them to successfully explore the new trends driving industry change.

Doing this is tough, however. For the legacy operator, adapting to quickly evolving industry and consumer trends can prove daunting and complex, and very much out of their comfort zone. But today’s reality means that consumers are no longer prepared to wait for their operator to act and deliver the service they need. Consumers have little loyalty to their operator brand and will churn if they feel they aren’t getting value for money or the service they want, when they want it. At the same time, industry trends and the availability of cloud-native technologies is allowing new players, who previously had no skin in the telecoms game, to enter the market. In the face of these new entrants, who have a wealth of new applications and services to offer, legacy operators must take action if they are to have a chance of survival.

What does change look like?

Understanding what change really means is probably operators’ and vendors’ biggest challenge. Yet these answers can be easily found in the trends driving industry transformation.

Operators and vendors must change how they think about transformation. It’s not enough to simply adopt new technologies, operators and vendors must truly get behind the concepts such as open source technologies, and the sharing of new ideas and methods to drive innovation. According to a 2018 TM Forum industry survey, cultural obstacles are one of the biggest issues when it comes to encouraging transformation. Operators and vendors need to leave behind their legacy mindset and begin to embrace collaboration and partnerships. Allowing new relationships to flourish based on mutual understanding and benefit will help underpin digital transformation’s success. Operators just cannot afford to be shackled by their supplier, and similarly, vendors must have the trust of their operator customer to take risks and innovate through new technologies and approaches.

It is only through this cultural change and collaborative approach that operators and vendors will truly be able to leverage the capabilities of new technologies and approaches such as AI, microservices and DevOps. These approaches will be key to developing the platform-based tools and services that operators will need to deploy new offers rapidly, and monetize new services such as 5G and IoT.

The road to digital transformation success is a long and winding one, with many uncertainties along the way. Digital transformation cannot be seen as a destination or an end-goal, it’s an ever-evolving ‘thing’ that will continue to be so long as the industry exists. Operators and vendors have their work cut out to make change a reality, but it’s by learning from the failures of others, and embracing new thinking and new tools that the industry will truly change. In doing so, operators will start to reap the rewards of launching new services by seeing subscriber churn decrease and customer engagement increase. Ultimately, it’ll be the difference between them thriving and merely surviving.

 

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 82“Tony Gillick is the GVP Solutions Management for Openet. Previous to this Tony has headed up product management, solutions engineering and systems architecture for Openet. He’s been with Openet for more than 15 years and has managed BSS implementations for some of the leading service providers in the world.”

Ericsson loses another senior exec

Ericsson lifer Rafiah Ibrahim, currently its Head of Market Area Middle East & Africa, is calling it a day after 23 years at the company.

To be precise Ibrahim is going to step down from her current position, which she has held for a couple of years, at the end of August and assume the new role of ‘Advisor to the CEO’. But since all precedent under the current CEO Börje Ekholm is that ‘Advisor’ is just a euphemism for ‘gardening leave’, we’d be surprised if Ibrahim was still with the company in 2020.

“Rafiah has been a very important leader in our sales and delivery organization,” said Ekholm. “In her latest assignment she successfully led the merger of two important markets, Middle East & Africa, increasing customer value and securing scale and efficiency as well as implementing a robust operational structure. In addition, Rafiah has built strong customer relationships across the region not least visible in the recently announced 5G contracts. Rafiah has been a valued member of the Executive Team and I look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role.”

The workload of Ericsson’s executive recruitment team is starting to mount up. We still don’t know who is going to replace Helena Norrman to head up the marketing and there seems to have been a steady trickle of senior departures since Ekholm took over. No doubt this is all part of the grand plan, which seems to be going OK, but it does make you wonder about morale at the top table and we must assume Ibrahim was still happy with everything when this corporate vid was published towards the end of last year.

 

5G reaches an anticlimax at MWC 2019

After years of fooling around 5G finally arrived at this year’s big telecoms coming-together, but now a lot of people just feel disappointed and used, and are left asking “is that it?”

The hype cycle for 5G seems to have been especially prolonged and intense, arguably exceeding even the utopian fervour of the build up to 3G, which left the operator industry so over-committed and under-rewarded. 4G was mainly about doing mobile broadband properly, but 5G was supposed to revolutionise the telecoms industry. At this early stage, however, there is little sign of that.

