Ericsson Wheels in Kathrein to Add 5G Antenna Fizz

BARCELONA -- MWC19 -- Ericsson has announced it is snapping up the antenna and filters division of Kathrein, a Germany-headquartered tech firm. The two companies already have close ties, since Kathrein is an existing Ericsson supplier of active and passive antenna.

Börje Ekholm, Ericsson's chief executive, speaking at the vendor's media and analyst briefing at Mobile World Congress, labelled the acquisition as an "evolution" of the Ericsson Radio System portfolio as the industry moves to 5G.

"Antenna design will be increasingly important to accommodate new frequencies and multiple technologies," he said. "At the same time, radios and antennas are being consolidated and integrated to optimize site space and overall network performance. More powerful 5G technologies will depend even more on antenna technologies for performance, coverage and capacity."

Which is where, it seems, Kathrein will help out. Once the transaction closes, expected in the quarter to September 30, 2019, Ericsson will absorb some 4,000 Kathrein staff. They will cover R&D, production and sales -- although Ericsson did not disclose the exact number of prospective R&D additions.

The Swedish vendor flagged too the "strong IPR portfolio" of the German company. "The acquisition will strengthen our competencies and capabilities both in passive and active antennas," said Ekholm.

Excluding sales to Ericsson, the antenna side of Kathrein's business -- to mobile networks -- drummed up preliminary and unaudited revenues of around €270 million (US$306 million) in 2018. According to the company's website, it shifts from its plants some 150,000 active and passive mobile communication antenna and filter systems every month. Orange is one of the operators with whom Kathrein has been involved on a 5G-trial basis. (See Orange's 5G Plan: Definitely, Maybe.)

Once the mobile antenna business is offloaded to Ericsson, Kathrein still has plenty of irons in the fire. It also supplies satellite kit, radio broadcasting equipment, and enables secure communication for emergency services.

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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