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MWC 2019: 5G in Europe driven by industrial automation, says Ericsson

As Mobile World Congress 2019 nears, Sweden’s Ericsson has been expanding, and expounding upon, its plans for 5G mobile networks

With Mobile World Congress – the mobile industry’s annual no-holds-barred Barcelona beach party – set to open its doors in less than a week, Sweden-based networking hardware and services supplier Ericsson has been elaborating on its strategy, building on recent remarks by CEO Börje Ekholm, who at the weekend said the firm was ready to deploy 5G mobile networks pretty much whenever.

The firm has already signed commercial agreements with 10 named operators around the world, including Vodafone in the UK, Swisscom in Switzerland, Telenor in Scandinavia and Wind in Italy, and its 5G hardware forms a key component of Verizon’s consumer fixed wireless access broadband network, which launched in four US cities in October 2018.

“5G is happening now, and we are embracing its transformative potential,” said Ekholm. “We are already deploying commercial 5G equipment with frontrunner customers in frontrunner markets and we will be there when the time is right for 5G in each market.”

Speaking at a preview event in London, Arun Bansal, Ericsson president and head of Europe and Latin America, said that whereas 2G network development was driven chiefly out of Europe and 4G chiefly out of North America, 5G differs in that it is being developed at pace simultaneously around the world, but with different underlying drivers.

Bansal said this was where Ericsson has a clear advantage over the likes of Huawei, because while North America concentrates on fixed-wireless access and Asia on consumer use cases, in Europe the development of 5G is being driven by use cases around industrial automation.

Ahead of MWC, Ericsson previewed a number of enhancements to its 5G platform, making portfolio additions across core, radio access and transport networks, as well as service automation, which it claimed would make the platform “more dynamic and flexible” and enable operators and other service providers to evolve their networks smoothly so they can deploy 5G at scale, quickly.

The firm lifted the wraps on a dual-mode 5G core to support both 5G standalone and non-standalone, incorporating earlier mobile network generations to enable continuity of service for legacy 4G, 3G and 2G networks. The solution is cloud native to enable automated capacity management and more efficient, robust operations, and also brings a high-performance user plane to cope with different 5G use cases, as well as open application programming interfaces (APIs) to encourage innovation around areas such as network slicing and edge computing.

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On radio access networks (RANs), Ericsson will launch nine new dual- and triple-band and high-performance massive MIMO radios running virtualised software to manage data flow for a larger number of users, and put data traffic processing intelligence higher up the network stack for additional flexibility.

On the transport network side, it will launch an enhanced microwave portfolio and a new family of 5G-ready long-haul solutions supporting capacities of up to 10Gbps. This will come alongside an expansion of its router and front-haul portfolios.

Finally, in a nod to the potential inherent in 5G when it comes to industrial automation, the company will introduce automated service orchestration for simplified operations. This introduces automated network slicing comprising creation, testing and deployment, and artificial intelligence (AI)-based closed-loop automation for hybrid networks – including physical, virtual and container-based functions – in a multi-supplier environment to address service impact and adjust the network in real time.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Erwin van Rijssen, head of 5G core at Ericsson, said many of the enhancements to the platform spoke directly to industrial use cases.

“A lot of what we’re launching is agnostic,” he said. “But where I think you’ll see a difference between industrial and consumer use cases is that for many of the industrial use cases, we need to put the radio and the core network software very close to where the application is, so you get much more into a distributed cloud-type of environment.

“As an operator, you will not only have a central datacentre or a few central datacentres, but you will also get smaller edge datacentres, or even maybe deploy software in the operator’s customer premise itself.”

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