In hindsight the build up to the show offered a strong indicator of the anticlimax to follow. The big kit vendor announcements were all about fine-tuning their 5G propositions and playing it safe. That was certainly the case with Ericsson and Huawei, while Nokia didn’t even have a pre-show event, contenting itself with just a webcast.

Nokia does have a major event in Barcelona on the Sunday of the show and, while it went big on 5G, the most it had to show for it commercially at this early stage was fixed wireless access. 5G offers the opportunity to provide high speed broadband to locations that can’t get a decent fixed-line service, for whatever reason, but even Nokia’s own forecasts aren’t especially bullish about the FWA total available market. So it feels more like an early way for operator CTOs to show some ROI from their 5G capex.

With the exception of a juicy bit of M&A action, Ericsson’s MWC event felt a bit flat. Meanwhile Huawei can’t escape the backdrop of the geopolitical spat it has found itself in the middle of, and almost seems ready to give up on some western markets entirely. At least one operator CEO reckons it would be disastrous for the industry if it did. A major theme of the show has been hacks trying in vain to get juicy quotes from anyone on the Huawei situation.

Aside from a bit of light FWA most of the 5G buzz has been generated by the arrival of 5G phones. The fact that some of them also come in a novel new foldable format just adds to the intrigue but those are far too expensive to be considered anything more than public prototypes and, anyway, where are the 5G networks for them to connect to?

To investigate why the arrival of 5G has elicited such a collective ‘meh’ from the industry we need to look at the three main technological subsets that are generally considered to comprise it. They are: Enhanced Mobile Broadband, Massive Machine-type Communications and Ultra-Reliable/Low-Latency Communications. These are illustrated in the slide below from a recent presentation given by Interdigital, which is already wondering what’s next for 5G, as is Qualcomm if the the photo taken of its stand above is anything to go by.

Interdigital 5G slide

EMBB is essentially more 4G, in so much as it’s essentially a fatter pipe, enabling faster data transfer rates. The problem is there is currently little need for 1 Gbps+ mobile broadband data rates and 5G cheerleaders are reduced to banging on about streaming 4K video, which is completely pointless on a mobile device anyway since the screens are too small to make use of it.

MMTC is otherwise known as IoT and, while it has massive potential, it’s debatable how accurate it is to describe it as a 5G technology. IoT has been progressing just fine without 5G and the standardisation process is largely independent of it. Furthermore some IoT applications can even be satisfied by 2G, so it’s not plausible to position IoT as the killer app for 5G.

The really novel, disruptive technology promised by 5G is the low-latency/ultra-reliable play. At first, talk of latency and reliability seems very technical and dry, but when you start to see some of the opportunities offered by removing the delay in transmitting a signal from one point to another, no matter how far apart they are, you get a sense of the full potential of this aspect of 5G.

On the Ericsson stand we bumped into our old friend Professor Mischa Dohler, who at MWC 2017 felt moved to defend the potential of 5G-enabled remote surgery, after we had used it as an illustration of how ahead of itself the industry had become over 5G. Dohler confirmed our suspicion that low-latency is where the real action is going to be, and pointed us towards the very cool video below of him duetting with his daughter over 5G while they were 1,000 kilometres apart.

 

Another cool low-latency use-case was provided by Javier Polo, Luis Fernando Fernandez and Juancho Carillo of Spanish cloud gaming specialist PlayGiga. They had a demo showing how cloud virtual reality is made possible by the low-latency capability of 5G and spoke about its importance for mobile cloud gaming in general.

playgiga vr demo

In fact once you eliminate the delay you can bring the cloud into play in all sorts of new ways. Speaking to Alan Carlton of Interdigital, who delivered the aforementioned presentation, we explored a future in which every screen is effectively a thin client that anyone can log into and use as their own device, with all their stuff accessed instantly from the cloud. That could be truly disruptive, while at the same time massively commoditising the devices market.

So we have to concede that the 5G low-latency angle is exciting, but before you think we’ve completely contradicted ourselves over the course of this piece bear in mind that we’re nowhere near seeing it in a commercial environment. Meanwhile we’re even further away from the kind of 5G base station ubiquity you would need to make this low-latency driven all-encompassing cloud into existence.

