Last week Ericsson presented its key messages for the now cancelled MWC. Appledore took away four major themes from the event.
Ericsson showed its clear ambition in AI, and the practical steps it was already taking to implement AI in its network services organization. It was good to see such a strong position on the immediate practical use cases for AI, enabling closed loop network management and optimizing network energy management.
It was also good to see a wider ambition beyond network management. Ericsson is looking at the ways that CSPs can collaborate and share their data; aiming to provide a better network for CSPs, and to transform the current fragmented geographically-constrained CSP landscape to one where they become a federated global resource of data, enabled by Ericsson.
Ericsson majored on four points of leadership in 5G, all focused at the efficient introduction of 5G alongside 4G.
- 5 million 5G ready radio/baseband infrastructure deployed since 2015 – For existing customers 5G only requires software upgrade
- Dynamic spectrum sharing with 4G with 1ms spectral efficiency – 5G can be deployed very efficiently alongside existing 4G network.
- Carrier Aggregation – 5G can provide better capacity and coverage
- Dual mode cloud core – 5G can interwork with 4G enabling faster introduction
Cloud Native 5G core
Have we reached peak network virtualization?
Ericsson showed how cloud native applications, like Packet Core Gateway, could be deployed directly onto an Ericsson Kubernetes and ‘bare metal’ based Infrastructure, without a virtualization layer. For some this could be regarded as a retrograde step. Ericsson are effectively replicating some aspects of the close coupling of infrastructure and network functions in traditional networks. However, with claimed TCO savings of 30% in cost, and an architecture that still benefits from cloud scaling and healing, it is a compelling proposition.
Appledore have noted for some time that virtualization increases the complexity of a telco network stack, with increases in management complexity between software at each layer. In an environment where CSPs are wary of putting their critical network functions on multi-tenancy environments (see previous blog) the virtualization benefits of high CPU utilization, driven by multi-tenancy disappear. In a CSP environment where you don’t require multi-tenancy of applications, the potential savings from agility, through dissagregating network function and infrastructure, may not outweigh the increase in TCO costs for the network.
Go to market for IoT and digital services remains through CSP
Ericsson showed how some IoT use cases had moved from proof of concept to real live deployments. This was good to see, but it still showed an IoT industry in its infancy with use cases still heavily tied to CSPs providing connectivity.
All of the use cases shown were in partnership with global CSPs, focusing at delivering connectivity as well as overlaid enterprise use cases. Ericsson, unlike its major competitors, will only sell to enterprise through CSPs. This clearly has benefits in avoiding conflict of interest between different parts of Ericsson. However, it also could limit the reach of Ericsson enterprise solutions. Many enterprises do not see CSPs as IoT suppliers or even to be avoided beyond basic connectivity. As part of its CSP led approach, it would be good to see Ericsson developing technical and commercial messaging on why CSP delivered enterprise IoT applications are better.