In a rapidly evolving market, what does it take for mobile operators to succeed? Patrik Cerwall, Head of Strategic and Tactical Marketing at Ericsson Business Unit Radio, explains.

"We’re in the middle of a decade that is seeing massive growth in mobile data," Cervall says. "Mobile data traffic is set to grow 80 times between 2010 – at the beginning of 4G – to 2020, when 5G will start."

With voice revenues under pressure and mobile data use soaring, operators have been prompted to evolve both their networks and their business models. "Some have been more successful than others," Cervall says. "We call them Frontrunners." During the period 2010-2014, these frontrunners enjoyed a 9.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) while their competitors achieved only 2.7%.

To understand how frontrunners have consistently outpaced the competition in revenue growth, Ericsson, in collaboration with EY, embarked on the Growth Codes project to identify and study their strategies. This, Cerwall says, can also help gauge how well positioned these frontrunners are – as well as peers that follow their lead – on the road to 5G. Ericsson has identified three distinct strategies adopted by Frontrunners. They share a common focus on network performance and customer experience, but their differentiation, innovation and technology approaches vary by strategy.