The sense of antixclimax this year is a product of the telecoms industry’s usual vice of over-promising. Yes, 5G is finally here in its earliest form, but we’re probably still five years from having the kind of infrastructure that can support any of these utopian scenarios. So this year we have FWA and the first devices, but unless each subsequent MWC is accompanied by at least one major new 5G-enabled use-case they risk feeling as anticlimactic as this one. If we’re not careful, everyone will get bored and move onto 6G instead.

Lastly we should also give a special shout out to Nokia, who provide great facilities for us hacks at the show regardless of how much trouble we cause them, and from whose stand this piece was written, fuelled by excellent connectivity and miniature multi-coloured sandwiches. They give good press room.

Ericsson is buying Kathrein’s antenna business

Ericsson opened MWC 2019 by announcing the proposed acquisition of a big chunk of the antenna market leader Kathrein.

Speaking to press and analysts on the first morning of the show, Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm said the acquisition would be incorporated into its networks business and, while it will add around a quarter of a billion euros in revenues, the main point of it seems to be to add another feature set to its networking offering and also grab around 4,000 boffins.

Kathrein has been around for 100 years, but Ericsson seems to think the dawn of 5G means this is a good time to be a major antenna player. All the extra bandwidth promised by 5G needs a lot more channels and a bunch of new spectrum and Ekholm was keen to show how much thought Ericsson is already putting into this matter by showing off a product called the Radio Stripe, which it doesn’t seem to have spoken about before.

Ericsson radio stripe screen2

“Strengthening our in-house antenna competence is another important step in our networks portfolio strategy,” said Ericsson’s head of networks Fredrik Jejdling. “The acquisition of Kathrein’s antenna and filters business will expand our capabilities and competences in the advanced active and passive antenna domain further. With the additional focus on the antenna and filter business led by Kathrein professionals, we will broaden our offering to further optimize site space, which is vital for the introduction of 5G.”

Aside from that news Ekholm’s speech was, frankly, a bit dull. He mainly went through stuff already in the public domain and indulged in the usual, safe platitudes about how exciting 5G is and how great at it Ericsson is. Other hacks and analysts we spoke to at the event felt the same way and, knowing from first-hand experience that he’s much more charismatic in person, this ‘boring Börje’ on-stage persona is a little bit baffling.

Maybe it’s an understandable correction of the more hype-driven Vestberg era, but Ericsson does sometimes seem to have a bit of an understatement problem. Focusing on substance over style is laudable, but sometimes leaders need to lead ostentatiously. It would be nice to see Ekholm unshackle his personality and go off-message every now and then.

Ericsson reckons it has finally got the hang of this partnership business

Ericsson’s partnership with Juniper is actually producing results, which makes it a distinct improvement on previous efforts.

The fact that it doesn’t have a fixed line offering has always been a strategic disadvantage for Ericsson. As a result it continually flirts with companies that specialise in that stuff in the hope of being able to offer that elusive end-to-end solution without going to all the hassle of buying one of them, as Nokia did with Alcatel-Lucent.

The most high-profile example of this came when Ericsson announced its engagement to Cisco back in 2015. This strategic partnership was sold as the best of both worlds; bringing all the synergy of a merger without all the hassle. There’s a reason why M&A is still generally the preferred option however, with the Cisco partnership yielding little fruit and being left to wither on the vine.

After a couple of years Ericsson gathered the courage to get back game again, this time taking it slow via the announcement of a backhaul partnership with Juniper. Five months of chilling in front of Netflix together seems to have strengthened the relationship such that the shy couple are now “unveiling further enhancements” to their relationship.

“The positive market response to our expanded partnership with Juniper is a testimony to the strength of our joint end-to-end transport solutions,” said Per Narvinger, Head of Product Area Networks at Ericsson. “We hope to sustain this momentum by further enhancing our leading, high-performance transport portfolio to ensure that next-generation networks continue to benefit our customers.”

“By integrating complementary portfolios and technologies, Juniper Networks and Ericsson continue to partner and further develop end-to-end transport solutions for the 5G era – solutions that give service providers greater flexibility, performance, security and automation,” said Manoj Leelanivas, Chief Product Officer said Juniper Networks.

The rest of the industry seems to be really happy for them and secretly have their fingers crossed that we’ll be hearing the pitter-patter of 5G networks before long. Juniper Networks and Ericsson have implemented renewed DNA core network that supports 5G transport capacity, boosting our 5G readiness,” cooed Mikko Kannisto, Director of Transmission Networks at DNA.

