Ericsson North America CEO expects a lot of action at the network edge

The chief executive of Ericsson’s North America business said the U.S. 5G ecosystem is mobilizing its strength and expects much activity at the edge, bringing hyperscalers and service providers together as developers get access to platforms.

“There will be a lot of action at the edge of the network. That’s where you deliver the most extreme performance and you can essentially do a lot of the processing in the cloud,” said Niklas Heuveldop, president and CEO of Ericsson North America, speaking Wednesday during the Swedish vendor’s virtual 5G Things Forum 2021. “I happen to believe that exposing the innovation platforms to developers and exposing those unique capabilities actually has a rather unique potential to bring the service providers and the hyperscalers together.”

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During a fireside chat looking at the 5G ecosystem (in which Heuveldop was asking the questions) Will Townsend, senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said it was exciting to see hyperscalers getting involved in the 5G ecosystem, with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure leading the charge and Google not too far behind.

“Really those cloud providers can do some incredible things at the edge of the network to reduce latency” and “super-charge 5G use cases,” Townsend said.

Asked by Heuveldop about the forming ecosystem, Townsend said he was very impressed with what AWS and Microsoft have done around the telco cloud, calling it a “natural adjacency.”

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While traditional vendors like Ericsson have their own telco cloud platforms, he said more options mean more flexibility and choice. Major operators including Verizon, Vodafone and notably Dish are all working with cloud players. Dish, while betting most heavily on the cloud, hasn’t yet launched a network – expected in Q3 this year.

Spending time on AWS in particular, Townsend cited its Wavelength and Outpost platforms as bringing necessary compute power to the network edge and delivering on a cost-effective basis.

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When it comes to enterprises looking to cellular capabilities, “most if not all enterprises are leveraging cloud in some way, shape or form,” Townsend said. “From my perspective it’s all about making it simple for the enterprise, and the enterprises know Wi-Fi but cellular is a new thing for them,” he explained. “I believe those hyperscalers are also providing a more simplistic approach to the overall deployment as well.”

Vendors are also getting in on cloud plays, like Nokia who has engagements with Microsoft, Google and AWS to pair 5G RAN technologies with the cloud. Mavenir is combining cloud-native functions for 4G and 5G with AWS computing infrastructure for telcos.

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For service providers, Ericsson last month added AWS as a certified platform for the vendor’s business support systems (BSS) portfolio.

Ericsson typically prefers to go through operator partners to enterprise customers and Heuveldop said the vendor’s seeing interesting segments exploring 5G, including small and medium businesses turning to wireless, more advanced applications for large enterprise like wide-area networks, private networks for use cases such as smart manufacturing, and global connectivity for IoT in industries like automotive.

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In the U.S., he noted there’s significant investment not only in chipsets, operating systems and mobile devices, but also networks, platforms and the cloud.

“And of course, major excitement in the application developer ecosystems, which is where most of the innovation will happen at the end of the day,” Heuveldop said.

He also outlined three primary reasons why major industries around the world are looking to leverage 5G systems and innovation platforms alongside other advanced technologies: to significantly reduce and improve operating efficiencies; optimize the customer experience they offer to their consumers; or build new applications and address new profit pools.