At the Ericsson Media and Analyst Briefing today, Ericsson’s new CEO Borje Ekholm made his first MWC presentation, and then ceded the stage to well-known T-Mobile USA (TMUS) Chief Technology Officer, Neville Ray. We learned several things that were interesting: T-Mobile’s plans for 5G rollout and 2G/3G shutdown, and Ericsson’s high-level view on its strengths as 5G rolls out.
Neville Ray’s comments conveyed a pragmatic and agile service provider’s views:
- 2/3rds of all voice minutes are now on Voice over LTE (VoLTE). Ray challenged anyone in the audience to find another telecom service provider with a greater percentage of minutes on VoLTE.
- 93% of all wireless data is transmitted on LTE
- Plans to shut down 2G and/or 3G when 5G rolls out, elaborating that the company has decomissioned the ‘lion’s share’ of 2G spectrum utilization. However, Ray says it has found significant customer interest in its 2G (GSM) network for connecting to Internet of Things (IoT) devices fitted with GSM modules. In fact, there is a debate at TMUS as to whether to shut down the 3G network before the 2G network. TMUS claims it has taken share from AT&T because its competitor shut down its 2G network and IoT customers in the US market have signed up with TMUS.
- The company echoed views it has shared with the media in recent months – that it isn’t so committed to virtualizing its network at this point. The CTO explained that it has a sufficiently modern network core that it isn’t necessary to upgrade to a Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) infrastructure – at least until it rolls out 5G – and he put the conversion-to-NFV timeframe at 3 to 4 years.
- TMUS is not thrilled with the prospects for 5G fixed wireless, the kind that replaces wired broadband. He said that if this is all 5G does for the industry, we may as well all go home.
- The company has deployed only 1,000 small cells to date. It plans as many as 5,000 to 6,000 by the end of 2017. Part of this rollout is using unlicensed spectrum, and it will roll out LTE-U and LAA.
Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm positioned Ericsson’s view on 5G:
- 5G will be based on the cloud, and potentially we could see entire 5G networks running entirely on the cloud
- Ericsson is well positioned in 5G due to its exposure to virtualization, security and its strong position in OSS/BSS.