Elsewhere Orange and NTT have been spending a lot more time with each other recently and things have got serious enough for them to sign a strategic R&D framework agreement, no less. What’s more they expect to “mutualise research findings in several key domains,” which sounds downright saucy, the lucky things.

“As Europe embarks on its own 5G journey, our collaboration with NTT will be very precious,” said Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange Group. “Both parties share a commitment to continuous learning and cultural exchange, which I fundamentally believe is essential in today’s global environment. The mutualisation of our respective research learnings will enable us to identify and develop better services for customers in our respective regions, and support the development of our multinational business customers internationally.”

“Orange is one of the most innovative and important players to cooperate closely in various ways to progress AI, IoT and 5G,” said Jun Sawada, CEO of NTT Group. “With this agreement, we will be able to enhance our capabilities and accelerate digital transformation in various industries, cities, sports and international events in worldwide.”

The weather is expected to be a lot better than it was last year in Barcelona and, with Spring in the air, there’s every chance MWC 2019 will see a lot more telecoms ‘partnerships’ get started, especially after many ‘networking evenings’ on offer. We wish them all the best.

No surprises as Ericsson goes all-in on 5G for MWC 2019

Ericsson had its traditional pre-MWC media and analyst fest yesterday, at which it focused on improvements being made to its 5G Platform.

Given that this is the year we finally start to see 5G in the wild, and that Ericsson’s business is largely devoted to mobile networks, the utter inevitability of this set of announcements can be forgiven. As can the relative lack of eye-catching launches at a time when every part of the 5G ecosystem is focused more on making sure its stuff works properly, rather than flashy new initiatives.

So Ericsson’s message was that it’s all over this 5G thing and that whatever your 5G needs might be, it’s got them covered. “Ericsson has the portfolio in place for service providers to switch on 5G today and we are currently rolling out commercial 5G networks in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Ericsson’s networks head. “We’re continuously developing our portfolio to make life easier for our customers, enabling them to manage increased data traffic growth, simplify operations, and secure 5G revenues.”

We’d expect no less of you Fred, so let’s have a look at some of the fruits of this continual development. Right now Ericsson is all about making the evolution to 5G is smooth as possible for its customers. A key component of that is the Dual-mode 5G Cloud Core, which supports all legacy mobile technology generations as well as SA and NSA 5G and promises to dynamically switch between them depending on what’s available. Here’s how it works, simple eh?

Ericsson 5G Cloud Core

Of course it wouldn’t be an Ericsson launch without a bunch of shiny new radios, nine of them to be precise, including new dual band, triple band, and Massive MIMO ones. On top of that there’s a new microwave backhaul product and an upgrade to all the clever virtualization and orchestration software you need to make all this 5G magic happen, and that’s about it.

“As we evolve our network to 5G, we need to simplify operations, reduce time to market for new functionalities, and open up our network for innovation,” Ericsson got Patrick Weibel, Head of 5G at Swisscom, to say. “Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Cloud Core allows for the flexible evolution of our 4G Core network to a combined 4G and 5G network while maintaining cost efficiency. Adding to this, the evolved Ericsson Dynamic Orchestration solution bring us the automation of network slices required to reduce our provisioning time of services from weeks to hours.”

If Ericsson’s and Nokia’s pre-MWC events are anything to go by, this is going to be a tricky show for us hacks. The arrival of 5G means we’ve entered the boring, pragmatic, implementation phase and the announcements reflect that. While we can hardly hold that against the industry, especially having mocked its hyperbolic tendencies of previous years, it does make finding the ‘story’ a bit more challenging. Bring on 6G, that’s what we say.

Ericsson bigs up ten named 5G deal wins ahead of MWC

At a pre-MWC briefing in London Ericsson was keen to bring attention to the ten 5G deal wins it already has in the bank.

All four US MNOs, Vodafone UK, Telenor, Swisscom, Wind 3, SK Telecom and Telstra have all put pen to paper on contracts with Ericsson for either RAN or core 5G gear. Ericsson didn’t explicitly call out any of its competitors but it seems very likely that this revelation was made with Huawei in mind, which has been crowing about its 30+ deal wins for some time but has yet to publicly name any of them.

