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Ericsson Agrees to Buy Cloud Firm Vonage for $6.2 Billion

Ericsson has entered into agreement to acquire Vonage, a global provider of cloud-based communications, in a $6.2 billion all-cash deal. The deal, one of the largest in Ericsson’s history, follows its $1.1 billion purchase of Cradlepoint in September 2020.

The merger agreement was approved unanimously by the Board of Vonage. According to an Ericsson prepared statement, the transaction builds upon Ericsson’s stated intent to expand globally in wireless enterprise, offering existing customers an increased share of a market valued at $700 billion by 2030.

The cloud-based Vonage Communications Platform (VCP), which posted sales of $1.4 billion in the 12-month period to 30 September 2021, serves over 120,000 customers and more than one million registered developers globally.

The API (Application Programming Interface) platform within VCP allows developers to embed high quality communications — including messaging, voice and video — into applications and products, without back-end infrastructure or interfaces. Vonage also provides Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions as part of the Vonage Communications Platform.

Börje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson, said: “The core of our strategy is to build leading mobile networks through technology leadership. This provides the foundation to build an enterprise business. The acquisition of Vonage is the next step in delivering on that strategic priority. Vonage gives us a platform to help our customers monetize the investments in the network, benefitting developers and businesses. Imagine putting the power and capabilities of 5G, the biggest global innovation platform, at the fingertips of developers. Then back it with Vonage’s advanced capabilities, in a world of 8 billion connected devices. Today we are making that possible.”

Ekholm continued: “Today Network APIs are an established market for messaging, voice and video, but with a significant potential to capitalize on new 4G and 5G capabilities. Vonage’s strong developer ecosystem will get access to 4G and 5G network APIs, exposed in a simple and globally unified way. This will allow them to develop new innovative global offerings. Communication Service Providers will be able to better monetize their investments in network infrastructure by creating new API driven revenues. Finally, businesses will benefit from the 5G performance, impacting operational performance, and share in new value coming from applications on top of the network.”

Rory Read, CEO of Vonage, said: “Ericsson and Vonage have a shared ambition to accelerate our long-term growth strategy. The convergence of the internet, mobility, the cloud and powerful 5G networks are forming the digital transformation and intelligent communications wave, which is driving a secular change in the way businesses operate. The combination of our two companies offers exciting opportunities for customers, partners, developers and team members to capture this next wave.

5G Can Help Industries Reduce Carbon Emissions: MIT Report

By Mike Harrington

An MIT Technology Review Insights report published on Oct. 20 explores how 5G and other digital cellular technologies can enable the decarbonization of three of the biggest emitting industry sectors: energy, manufacturing and transportation.

Called “Decarbonizing Industries With Connectivity and 5G,” the MIT white paper, sponsored by Ericsson, draws on interviews with senior executives and subject-matter experts from organizations including Scania, Einride and Emerson. According to MIT, the report is based on insights from senior technology, business and renewable energy executives worldwide.

The report concludes that 5G and other digital mobile technologies can generate a transformational acceleration of decarbonization efforts, based on their speed of deployment, lower latency and their ability to help organizations connect and manage disparate and remote assets.

Key findings  of the include:

Some of the biggest emitting sectors are interconnected. Many organizations are interconnected through interdependent operational models and business eco-systems which already leverage shared data and insights. 5G can facilitate greater interconnected systems to allow vast amounts of data sharing across supply chains, logistics networks, and energy grids – allowing a real step change for radically lowered emissions.

Cellular digital transformation increases efficiency – and sustainability. Digital transformation strategies enable organizations in the energy, manufacturing, and transportation sectors to use energy and materials more efficiently, advance circular economy ambitions, and enhance the traceability of their products and services. 5G and other digital cellular technologies are a key part of these strategies: their speed of deployment, lower latency, and their ability to help organizations connect and manage disparate and remote assets are particularly useful capabilities for solving challenges common to all, including reducing costs, improving outputs, and lowering carbon emissions.

5G is key to generating efficiency gains and new sustainable operational processes. In addition to significant operational performance improvements, 5G and other digital mobile technologies allow organizations to achieve considerable sustainability gains by increasing energy efficiency through better monitoring or reducing waste and material costs through optimized management practices.

Governments and companies are under intense pressure to transform the way energy and materials are generated and consumed to quickly reduce carbon emissions.

In August 2021, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth report in which it unequivocally forecasts that, without substantial and immediate reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions, the world will face a series of irreversible climate tipping points, affecting everything from food production to migration patterns to the global economy.

Erik Ekudden, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Ericsson.

