Despite the continued challenges posed by the global Covid-19 pandemic, Ericsson started 2021 with significant momentum. 5G milestones and records were achieved throughout the year, while commercial 5G leadership continued and saw the company top 100 live 5G networks globally. Ericsson closed the year with a major acquisition intention, signaling a major statement about the company’s vision of spearheading the development of mobile networks through technology leadership. As the year closes, Ericsson has 168 unique commercial 5G agreements with communications service providers globally, including 105 live 5G networks in 46 countries. Join us for the first of a two-part look back on 2021.
DEC 21, 2021
January: 5G on the front foot and COVID-19 innovation
The story of 2021 began to take shape early with the announcement of several major 5G deals. A landmark 5G agreement with the multinational Ooredoo Group was followed in quick succession by a major 5G expansion deal with T-Mobile in the US and a global cellular IoT deal with Arkessa and Voi e-scooters.
Just as in 2020, Ericsson kicked off the year with a 5G speed record. Together with partners Telstra and Qualcomm, a new 5G download speed record of 5Gbps was achieved over a live commercial network on Australia’s Gold Coast. More record-setting success with Telstra and Qualcomm was to follow later in the year.
As COVID-19 continued to dominate global headlines, Ericsson was recognized by the Global Business Alliance for its innovative contribution in helping the medical research community address urgent questions posed by the pandemic.
Contributing to efforts to fight the pandemic would become a regular theme throughout the year, including notable initiatives together with Telia and the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden, as well as UNICEF and the Smile Foundation in India.
In Europe, Ericsson announced that it would be joining EU-funded 6G projects REINDEER and Hexa-X, exploring next-generational technology concepts including connected intelligence, aggregated global networks, extreme experiences and multi-antenna radio wave technologies.
Ericsson rounded off the first month of the year by announcing the release of Ericsson 5G RAN slicing, the first of many major 5G commercial releases in 2021.
February: Digital enterprise tops the headlines
5G momentum continued into February with key deals announced across rapidly accelerating 5G markets in the Middle East, including stc in Saudi Arabia, Umniah in Jordan, and du in the United Arab Emirates.
Ericsson’s commercial 5Gportfolio received a boost with the addition of Ericsson-Silicon powered, ultra-light and energy-efficient Massive MIMO radios and RAN compute for 5G mid-band.
As the world’s workplaces entered their eleventh month of remote working, Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm reflected on the critical importance of wireless connectivity in a virtual address to the GTI Summit 2021.
These reflections were also echoed in the findings of Ericsson IndustryLab’s Future of Enterprise report, released in the same month, confirming the growing ambitions among white-collar enterprises to transition to a dematerialized workplace.
A series of major dedicated network announcements also gave renewed focus to the digitalization of blue-collar industries, including agreements to deploy dedicated private networks at EVRAZ’s Sheregeshskaya mine in Russia and the Calpak production facility in Greece. Ericsson also announced that it would be joining a new EU pilot at the Ford Motor Company’s engine plant in Spain.
Ericsson closed the month on a recognition high, being named a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for 5G Network Infrastructure for Communications Service Providers (CSPs) report.
March: 5G records and sustainability milestones
March delivered another instalment of new 5G firsts and world records. In Norway, Ericsson partnered with Telia to achieve the first 5G carrier aggregation trial in the Nordics, extending 5G mid-band coverage by up to 50 percent in the process. While in China, Ericsson teamed up with CBN and UNISOC to set a new commercial 5G downlink data rate record of 600 Mbps in the 700 Mhz band.
In Denmark, Ericsson built on the previous year’s 5G coverage first with TDC NET by helping the service provider to set a new 25-year network performance record, leveraging solutions from Ericsson’s leading cognitive technologies portfolio.
In the same month, the partners also made headlines of a four-legged kind, by demonstrating how a live 5G network and a mobile robot named Spot could conduct perimeter-fencing security checks at Hans Christian Andersen Airport in Odense. Later in the year, TDC would also be recognized as having the best mobile experiences in the world in Tutela’s annual Global State of Mobile Experience report 2021.
