Ericsson delivered a decidedly downbeat kickoff to its investor conference in New York City this morning. The Swedish telecom equipment vendor predicts its total addressable market to grow by only 1 to 3 percent in the 2016 to 2018 timeframe. And it expects a decline in its core mobile infrastructure market by 2 to 6 percent in 2017.
The company has experienced a lot of turmoil this year due to drastically reduced demand for its traditional mobile products. In July, it replaced CEO Hans Vestberg, and it’s conducted layoffs. The most recent round of cuts hit about 3,000 employees in Sweden last month.
“We feel bad about the current weak performance of the company,” said Jan Frykhammar, Ericsson’s acting CEO. “This leadership team is not happy about it. We have an enormous sense of urgency and focus. We are taking the measures we need to take on the things we can control, which is around the cost base and cost reductions.”
Perhaps Frykhammar’s rather depressing corporate outlook was a strategic maneuver to make things seem brighter when the new CEO Borje Ekholm takes over as president and CEO in January.
The company has reorganized its structure to focus on three business segments: networks; IT and cloud; and media.
A couple of times, Frykhammar mentioned AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner as a bright spot in Ericsson’s future. “We’re seeing our telecom customers buying media and cable companies,” he said. “The industry is still very vibrant, and tech is important as a differentiator.”
But during his presidential candidacy, Donald Trump said he would oppose the AT&T-Time Warner union. Frykhammar didn’t acknowledge the potential quashing of the deal, but it’s anyone’s guess whether Ericsson’s bright spot will ever materialize.
At Mobile World Congress in February, Ericsson’s CTO Ulf Ewaldsson, laid out a big 5G vision, saying, “We want to connect all the devices in the world to all the clouds in the world with the network architecture in between.”
Today, Ewaldsson said the first 5G use case is based on smartphones, but 5G rapidly moves to providing the whole network as a platform for countless business uses. “Every cloud in the world —utility clouds, industrial clouds, vehicles clouds —will come onto the same network platforms for the scale,” he said. “That’s the idea behind defining 5G as a broad concept.”
Today 5G is focused on improved speed and latency and providing connectivity. Ericsson has launched 5G plug-ins to advance those goals. “The next potential lies with the new use cases as a platform that can be used for other industries,” he said.
Rima Qureshi, Ericsson’s chief strategy officer, provided an update on the company’s partnership with Cisco.
“The partnership has been very successful over the course of the last year,” she said. The companies have more than 60 joint business wins and more than 250 engagements. She said 2,500 of Ericsson’s engineers have become Cisco-certified. This was the same number of Cisco-certified engineers that SDxCentral reported in July.
Qureshi said based on joint customer meetings with Cisco, their opportunities might go beyond core and IP networks. Ericsson and Cisco are looking at expanding the scope of their partnership into data center switching, WiFi, security, and the Internet of Things (IoT).