What makes him powerful: Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) is already the largest wireless infrastructure vendor in the world, but under the close watch of CEO Hans Vestberg, the company has solidified its reputation as an LTE leader in the U.S. market. In May, research firm Dell'Oro Group said that investments in LTE networks in North America helped increase the overall mobile network equipment market by 21 percent over last year to $9.7 billion. In addition, the firm said that Ericsson saw its market share surge to 40 percent from 35 percent a year ago.
There's no doubt that Ericsson is making traction in the U.S. The company's LTE gear has been selected by top U.S. carriers such as AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS). Plus Ericsson is playing a key role in Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) Network Vision project, which includes the deployment of FDD-LTE.
The company's strong position and reputation as an LTE vendor doesn't stop with just the Tier 1 operators. Ericsson is also helping the NetAmerica Alliance establish an LTE pilot network intended to help rural operators deploy LTE, and it also will be the sole supplier of the first phase of tier 2 operator U.S. Cellular's LTE network, which is expected to be commercial in 24 markets by year-end.
Ericsson also is leading the push for LTE Advanced technology. Earlier this year the company demonstrated LTE-Advanced with speeds more than 10 times faster than the existing LTE network in Sweden.
Ericsson recently received accolades from its managed services partner Sprint Nextel, which bodes well for the company's future in the managed services arena. Bob Azzi, Sprint Nextel's senior vice president of networks, told the crowd at the PCIA 2011 Wireless Infrastructure Show in Dallas in October that the company was able to handle the overwhelming uptick in mobile data traffic and keep providing its smartphones customers with unlimited broadband data service thanks in part to its network management deal with Ericsson.
Vestberg also seems intent upon streamlining Ericsson's business by focusing on infrastructure equipment and getting out of the device business. Earlier this month, Ericsson confirmed that Sony will buy its 50 percent stake in their decade-old handset joint venture Sony Ericsson for around $1.47 billion, giving the Japanese electronics maker control over the company. The step seems like a logical move given the rapidly evolving mobile handset business. The deal is expected to close in January.
Nevertheless, Vestberg does have challenges ahead. In North America, Ericsson's third quarter sales fell 2 percent sequentially and 6 percent year-over-year, down to $1.83 billion. The company noted that CDMA sales declined as operators shift their focus to commercial LTE launches. Under Vestberg's guidance, Ericsson will have to plan carefully as operators worldwide make the transition away from 3G technologies and toward 4G and beyond. --Sue