Sustainability and corporate responsibility grabbed headlines as Ericsson released the company’s 2020 Annual Report, confirming that Ericsson is on-track to reach sustainability targets, in spite of challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the same month, Ericsson’s 5G Smart Factory in Texas, US, was awarded the prestigious ‘Global Lighthouse’ designation by the World Economic Forum for its pioneering application of next-generational technologies. A month later, the factory would also receive LEED Gold Certification, exemplifying Ericsson’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
April: Industrial 5G gains momentum
Industrial transformation reached a new gear in April, powered by private cellular networks and Ericsson Industry Connect. In France, Ericsson partnered to deploy secure private dedicated networks at both EDF’s nuclear energy plant in Blayais and Airbus’ production facility in Toulouse.
In Spain, plans were announced to deploy a dedicated network at automotive design, testing, engineering and official certification company Applus+ IDIADA, together with Orange Spain. A similar initiative was also announced in the UK, together with UK vehicle battery manufacturer Hyperbat and BT, with plans to develop a virtual reality digital twin proof-of-concept.
It was also an award-winning month for the company. Ericsson was positioned as the market leader in the independent Frost Radar™: Global 5G Network Infrastructure Market report. It was also a month which saw Ericsson CEO, Börje Ekholm, become an international ‘rock star’, being named a Change Leader by the Boyden Executive Search and Interim Search, thanks to his role in Ericsson’s business turnaround and COVID-19 response.
The race to deploy 5G standalone also took a breakthrough turn with Ericsson announcing a new dual connectivity milestone with partner MediaTek, demonstrating the aggregation of high-band millimeter wave (mmWave) with mid-band spectrum in a combined 5G standalone mode for the very first time.
In Germany, Ericsson announced the successful launch of Europe’s largest 5G standalone network together with partners Vodafone, OPPO and Qualcomm. In the following months, Ericsson would ultimately add Vodafone Germany and Vodafone UK to its growing list of 5G core contracts, together with another partner, Swisscom.
In Russia, Ericsson also opened the doors to St. Petersburg’s first 5G Hub, together with partner MTS.
May: Indoor connectivity gets a boost
In May, attention turned to delivering 5G indoor connectivity across the world’s homes, offices, airports, factories, and stadiums – underlined through a series of major collaborations and portfolio additions.
In the US, Cradlepoint announced a new partnership with AT&T to deliver the first nationwide business-focused broadband network with 5G coverage to over 230 million people in 14,000 US cities and towns. In the same month, Ericsson doubled down on American enterprise connectivity with the announcement of a strategic partnership with Telarus to bring the benefits of the Ericsson Wireless Office to more than six million US-based enterprises. Ericsson also announced new portfolio additions designed to accelerate 5G indoor connectivity, including mmWave 5G indoor coverage for the US market.
In Europe, safe and sustainable 5G was in focus with the announcements that Ericsson would be joining the EU-backed NEXGEN SIMS sustainable mining project, as well as entering into a new agreement with Italy-based cyber and security solutions company Leonardo to bring 5G benefits to public safety and industrial sectors.
In Sweden, Ericsson successfully completed the first stage in an EU-funded large-scale connected car trial, delivering the first ever cross-border 5G network vehicular handover together with partner Volvo Cars.
June: Ericsson Cloud gains an edge
Ericsson kicked off the month by announcing a duo of major security portfolio additions. Ericsson Private 5G, a new dedicated private network security offering within the industrial sector, was bolstered just a few days later by the further addition of a new Ericsson IoT security offering, Ericsson Threat Monitoring and Mitigation (TMM), developed together with partner Orange Business Services.
The 5G milestones continued to come thick and fast in June. In Poland, Ericsson partnered with Deutsche Telekom to deliver the first 5G voice over new radio (VoNR) call on an end-to-end multivendor network. In Switzerland, the collaboration with Deutsche Telekom resulted in the first trial of 5G end-to-end network slicing. While in Australia, Ericsson partnered with Telstra to deliver the longest distance 5G standalone data call.
June saw Ericsson release its largest consumer study to date, the Ericsson ConsumerLab Future Urban Reality report. The report addressed post-pandemic consumer behavior, confirming that consumer online adoption habits are not only likely to remain beyond the pandemic, but to actually accelerate.
Ericsson rounded off the first half of the year with the major portfolio addition of 5G mid-band and Massive MIMO support for Ericsson Cloud RAN. This was followed by the announcement of a new strategic partnership together with Google Cloud to jointly develop 5G and edge cloud solutions with the ambition to unlock new enterprise and consumer possibilities.
Look out for more Ericsson 2021 news and achievements in part two of the Ericsson news year in review, coming next week.
Selected January to June Ericsson news links