Ericsson's first foreign customer was in fact a Swede who lived in Norway. His name was Carl Söderberg, and he was the director of the telephone association of Kristiania, as Oslo was called at that time. (Although Norway was part of a federation with Sweden at this time, it was still considered a foreign country.)
In 1881, Söderberg started a telephone association in Kristiania in competition with the dominant Bell company. He chose Ericsson as his supplier.
Over the course of a year, he purchased telephone equipment, primarily telephones, for a total amount of SEK 7,000.
After the first export order for Kristiania, Bergen was the next Norwegian city to begin using Lars Magus Ericsson's products in 1882. By the end of the 1880s sales had increased, and in the 1890s, Ericsson products were sold to all cities except Kristiania.
To strengthen its position in the country, Ericsson in 1928 purchased a share in a company named Elektrisk Bureau in Oslo, in which Carl Söderberg was one of the founders. In addition to telecom equipment, the company's manufacturing included radio equipment and electric elements.
A cable production plant was soon added to Elektrisk Bureau. Growth of the company was generally strong during the 1930s, and Elektrisk Bureau became increasingly important for Ericsson.
Over the years, Ericsson faced stiff competition from other equipment suppliers, particularly ITT. Although Elektrisk Bureau's order bookings were high at times, operations were fragmented, with too many kinds of electronic products. The lack of focus on telecom equipment began to be evident in the 1970s.
In 1981, Ericsson received the contract to supply Norway's first mobile telephone network for NMT. However, when Norway's first contract for digitalization of the fixed network went to Alcatel in 1983, Ericsson decided to change its strategy in the country.
In 1989, Ericsson took over the telecom operations of Elektrisk Bureau and established its own Norwegian company. The three-year contract that Ericsson's Norwegian company received in 1995 from Telenor Mobile to build a GSM network proved that the strategy was correct. Today, Ericsson is the market leader in Norway.
Author: Mats Wickman