Driving business value in an open world
Ericsson is supporting customers to identify new opportunities and markets early and capitalize on them as quickly as possible. As such, we’re looking for ways to drive the industry to be more agile and speed up the development and introduction of new functions and features that are required by new use cases. High performance and cost efficiency require both integration and modularization. Driving openness in 5G and beyond to foster new application development and new business is critically important.
Openness comes in different shapes and forms. With 5G we have created a powerful innovation platform that can be used to meet the communication needs of virtually any sector of industry or society. It has been specified with open APIs and network slicing allowing new services and applications to be developed for a range of new use cases and business opportunities.
A central part of openness in 5G networks is the horizontal architecture, using cloud and virtualization technologies, allowing for a separation of hardware and software, which is based on open industry standards and open source. This has been driven by Ericsson from the inception of 5G and has wide industry support both among telecom and cloud players and forms the basis for the evolution of both 5G core and 5G radio networks.
Furthermore, 5G continues to build on 3GPP success in providing open interfaces between different domains, nodes and functions of the network, allowing multi-vendor for network equipment. Our experience is that when introducing a new interface, there needs to be a balance to ensure that the development and maintenance of such interface creates a business value that is not outweighed by delays of network deployments and delays for the introduction of new innovations and performance improvements in the future. Avoiding costly system integration efforts is critical to retain the global industry scale advantage and time to market. Networks are systems, which means that for the evolution of the 5G network platform, we need to take a system-wide view. Our focus is on how we can provide openness to support new business development on the network platform and in the network platform itself. In our approach, we are also committed to providing optimal network performance, energy efficiency by investing in the development of ASICs optimized for radio workloads, as well as being agile in deploying new technologies and innovations to ensure that our customers are positioned at the forefront of competition. We achieve these goals by remaining flexible as we introduce new capabilities in the network - Modularizing for flexibility and managing interdependencies of functionality during the development and performance optimization phases.
Openness through collaborations
Creating the best possible solutions for our customers (and their customers) requires collaboration with relevant players and alliances in the industry so that we can innovate together at a global scale. Over the years we have learned that sharing our technology innovations and working together with partners is the most effective way to create a healthy ecosystem through co-opetition.
Our approach to openness involves coordinated efforts across standardization bodies, open source projects, alliances and partnerships. On top of our work with 5G in 3GPP, we are actively contributing in several other alliances – the IEEE, IETF, ONAP and O-RAN Alliance, among others – that aim to achieve global scale with a strong ecosystem, boost innovation and help customers differentiate.
We were pioneering the cloud-native core transformation, with the cloud native 5G Core and multi-domain orchestration as a foundation for openness. Now we are driving virtualized and cloud-native radio access networks (Cloud RAN) for new use cases and deployment cases, as a complement to our purpose built high-performing RAN.
The role of the 3GPP
The 3GPP is a global partnership among regional standardization bodies (ARIB, ATIS, CCSA, ETSI, TSDSI, TTA and TTC) and their members, with the objective to create an open and accessible ecosystem for mobile communication. It focuses on providing an end-to-end architecture from network level to devices while collectively driving RAN, core networks and service architectures.
Specifically, the open air-interface and global roaming specified in 3GPP has enabled us to use our devices to connect to networks all around the world. It has also enabled a large ecosystem of devices, allowing new entrants, also those not contributing to the standard, to innovate and develop smartphones, IoT devices and network infrastructure, where anyone can enter on FRAND terms. Beyond that, it also laid the groundwork for a new economy – the app economy – in which the United States and north-east Asia, as early adopters of 4G/LTE, have been the frontrunners.
Today, 3GPP has specified more than 100 interfaces. Much of the work in 3GPP is to ensure that these interfaces are kept up to date with latest technology developments in an open contribution driven process (for example in 2019, Ericsson made more than 13,000 contributions to drive new features and maintain the interfaces).
As a result, in every area of the network—from end-user devices, to the RAN, to the core, to transport, and to applications—there exists a great diversity of companies providing a range of products. The incredible success of the 3GPP vision is evident every day as we use our devices for video calls, checking the weather, mapping our driving routes, etc.
Today, more than 95 percent of all networks have 3GPP-compliant equipment and software from more than one vendor. Networks built on 3GPP standards have consistently proven to be secure, robust and reliable – qualities that are especially important for critical national infrastructure. More than 20 years after its establishment, 3GPP continues to play a vital role in ensuring openness and scalability in the development of digital solutions. Year after year, it continues to deliver new releases. Based on the 5G NSA and 5G SA releases in 2018 and 2019, we now have commercial 5G systems rolled out across the world reaching 190 million users by the end of 2020 and projected to reach 2.8 billion subscribers by 2025.
Digital infrastructure based on 5G for global innovation
The growing momentum in 5G innovation rests on its ability to serve a wide range of use cases with technologies such as gigabit performance, edge computing, network slicing and inherent security. Enterprises around the globe are intrigued by the proposition of the 5G-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) and how it can be applied to their businesses. They see a myriad of possibilities for IoT devices with secure and reliable access to high capacity compute, available in the network with latencies of a few milliseconds.
With 5G and the IoT as the main drivers for wide-area innovation, we are building high performance networks for leading network operators around the globe to create smart communication solutions for industries such as transportation, automotive, logistics, manufacturing and agriculture. Beyond that, we’re also collaborating with customers and ecosystem partners at our 5G-connected innovation centers – including our D-15 lab in Silicon Valley and the smart manufacturing lab in Germany – where we push the boundaries of innovation by co-creating, designing and testing consumer and industry solutions in a real 5G environment. A recent example is the extended reality devices and applications, using split rendering, running on Ericsson edge compute.
An open and resilient network platform for any communication need
The unprecedented events of 2020 have made the critical role that connectivity plays in our lives more apparent than ever before. Networks have become lifelines not only for each of us as individuals but also for countless enterprises around the globe. Although the sudden, dramatic changes in our behavior these past few months have resulted in rapidly shifting capacity needs, new peak hours, and so on – the networks have proven to be highly resilient.
Looking ahead, 5G provides innovators with an open network platform that offers all the benefits of previous technology generations – resilience, robustness and security, among many others – as well as being designed for innovation and global scaling. There is virtually no societal or industrial communication need it can’t meet.
Agility and speed will be essential for operators to meet the needs of their enterprise customers. The success of 5G is due to having balance between the granularity of specifications and modularization on one side of the scale, and integrated solutions to reduce complexity and allow for effective domain optimization on the other - we can offer the best of both worlds. With this logic, the industry will continue to drive the timely deployment of an open network platform that offers high performance and state-of-the-art functionality.
Want to hear more from Erik Ekudden, Ericsson Group CTO? Take a look at his other published blog posts.
Also, be sure to check out our public policy and government affairs page, where we show how Ericsson engages and collaborates with governments, regulators, legislators, businesses and industry associations to achieve positive and sustainable long-term conditions for the ICT sector.