“Through connected technologies, the private and public sectors can harness all manner of uses and solutions to combat climate change,” said Erik Ekudden, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Ericsson. “Efficient logistics and manufacturing, renewable energy systems, and low carbon transportation are just some of the known uses. With a clear challenge in global energy consumption, effects of CO2 pollution, and inefficient use of resources we need to turn to those enabling technologies that can drive change fastest and we believe that 5G is one of our most powerful and scalable tools available to do so,” he said.

According to Ekudden’s foreword in the report: “From our involvement in the Exponential Roadmap, we know that limiting global warming to 1.5 °C is associated with halving overall global emissions by 2030. Meeting reductions of this magnitude requires ready-to-go, exponential solutions. Many such solutions are digital in nature, and feature in the Exponential Roadmap.”

Ekudden also says in the foreword: “In its conclusion, the report notes that mobile infrastructure is a unique and fundamental enabler of decarbonization. Connectivity, particularly 5G, with its ultra-low latency and high speed, enables digitalization to scale and surge.  5G acts as a platform upon which exponential digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, extended reality, and the internet of things (IoT) can flourish. With 5G, for example, we forecast the number of IoT connections to grow exponentially from 12.4 billion in 2020 to 26.4 billion in 2026.”

Meanwhile, Ericsson continues to up the ante of 5G energy efficiency. The company has engrained energy performance targets into its products and is streamlining processes in its supply chain. Last month, Bhushan Joshi, head of sustainability and corporate responsibility for Ericsson North America, told eDigest that Ericsson is well on its way to achieving a goal it set in 2017 to develop a 5G baseline that is 10 times more energy efficient (per transferred data) in 2022 than its 4G portfolio was in 2017. As of 2020, the latest quantifiable results, Ericsson reported that its 5G product portfolio is already 6.6 times more energy-efficient than 4G per transferred data.

On Sept. 27, Ericsson’s USA 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, received its second award from the World Economic Forum (WEF) for global leadership in next-generation Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) manufacturing. WEF’s Global Lighthouse Network designated the Lewisville facility a sustainability lighthouse in recognition of successful on-site sustainability measures.

Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.

AT&T Selects Ericsson to Build C-band Segment, Expand 5G Network

To accelerate 5G wireless communications network construction, U.S. mobile network operator AT&T and Swedish manufacturer Ericsson reached a five-year agreement under which Ericsson would support support deployment C-band spectrum the service provider acquired and the launch of 5G Standalone (SA) service, Ericsson said. SA allows independent operation of a 5G service without any interaction with an existing 4G core, according to Seshadri Sathyanarayan of Affirmed Network.

“AT&T is tapping into Ericsson’s leading network expertise as the company works toward its 5G network goals,” a statement from Ericsson reads. “Ericsson will help AT&T to bring its 5G network to more consumers, businesses and first responders across key industries, including 5G use cases in sports and venues, entertainment, travel and transportation, business transformation and public safety.”

In part, the Ericsson Radio System portfolio makes the AT&T’s network evolution possible. The radio system includes an advanced antenna system, advanced radio access network (RAN) coordination and carrier aggregation technologies, according to Ericsson.

“These deployments will support future network enhancements like Cloud RAN, which offers communications services providers increased flexibility, faster delivery of services and greater scalability in networks,” the statement reads. “The solution supports a centralized RAN architecture enabled by Ericsson Fronthaul Gateway, a new technology that will enable a more efficient transport of the fronthaul interface by converting it to packet (eCPRI).”

Cloud RAN is a cloud-native software solution handling compute functionality in the RAN, Ericssson said. The company said it complements existing technologies in the RAN domain and allows for the adoption of leading practices to become a foundation for openness, enabling innovation in 5G.

“Ericsson Cloud RAN will enable communications service providers to seamlessly evolve towards cloud-native technologies and open network architectures to meet the demand for more deployment flexibility,” the statement reads.

Scott Mair (left) and Niklas Heuveldop.

The president of AT&T Network Engineering and Operations, Scott Mair, said that as AT&T expands its 5G network, Ericsson’s technology offerings and 5G expertise would assist the operator with its network evolution.

Niklas Heuveldop, president and head of Ericsson North America, said that 5G networks would enable unprecedented, sustainable and exponential growth, accelerating the digital transformation of industries and the public sector, for the benefit of consumers, enterprises and society at large.

Ericsson provided background information to explain that 5G carrier aggregation and advanced RAN coordination form a blended solution that optimizes coverage, capacity and latency of mid-band and high-band deployments. It enables communications service providers to maximize their spectrum assets when deploying 5G, Ericsson said.

The manufacturer said that the Ericsson Advanced Antenna System (AAS) is important to C-band deployment because it enables extended coverage while providing throughput and capacity that can enable enhanced mobile broadband.

Ericsson Fronthaul Gateway is a new technology that will enable a more efficient transport of the fronthaul interface by converting it to packet-enhanced Common Public Radio Interface (eCPRI), the company said.

