BARCELONA -- MWC 2018 -- If there was any lingering doubt that the relationship between Cisco and Ericsson was strained and nearing divorce, there isn't anymore.
Only two-and-a-bit years after the two giant vendors announced plans to team up and dominate the communications networking industry, Cisco effectively undermined the relationship here at MWC by announcing an initiative that competes in Ericsson's heartland of the radio access network (RAN). (See Cisco + Ericsson: From Soup to Nuts.)
The 'Multi-Vendor Open vRAN Ecosystem Initiative For Mobile Networks' is an initiative that aims to develop an alternative to single-vendor RAN offerings by introducing disaggregation and virtualization to the mobile access network domain: Cisco notes that there are already developments in this area but that currently there are "considerable gaps and challenges" that need to be addressed. (See Cisco Leads Multi-Vendor Open vRAN Ecosystem Initiative.)
Cisco isn't doing this by itself -- it has enlisted a set of partners, including Indian operator Reliance Jio, virtual RAN specialist Altiostar, Aricent, Intel, Mavenir, Phazr, Red Hat and Tech Mahindra.
Ericsson's CEO Börje Ekholm played it cool when asked about his reaction to Cisco's move during a presentation to analysts and the media Monday morning. "The Open vRAN initiative is something we will need to look into," he said, while also noting that the partnership with Cisco has not delivered as originally hoped during the past couple of years.
However, he also added that Ericsson is "still working with Cisco to find new areas" of cooperation.
In response to questions about why Cisco has adopted what could be construed as an aggressive position in relation to its partner, a company spokesman stated only that: "Cisco remains committed to our business partnership with Ericsson to advance next-generation networks, and we are exploring new areas of cooperation. Together we have teamed on over 190 successful customer engagements."
Neither company is saying that the relationship has been dissolved but it's hard to see how there's much life left in it now that Cisco is pecking away at Ericsson's core competency.
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading