Ericsson lands $3.5 billion T-Mobile US 5G contract

Kit vendor Ericsson has announced a major deal win in the form of a $3.5 billion contract to bring TMUS into the 5G era.

Not much detail has been offered up, but it involves Ericsson hardware such as ERS and plenty of involvement from the Digital Services silo, including dynamic orchestration, BSS and Ericsson Cloud Core. The chances are a spot of managed services may well be chucked in for good measure.

“We have recently decided to increase our investments in the US to be closer to our leading customers and better support them with their accelerated 5G deployments; thereby bringing 5G to life for consumers and enterprises across the country,” said Niklas Heuveldop, Head of Ericsson North America. “This agreement marks a major milestone for both companies. We are excited about our partnership with T-Mobile, supporting them to strengthen, expand and speed up the deployment of their nationwide 5G network.”

“While the other guys just make promises, we’re putting our money where our mouth is,” blurted TMUS CTO Neville Ray in the approved corporate style. “With this new Ericsson agreement we’re laying the groundwork for 5G – and with Sprint we can supercharge the 5G revolution.”

That’s the long and short of it, but Ericsson couldn’t resist another plug of its main USP, stressing that T-Mobile’s installed base of ERS radios will be able to run 5G NR technology with just a software upgrade. There is likely to be a bit of a PR arms race over big 5G deal wins among the kit vendors, but we won’t be seeing any of that action from Huawei in the US. Or Australia.

T-Mobile US claims first nationwide NB-IoT plan

Disruptive US operator T-Mobile US reckons it’s turning the domestic IoT market on its head by significantly undercutting its competitors.

This is, of course, what TMUS does – undercut the competition then shove some kind of populist, Robin Hood narrative down everyone’s throat. In this case the company has gone all in on NB-IoT technology and has used it to launch an IoT plan that costs $6 per year, which it says is a tenth of the price of Verizon’s Cat-M-based plans.

“The number of connected devices already outnumbers the worldwide population, and it’s only getting bigger,” said Mike Sievert, COO of T-Mobile. “So, of course, T-Mobile is taking advantage of the latest IoT tech to make it simpler – and massively more affordable – for businesses and cities to connect things. Launching Narrowband IoT is a giant step toward 5G IoT, and naturally, T-Mobile is leading the way!”

Not quite the bombastic level of his boss, but a decent effort. The release goes on to explain how much better NB-IoT is than anything else, not least because it provides a pathway to 5G. TMUS says NB-IoT is also intrinsically more cost-effective than Cat-M.

“Because it can operate in guard bands – the network equivalent of driving down the shoulders on the highway — NB-IoT carries data with greater efficiency and performance and doesn’t compete with other data traffic for network resources,” says the press release.

This headline offering is actually a time-limited price promotion, so the comparative claims need to be taken with a pinch of salt. $6 per year is per device and caps the data at 12 MB before, presumably, further charges kick in. Also, having said how rubbish Cat-M is compared to NB-IoT, TMUS is nonetheless going to launch some Cat-M stuff too. Go figure.

Ericsson augments 5G platform with FDD and Massive MIMO support

Kit vendor Ericsson has revealed the first major additions to the ‘5G platform’ it launched earlier this year, featuring its first FDD radio to support Massive MIMO.

The AIR 3246 is being positioned as a piece of 5G future-proofing thanks to its support of both LTE and technologies expected to form part of 5G NR. Support for FDD is, of course, a key part of this as much of the world’s mobile networking uses that technology. The first lot of products launched with 5G branding was all TDD.

“We now expand the 5G platform that we introduced last February,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Head of Business Area Networks at Ericsson. “The new radio will enable operators to enhance 4G capacity for their subscribers today and be ready for 5G tomorrow, using the same hardware. We also complement the products with a set of network services, simplifying the journey to 5G for our customers.”

“Just as carrier aggregation has been key to adding needed capacity to mobile broadband networks, Massive MIMO has the potential to be the primary capacity enabler in the next upgrade phase, providing a smooth transition towards 5G,” said Stefan Pongratz of telecoms research firm Dell’Oro Group. “With an expected 2021 installed base of 10M LTE macro radios in high traffic and metro areas, service providers are expected to capitalize on the improved spectral efficiency made possible with Massive MIMO.”

Apparently T-Mobile US has included FDD Massive MIMO in the 5G trials it keeps banging on about, using ‘mid-band’ FDD spectrum. It’s not clear precisely what frequencies that refers to but presumably not 600 MHz. TMUS CTO Neville Ray also provided a quote but we’ll spare you the usual chest beating and over-use of exclamation marks. AIR will be commercially available in Q2 2018.