Ericsson, PowerLight Demonstrate Wireless-Powered 5G Base Station

PowerLight Technologies uses laser light to transfer power in free space, eliminating the need for a wired connection. Courtesy of PowerLight Technologies

Ericsson and PowerLight Technologies conducted a proof-of-concept demonstration in which Powerlight used its free-space power-beaming technology to power an Ericsson 5G communications base station without a wired power connection, according to a statement from Ericsson. Powerlight, a U.S. manufacturer of laser products that deliver power by laser through free space and over optical fiber, and Ericsson, a Swedish manufacturer of radio access network (RAN) and other communications equipment, said that together, they achieved what they called the first safe, fully wireless-powered 5G base station. The companies conducted the demonstration in Seattle, but did not disclose when it took place, only saying it occurred recently.

The laser-based technology converts electricity into high-intensity light, which is then captured and transformed to electricity at the radio base station, Ericsson said. It said that no wires were connected to the site from the street power grid network and no on-site power generation was involved.

The base station site was without power until the beaming technology wirelessly powered it over the air through a laser beam, Ericsson said. “Wireless power was safely distributed to an Ericsson Streetmacro 6701 — a 5G millimeter-wave (mmWave) radio base station,” the statement reads. “It was achieved using PowerLight’s laser technology to transmit hundreds of watts over hundreds of meters through the air.”

Ericsson and PowerLight Technologies said that they view the milestone as a major step toward a goal, which is for subsequent generations of the solution to transmit kilowatts of energy over longer distances. They said that the achievement is part of a partnership between the two companies to explore and develop innovative 5G solutions aimed at enhancing the speed and flexibility of network deployment in diverse environments. They formed the partnership to address Ericsson’s pursuit of new technology to improve the deployment of RAN sites, according to the Ericsson statement.

Kevin Zvokel, head of networks for Ericsson North America, said that both PowerLight and Ericsson focus on innovation. He said that free-space power-beaming opens new possibilities for Ericsson and its customers.

“The ability to safely transfer power across distances without having to be connected to the power grid eliminates one of the big obstacles we have when building new cell sites,” Zvokel said. “The time-savings and flexibility gains will make this an attractive solution for our customers.”

Claes Olsson, executive chairman of PowerLight Technologies, said that most people are aware that wireless charging technology is available for small electronic devices, such as cell phones and watches. The free-space power-beaming demonstration, he said, used what he called the best innovative technology from PowerLight and Ericsson.

“It underscores the major leaps we have made recently toward the commercialization of safe, wireless power transmission for larger-scale systems.,” Olsson said. “PowerLight is developing systems today to transfer kilowatts of safe power over distances of kilometers that will be commercially available in the next few years.”

The demonstration also underlined the safety of the technology, in which the laser beam has a virtual shield or safety ring that automatically and temporarily shuts down power transmission before any living or inanimate object crosses its path, Ericsson said. When the safety ring is activated, the site’s back-up battery takes over until the beam is cleared, the company said. “Vital base stations use batteries for local energy provisioning to ensure highly reliable mobile services,” the statement reads.

Ericsson said that apart from rapid street radio roll-outs, wireless power could support uses such as provisional deployments during emergencies or time-specific densification demands such as music festivals and sport events.

“It could also support power-cable-free machines such as automated guided vehicles and drones, as well as devices like IoT-sensors and lamps,” Ericsson’s statement reads. “Communications service providers will also have the flexibility to position a base station without compromising communication needs in relation to where a power wire is located.”

The two companies are exploring the possibility of delivering safe wireless power-beaming capabilities to enable cleaner and more sustainable operations for mobile networks, Ericsson said. Ericsson said that it provides RAN site solutions worldwide that cater to various environments and uses.


Ericsson Engrains Energy Efficiency Into 5G Products, Supply Chain

By Mike Harrington

On Sept. 27, Ericsson’s USA 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, received its second award from the World Economic Forum (WEF) for global leadership in next-generation Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) manufacturing. WEF’s Global Lighthouse Network’s (GLN) designated the Lewisville facility a Sustainability Lighthouse in recognition of successful on-site sustainability measures.

The WEF award honors such Ericsson features as a 2.2 times improved output per employee when compared with a similar site without the automation and 4IR improvements. In addition to this recognition, the WEF has designated the smart factory as what it calls a sustainability lighthouse.

Last week, Ericsson unveiled its ultra-lightweight (26 pounds) antenna- integrated radio, which is designed for easier and efficient 5G mid-band deployments in dense urban and suburban areas. Ericsson said the radio is the smallest and lightest massive MIMO radio in the industry and is 10 percent more energy-efficient than the earlier generation, lowering the total added power consumption when introducing 5G on mid-band.

