Ericsson Hypes 5G After Telcos Slam 5G Hype

Ericsson obviously didn't get an invite to Huawei's recent Mobile Broadband Forum event in London. If it had been able to sneak in through the back door, it would have heard senior telco executives describing 5G hype as "bullshit" and imploring the industry to focus on the technology's efficiency benefits for operators rather than the futuristic services. (See Vodafone CTO: 5G Is Overhyped & It's Mainly About Cost and Let's Talk About 5G Efficiency, Not Wacky Services.)

Instead, the Swedish vendor has compiled another one of its regular mobility reports that pays lip service to operator efficiency while foregrounding the famous "use cases." One for "augmented reality-assisted maintenance and repair in the manufacturing industry" gets a mention in the third sentence. (See Ericsson Makes 5G Predictions in Mobility Report.)

By contrast, the words "efficiency" or "efficiently" turn up only four times in the main text of the 32-page report: once in discussing the spectral efficiency of not 4G but 5G technology; twice in describing efficiency benefits for manufacturers using "augmented reality-assisted maintenance and repair;" and only once to note the network efficiency improvements that should come with massive MIMO, a 5G technology.

In fairness to Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), the mobility report has always been largely about forecasting rates of technology adoption. Nor is it likely that all telco executives are demanding more discussion of 5G's efficiency benefits. But the one who did so in a very publicized way, during a keynote speech at Huawei's event, happened to be Johan Wibergh. Not only is he chief technology officer of Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), one of Ericsson's biggest customers, but he also used to work for Ericsson in an executive vice president role. He is probably worth listening to.

Give Me More Efficiency
Johan Wibergh, Vodafone's chief technology officer, complains about 5G hype at a recent Huawei event in London.
Johan Wibergh, Vodafone's chief technology officer, complains about 5G hype at a recent Huawei event in London.

Just because Ericsson's latest mobility report shows little evidence of that does not mean it is ignoring his concerns. Yet churning out hockey-stick growth projections while telco executives continue to fret about technology readiness (and purpose) is perhaps inadvisable when your business is in a rut. Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), it has recently become apparent, is far from happy about progress on 5G standardization outside the new radio area. Even more than Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Ericsson needs to demonstrate it is paying close attention. (See DT Is Not Going Radio Gaga About 5G.)

Unlike either Huawei or Nokia, Ericsson now caters exclusively to telcos, and so its mobility report is presumably meant to be read by them. One way of engaging worried operators would be to use this oddly high-profile publication to address some of their concerns regarding efficiency benefits and non-radio progress. Naysayers would likely dismiss any positive statements as vendor PR, but the prognosticating about trends can hardly be viewed objectively, either, when it comes from the industry's second-biggest supplier.

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mendyk 11/28/2017 | 12:35:07 PM
Damned if you do ... Iain -- Help me out with the reasoning here. You start out by chiding Ericsson for calling attention to potential innovations stemming from 5G rather than focusing on "efficiency" gains. Then you go on to say that some telcos don't believe that efficiency gains are enough to warrant the massive investment that will be involved in 5G deployment. So what exactly should Ericsson and other 5G suppliers be talking about?
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