2020 may be primarily remembered in history for the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Billions of people have suffered bereavement, illness, hardship or measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus strain.
Ericsson actions were aimed at protecting the health and safety of employees, customers and stakeholders. The pandemic also highlighted the crucial need for connectivity. While working strictly to local pandemic restrictions, Ericsson continued to deploy 5G globally, cemented its 5G leadership and completed the company turnaround.
As the year closes Ericsson has 122 unique commercial 5G agreements with communications service providers globally, including 77 live 5G networks in 40 countries. Join us for the first of a two-part look back on 2020.
January: European momentum and the World Economic Forum
The year began with the first of what would be many live 5G milestones, when TIM and Ericsson, together with Qualcomm, reached a new European record for 5G speed. The partners successfully completed Europe’s first connection overcoming the 2Gbps speed barrier on a 5G live commercial network. The connection was completed on a 26 Gigahertz (GHz) millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequency that was acquired by TIM as part of the Italian government’s 5G bid.
5G robotics was on show for world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as Ericsson teamed up with 5G partners ABB and Swisscom to highlight the value of adopting Industry 4.0 solutions to global political and business leaders.
In France, Ericsson announced the establishment of a new R&D site to accelerate 5G momentum in Europe. Opened in early 2020, the site focused initially on 5G software development and security, benefitting the global 5G ecosystem, and leveraging on Ericsson’s collaboration with French customers.
February: Portfolio strengthens as COVID-19 dominates
With the initial outbreak of the novel corona virus and the health and safety of employees, customers and other stakeholders as the company’s top priority, Ericsson took the proactive decision to withdraw from MWC Barcelona 2020 in early February.
Despite lacking its usual physical presence at the largest annual event in the telecom industry – which would be later cancelled – Ericsson moved forward with its plans to bolster its commercial 5G portfolio, announcing four new additions to its 5G platform, new additions to the Ericsson Radio Dot System portfolio to further strengthen the product suite for indoor 5G networks, and the commercial availability of Ericsson Spectrum Sharing.
Ericsson Spectrum Sharing went on to win top honors at the GSMA’s GLOMO Awards, scooping the Overall Mobile Technology and Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough awards.
March: Ericsson 5G production in U.S. underway
As the coronavirus continued its spread across the world, we looked at how Ericsson employees supported efforts in China to combat the virus. Local Ericsson teams moved swiftly into action to deliver mission-critical communications infrastructure to where it was needed most – the country’s permanent and makeshift hospitals.
In the US, Ericsson’s first smart factory in the country went operational and produced its first 5G base stations to enable rapid 5G deployments. The factory is one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities in the industry, and its first product was the millimeter-wave Street Macro solution, which is key to Ericsson’s 5G portfolio for its North American customers.
With the global pandemic putting the need for fast, reliable and secure connectivity in focus, a host of operators around the world ramped up their 5G ambitions. Ericsson was selected by Taiwanese communications service provider Far EasTone (FET) as its 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) vendor. The deal spans 5G RAN across FET’s spectrum assets in the low, mid and high bands using Ericsson Radio System products and solutions.
Also in the region, Chunghwa Telecom selected Ericsson to provide the 5G platform to support its future network, and deploy a non-standalone (NSA) New Radio (NR) network on mid and high-frequency bands. In Hong Kong, Ericsson and SmarTone agreed to a five-year contract for the deployment of 5G. Ericsson is the sole supplier of SmarTone’s 4G network and will continue as their sole 5G vendor – extending the companies’ 28 years of partnership.
In Europe, Ericsson was selected by Greek mobile communications service provider COSMOTE as its sole 5G RAN vendor under a major network modernization deal.
Ericsson and Telenor also switched on Norway’s first commercial 5G services in the city of Trondheim. The achievement was part of an ongoing project to build and modernize Telenor’s 5G RAN and power the country’s digital future.
April: Connectivity in focus
In April, we looked further at Wuhan, China, and how Ericsson engineers working tirelessly on the frontline of the emerging crisis to deliver critical communications infrastructure across the province.
The global pandemic continued to highlight the role of 4G and 5G networks as critical national infrastructure. In Europe, this momentum was seen in a host of announced Ericsson deals with service providers.
Among them was Erillisverkot Group, the state-run body responsible for national communications networks for public authorities, emergency services and other critical services in Finland. It selected Ericsson to provide 5G next-generation core network products and solutions for its mission critical broadband network.
VodafoneZiggo, the leading Dutch communications service provider, announced the launch of 5G across the Netherlands with Ericsson Spectrum Sharing and 5G Core solutions at the heart of its rollout. In the UK, British Telecom (BT) and Ericsson signed a deal to deploy Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core, a key component in BT’s move to a single converged IP network.
In the US, Ericsson and U.S. Cellular began boosting mobile broadband capacity to customers in parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, New Hampshire, Maine and North Carolina, due to increased demand for data usage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
May: Ekholm highlights the role of connectivity
Speaking at the kickoff of a new online event series – Ericsson UnBoxed Office – Ericsson President and CEO, Börje Ekholm, highlighted the importance of connectivity during times of crisis and the opportunity to rethink the role of networks in the future.
“More than ever, connectivity is key,” Ekholm said. “With the spread of COVID-19, fixed and mobile telecommunications networks have become an even bigger part of the critical infrastructure, showing the importance of quality in the connectivity.”
In the US, Ericsson worked with T-Mobile and ecosystem partners to enhance the quality of connectivity and achieved several important ‘world’s first’ milestones for standalone architecture (SA) 5G. “Powerful and reliable wireless networks are more important than ever, and these milestones mark a huge step forward for the entire wireless ecosystem,” said Neville Ray, President of Technology at T-Mobile.
In Europe, the continent’s largest 5G research network, powered by Ericsson 5G products and solutions, went live in Aachen Germany. Comprising multiple partners, the 5G Industry Campus Europe aims to develop and implement applications and solutions for digitized and networked production to benefit 5G production across Europe and beyond.
May also marked the 20-year anniversary of Ericsson Response, the company’s humanitarian relief program that focuses on providing connectivity to humanitarian workers and populations in affected areas during crises. The mission of Ericsson Response is simple: the faster communications services can be up and running in a crisis-hit area, the faster and more efficiently humanitarian organizations and workers can coordinate and deliver critically important aid to affected areas and save lives.
June: A strengthened 5G position, awards and new solutions
June saw a host of new 5G contracts and rollouts. Ericsson strengthened its position in China by winning 5G contracts in 2020 with all three major operators.
Telefónica Deutschland, which operates under the O2 brand in Germany, selected Ericsson 5G Core for its network of the future, Bell Canada selected Ericsson as a 5G partner in RAN technology to support its nationwide 5G mobile and fixed wireless access deployment. Ericsson also continued to rollout 5G in the UK with an extended partnership with O2 UK.
The June edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report took an incisive look at the role of networks and digital infrastructure in keeping societies running, and families connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fredrik Jejdling, Executive Vice President and Head of Networks at Ericsson, said: “The spread of COVID-19 has prompted people all over the world to change their daily lives and, in many cases, work or study from home. This has led to a rapid shift of network traffic from business to residential areas. The latest Ericsson Mobility Report shows that mobile and fixed networks are increasingly playing an even bigger part of critical national infrastructure.”
Ericsson announced new AIR solutions to accelerate 5G mid-band deployments, meaning communications service providers can now deploy mid-band 5G networks faster and on a wider scale without adding to their site footprint.