Ericsson’s focused strategy and strong 5G position yield results

TBR perspective

Ericsson’s recovery continues into its third year, evidenced by revenue growth and expanding margins, trends that TBR expects to continue in 2020. A strong 5G position with respect to both RAN and mobile core is a significant driver of this improvement as Ericsson’s early technology bets and increased investment in Networks unit R&D are spurring CSP adoption of Ericsson’s competitive 5G portfolio. Ericsson has notched high-profile wins in 5G and grown its market share at Huawei’s and Nokia’s (NYSE: NOK) expense thanks to ERS, which offers an attractive total cost of ownership and a powerful baseband unit. As restructuring progresses, Ericsson will shift from an emphasis on cost reduction and efficiency to a disciplined growth mindset, evidenced by the recent acquisition of Kathrein’s antenna business and an effort to poach LTE customers from rivals for 5G upgrades. With China deploying 5G en masse in 2020 and the next wave of adopters expected to roll out through the early 2020s, Ericsson has the ability to wring a few more years of growth and market share gains from this cycle.

TBR views Ericsson’s turnaround as a success, but multiple headwinds will take shape over the next few years, such as vRAN; the rise of disruptive startups like Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless; and uneven CSP spending. TBR believes Ericsson has baked 5G market share gains in China into its 2020 guidance. These gains are likely to come at Nokia’s expense.

Long term, Ericsson is hoping that emerging businesses including IoT Accelerator, Edge Gravity and eModo scale up. The company needs to succeed in an area outside of RAN and core to maintain share, but Ericsson is not currently preparing to expand its addressable market in terms of enterprise verticals.

Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC) hosted its annual Industry Analyst Forum in Boston, bringing along a range of executives to provide an update on the company’s corporate strategy, which includes continued restructuring, particularly within Digital Services, as well as infusing AI and automation across key product areas and selective expansion in emerging technology areas. 5G, however, was the dominant topic due to Ericsson’s market share gains spurred by the Ericsson Radio System (ERS), which is optimized to meet the cost-conscious needs of communication service providers (CSPs). Similar to last year, the tone of Ericsson’s 2019 analyst day was upbeat as the company continues to execute its focused strategy — now in its third year — which is driving improvement in its financial metrics. Following the main session, analysts could attend three tracks — Building the Network Platform, Automation in 5G Operations, or New Business Opportunities for Service Providers (i.e., IoT, private cellular networks and fixed wireless access [FWA]) — and then participate in one-on-one speed meetings.

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