Ericsson seeks revenues in many new markets

MetraTech purchase expands its BSS/OSS to verticals and IoT, while deals in Australia and Chile include satellite and transport

By Caroline Gabriel

Ericsson's recent quarterly results were solid, but still betrayed the vulnerabilities in the company's traditional business in mobile-focused infrastructure and services. Unpredictable carrier investment cycles, rising competition and price pressures, challenges in China - all these factors have been pushing the Swedish giant to expand into new markets, including wireline and TV carriers and the internet of things. This week has seen three examples of how Ericsson is seeking to reinvent itself, so that if it finally loses its mobile crown to Huawei, it will have other tricks up its sleeve.

First, Ericsson announced the acquisition of MetraTech, a US-based provider of billing, commerce and settlement systems based around metadata. Nothing new there, it seemed, since the larger company has been filling out its billing and OSS/BSS portfolio for years. But this was different, because the deal is not focused on carriers, mobile or even wireline, but on areas where there is greater growth in network platforms - vertical markets, especially utilities; and a broader set of providers targeting smart cities, cloud services and the internet of things (IoT).

No price was disclosed for the acquisition but it includes all MetraTech's 140 staff and contractors. As well as expanding Ericsson's US business, which has been its keystone since it acquired the remnants of Nortel, the purchase signals the firm's intention to move aggressively towards providers of IoT and XaaS (everything as a service) offerings.

The company said it would have an enhanced ability to support "customers, partners and suppliers in multiple industries and accelerate the creation and delivery of new value added services. Customers can create fluid, personalized, multi-party agreements to meet unique business needs," said the statement.

"For a range of industries, thriving in the Networked Society means having the ability to quickly support new revenue models and shift strategies as fast as customer and partner needs evolve," said Per Borgklint, SVP and head of business unit support solutions. "MetraTech's metadata-based billing solutions strengthen our extensive OSS and BSS portfolio and billing capabilities across a range of sectors, helping us extend our leadership as we support a world with increasingly more connections."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Ericsson has signed the latest in a string of managed services deals. These are vital to its revenue strategy, but this contract, with Australia's NBN (National Broadband Network) organization, is focused mainly on fixed wireless and satellite rather than the mobile systems with which the Swedish vendor is so familiar.

The deal, worth as much as Aus$300m, is to deliver and support services across regional and rural Australia, extending some existing fixed wireless agreements until 2018 and operating third party ground systems for the Long Term Satellite Solution (LTSS), as well as customer service activation. The NBN non-cellular services are planned to cover one million households which are not well covered by wireline or LTE broadband.

Ericsson will help the government-owned NBN (created to implement the state national fixed broadband plan) to meet expected peak installation rates of up to 15,000 households per month in rural Australia in 2016, and it will also manage the migration of 42,000 users of the current, interim satellite system to the LTSS. NBN is charged with bringing fixed broadband to every household, and it says up to 7% of the population will not be accessible with its wireline roll-out. It hired Ericsson in 2011 to build and manage its fixed LTE network.

The contract indicates how next generation networks, especially those targeting rural or emerging markets, will increasingly pull together a variety of available technologies and spectrum bands, including cellular, wireline, WiFi, satellite and fixed wireless - and these will all need to be managed and, in many cases, integrated, an opportunity for managed service providers.

Greg Adcock, NBN's COO, said: "This agreement will enable greater efficiencies and consistency of network management across both our fixed and satellite ground networks."

Another important area of expansion for Ericsson is the smart city, and its latest contract is with Chilean telco Entel. The two companies have signed an agreement wtih the government transport agency, Subtrans, to develop tools to optimize the management of public transportation, initially in capital Santiago.

In a joint pilot, Ericsson will provide a tool allowing Subtrans to monitor the movement of Entel users in the Transantiago bus and metro system. This data will be used by Subtrans to manage the system's resources in a more efficient way, and to identify areas where improvements are needed to the system.

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