Ericsson 5G deal wins

Chatting to Ericsson execs on the sidelines of the event, we got the impression this number could have been higher, but Ericsson is erring on the side of caution. It’s not really Ericsson’s style to publicly beat its chest, but there is also the matter of getting the green light from its customers to bang on about the fact that they’ve bought some of its shiny new 5G kit.

Most of the actual news at the event was embargoed until tomorrow, so watch this space, but we’re confident of not giving away any trade secrets by revealing 5G will be the dominant theme for Ericsson at this year’s telecoms fest.

With that in mind Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm wrote a blog the other day entitled ‘The world is talking about 5G. We are deploying it.’ As the headline implies this is a rare bit of chest-beating from Ericsson, which clearly wants to generate some buzz leading up to MWC. Ekholm refers to the ten named 5G wins as well as no less than 42 MoUs and the standard one-upmanship about standard-essential patents.

One thing he flags up, which we’ve heard echoed by the impressively on-message Ericsson execs at this event, is the danger of Europe dropping the ball on 5G. Ekholm is unsurprisingly keen to stress that if that does happen it won’t be fault of vendors, but instead “lack of spectrum, high spectrum fees and heavy regulation.”

“As we talk with our customers, it is clear they are impacted by this uncertainty,” he continues. “They have made large investments and will continue to make large investments to have strong performing networks. They have a lot at stake, and we understand that continued uncertainty will impact their ability to move forward.”

The elephant in the room is, as ever, Huawei, and the uncertainty around what European governments might decide to do on the fraught topic of Huawei and 5G security. Ericsson execs are far too discrete to address the matter directly but anytime Huawei is perceived as a threat, that presents an opportunity for them. However, as Ekholm implies, uncertainty can also result in a more general reluctance to invest, which is bad news for everyone.

Samsung looks to capitalise on Huawei’s woes

Samsung is reported to be investing heavily in infrastructure business to fill the market gap left by Huawei’s ban from 5G business in the developed markets.

Sources inside Samsung and other industry executives have told the Reuters that Samsung is pouring resources into its telecom infrastructure business unit, aiming to seize the opportunity created by the ban on Huawei in a number of important western markets. Samsung’s infrastructure business had been insignificant until recently, trailing Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, Cisco, and ZTE, according to figures from the research firm Dell’Oro Group. But it saw a chance when first ZTE then Huawei found themselves being shut out of the lucrative 5G markets in one country after another in the developed world.

To join the ranks of Ericsson and Nokia, Samsung is said to be moving strong management resources as well as software engineers from the smartphone unit to the infrastructure business and to have started charming Huawei’s current customers. One of the global heavyweights that has been impressed by what Samsung has got to offer is Orange. After visiting Japan, where Samsung was conducting a 5G trial, Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, Orange’s CTO, was happy to include Samsung in its shortlist of alternative suppliers, after the telco decided to ban Huawei, its long-term top supplier, from its 5G business in France. An Orange 5G trial with Samsung will be conducted this year.

One difficulty Samsung needs to overcome is the shortage of talents. To start with it needs good engineers. To this end, Samsung’s heir apparent and de facto head Lee Jae-yong, or Jay Y. Lee as he is known in the western world, has sought the support from the Prime Minister when the latter visited Samsung in January. “We need more software engineers and want to work with the government to find that talent,” Lee was quoted by government officials. Samsung’s infrastructure unit has a workforce of about 5,000 people, both Nokia and Ericsson employ more than 100,000 people, and Huawei is said to have employed 200,000 people.

Another type of people Samsung needs to get onboard is those that can build operator relations. This needs a different skill sets from what Samsung has excelled in dealing with distribution channels for its smartphones, and it needs them to be in all the right places in the mature markets, and, better still, to have already worked with the potential operator customers. Due to the nature of business, trusty relationship with telcos often need to be cultivated for years or even decades.

However, Samsung may have just chosen a perfect timing for expansion. Both Ericsson and Nokia are laying off people, either wholesale shutting down of full business units, or selectively downsizing certain teams. Many of these functions have actually had customer interface experience. Huawei’s founder meanwhile has warned that the company may also need to adopt some cost control measures. Though they could not bolster Samsung’s strengths to the same level of its competitors, these could all be good recruitment targets for Samsung to pounce.