Bhushan Joshi, head of sustainability and corporate responsibility at Ericsson North America

Ericsson continues to up the ante of 5G energy efficiency. The company has engrained energy performance targets into its products and is streamlining processes in its supply chain, according to Bhushan Joshi, head of sustainability and corporate responsibility for Ericsson North America.

Joshi said that Ericsson is well on its way to achieving a goal it set in 2017 to develop a 5G baseline that is 10 times more energy efficient (per transferred data) in 2022 than its 4G portfolio was in 2017. As of 2020, the latest quantifiable results, Ericsson reported that its 5G product portfolio is already 6.6 times more energy-efficient than 4G per transferred data.

Another of Ericsson’s goals was to drive 35 percent energy-saving in Ericsson Radio System (ERS) versus legacy portfolio by 2022, compared with the 2016 baseline. By 2020, Ericsson reported that it had achieved a 34 percent energy-saving in its radio systems.

“Ericsson has introduced an innovative Breaking the Energy Curve (BTEC) approach to reduce network energy use,” Joshi said. “It includes solutions that enable operator networks to use as little energy as possible while managing expected growth in data traffic and meeting the needs of both current and future 5G networks.”

According to Joshi, Ericsson’s BTEC approach modernizes the network with the latest technology, represented by the 5G-ready Ericsson radio system, Ericsson spectrum-sharing and a 5G core. It modernizes the network with the energy-saving functionality available in the radio access network, including Ericsson network management, energy-efficiency solutions and automated MIMO energy management with AI.

The BETC approach, Joshi said, further builds 5G with precision. He said it is important to have the right equipment in the right place, including building 5G Networksbuilding 5G with precision and using a SON optimization manager. It is important, he said, to operate site infrastructure intelligently by using AI to operate site infrastructure efficiently, using intelligent site management and bringing down network energy with AI

In 2019, Ericsson set a carbon-neutral target for its operations by 2030.

“We are committed to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, from our Ericsson´s fleet vehicles right through to our facilities,” Joshi said. “Ericsson is reducing emissions and not simply offsetting them and working towards utilizing 100 percent renewable energy in our operations. Today, 62 percent of all our energy utilization is from renewable energy – 68 percent if we count only electricity usage. We aspire to an electric fleet where possible, and any residual emissions we can’t reduce we will need to remove in like for like emissions, following the ITU standards for net-zero value chains.”

Joshi also pointed out that the Ericsson 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, which integrates sustainability in all aspects of its building design, construction and operations, is certified LEED Gold. Ericsson’s greenfield 5G factory is powered 100 percent by renewable electricity from onsite solar and Green-e certified renewable electricity from the utility grid. The smart factory integrates sustainable technologies such as thermal ice storage tanks with the IoT stack to proactively monitor energy use and is designed to use 24 percent less energy and 75 percent less indoor water usage, avoiding 97 percent operational carbon emission than comparable buildings, according to Ericssson.

“As part of our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, we joined the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) aiming to reduce our emissions by 35 percent by 2022, a 1.5°C target,” Joshi said. “This has changed how we operate fleet vehicles, our facility energy usage, product transportation and business travel. In 2020, we had reduced our emissions by 57 percent compared to 2016, and by 71 percent in comparison to 2012. We’ve shown that halving your emissions in less than 10 years is completely possible.”

“When asked if it is possible to deploy 5G without drastically increasing energy consumption, Joshi answered, ”Yes.”

“It is possible to break the energy curve, that is, lowering total mobile network energy consumption and meeting the massive traffic growth challenge,” Joshi said. “This is not just a possibility; Ericsson believes it is our responsibility as a leading information communication technology solutions company to provide innovative solutions to make this a reality.

Ericsson’s energy approach

“To break the energy curve,” Joshi said, “it is necessary to address all parts of the network holistically. Ericsson has tested, deployed, and refined different solutions into this holistic approach. There are four key elements of this approach, which can be deployed in any order to secure network energy performance.”

According to Ericsson, one of  the elements is to prepare the network by modernizing it with the latest technology that enables new business opportunities and, at the same time, creates energy-savings. The new Ericsson radio system would immediately lower energy consumption by about 30 percent in like-for-like modernization, the company said.

Another element is to activate energy-saving software, including sleep mode functionality, such as Ericsson’s Micro Sleep Tx and the low-energy scheduler already available in the radio access network, which can reduce radio equipment energy consumption by up to 15 percent while maintaining the same user experience.

A third element involves building 5G wireless communications networks with precision. Ericsson said it is important to have the right equipment in the right place. By building 5G with precision, the company said, mobile network operators can optimize their network performance.

The fourth element would have users operate site infrastructure intelligently. AI and advanced data analytics are already well integrated in many of today’s network management solutions, Ericsson said. “Yet, today, we see that they can increasingly offer more value in terms of reducing network energy consumption,” a statement from the company reads.

Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.