Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ericsson sees better financial performance after cost cutting

Amidst a stabilizing mobile infrastructure market with initial 5G development work in North America, Ericsson reported Q1 2018 sales of SEK 43.4 billion (US$5.134 billion), down by -9% YoY. Sales, adjusted for currency, decreased by -2% YoY with lower revenues in market areas North East Asia as well as in South East Asia, Oceania and India. The other market areas showed growth. There was an operating income loss of SEK -0.3 billion (US$35.4 million), which is an improvement from the loss of SEK -11.3 billion for the same period last year. Gross margin was 34.2% (15.7%) 1). Gross margin excluding restructuring charges improved YoY, to 35.9% (18.7%) 1), supported by cost reductions and the continued ramp-up of Ericsson Radio System (ERS).

In North America, Ericsson benefitted from the First Net project underway at AT&T. LTE deployments in mainland China diminished. Ericsson also reports increasing traction for 5G – radio, core & IoT. An additional 500 R&D engineers have been recruited to help with 5G.

As of the end of Q1, Ericsson had 97,581 employees, down from 109,127  in Q2 2017.

Börje Ekholm, President and CEO of Ericsson, stated: "Our efforts to improve efficiency in service delivery and common costs are starting to pay off. The gross margin improved to 36% (19%) in the quarter, tracking well towards our Group target of 37-39% by 2020. A cornerstone in our strategy is to invest in R&D for both technology leadership and cost leadership, which will allow us to generate higher gross margins. We continue to increase our R&D investments in Networks to lead in 5G. In Digital Services we continue to increase investments into our new cloud-native portfolio as well as changing our ways of working for better R&D efficiency. In Managed Services we continue to focus on machine intelligence, automation and analytics to further enhance user experience, improve efficiency and better manage the increasingly complex networks of tomorrow."

It may not be too late for cloud giants to enter the mobile market

It was over seven years ago, in December 2010, that NTT DOCOMO launched its 4G LTE network. Japan, of course, was already heavily saturated with 3G coverage and mobile penetration rates were among the highest in the world. DOCOMO’s 4G network was an instant success and very quickly itd subscribers upgraded their phones and moved onto mobile data plans. DOCOMO's network grew and grew, and so did those of its competitors – KDDI and Softbank Mobile. Since then, the Japanese population has not given up their mobile devices. Like everywhere, people are checking their phones all day long, from the moment they awake till late at night.

With their upcoming launch of commercial 5G services over the next 2 years, DOCOMO and KDDI are looking for history to repeat. They will be among the first operators worldwide to deploy the next generation of mobile technology and they hope the market will respond. But, there is a surprise twist. A new entrant, Rakuten, plans to launch a new 4G network by October 2019 – nearly nine years behind the market leaders, and in a market that seems oversaturated and with this little prospect of growth for the “old wave” technology.

This week, Rakuten received approval from Japan’s Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications to launch a new 4G network.based on its own mobile base stations.

Rakuten Mobile Network will operate over the 1.7 GHz frequency band with over 1,825 MHz of spectrum. The company aims to launch service in October 2019. The company plans to raise a maximum of JPY 600 billion to fund the rollout of the network. Of this, Rakuten Inc. (the parent company) plans to provide a maximum of JPY 200 billion - a hedge on its bet.

Rakuten – Japan’s e-commerce giant

Founded in 1999 by Hiroshi Mikitan, Rakuten is Japan’s e-commerce leader – the local equivalent of Amazon or Alibaba – but far from being a me-too follower, the company has consistently innovated and acquired to advance its vision. It now offers online merchandise for consumers and businesses, life insurance, fire insurance, travel insurance, digital content, an advertising network, and a growing list of communications services. Rakuten also operates the country’s biggest Internet bank and third-largest credit card company by transaction value.



Outside of Japan, Rakuten’s  major acquisitions include Buy.com (now Rakuten.com in the US), PriceMinister (France), Ikeda (now Rakuten Brasil), Tradoria (now Rakuten Deutschland), Play.com (now Rakuten.co.uk in the UK), Wuaki.tv (now Rakuten TV in Spain), Kobo Inc. (now Rakuten Kobo in Canada), Viber (now Rakuten Viber), Ebates, Viki (now Rakuten Viki), OverDrive, Inc. (now Rakuten OverDrive), Slice (now Rakuten Slice) and The Grommet.
Until now, Rakuten has experimented with being a mobile virtual network operator, claiming 1.5 million users. Going forward, Rakuten reckons that around JPY 600 billion is enough to build a nationwide network of 4G base stations. The company says it has poached key executives from the other three big mobile operators. It is also known to be seeking advice from network equipment suppliers about how to rollout a nationwide network as quickly and efficiently as possible.

A key metric for Rakuten is its global gross transaction value, which is the sum total of everything sold on its platform. For 2017, that figure was up 21%.

Strategic thinking

Given its current size and the deep pull from its consumer base, one might expect that it would be easier and faster for Rakuten to buy out one of the three existing mobile operators compared with the time and trouble of building a whole new 4G network.  Practically speaking, no such option exists in Japan for Rakuten. NTT Docomo obviously is out of reach. KDDI is doing well enough on its own as the main challenger to Docomo, so is unlikely to be interested. And Softbank Japan, with Masayoshi Son at its helm, has big ambitions of its own, making the prospects of a merger or buyout with Rakuten unlikely.

For Rakuten, the value of becoming a mobile operator is not to battle it out with Docomo in hopes of poaching subscribers and earning a thin margin on the sale of monthly 4G data plans. Rakuten’s strategic thoughts must centre on building direct access to its e-shopping consumers.  It might even be willing to accept losses in the first years of operating the forthcoming mobile network, in return for a building a better e-commerce experience for its consumers.

In India, Reliance Jio is another late-comer to the mobile market and it too has been willing to suffer deep losses to build its new nationwide network and to establish its subscriber base. However, in Jio case, there is not a thriving e-commerce business to justify the risk.
There are however other cloud giants who will be watching Rakuten’s entrance into the mobile business. Alibaba might be constrained in doing so in its home market, unless the government wants a fourth competitor. But conceivably Alibaba could try its luck as a mobile operator overseas. The other big player of course is Amazon, who might very well be studying Rakuten’s moves.

Video: Go!Foton in conversation with Verizon



The optical networking industry has always faced the challenge of how to achieve more at lower cost, says Simin Cai, CEO of Go!Foton.

This conversation with Glenn Wellbrock, Director, Backbone Network Design, Verizon, explores innovation in optical connectors, patch panels, rack flexibility, automated operations, and network design. Doing more and costing less.

See video: https://youtu.be/GSc1GKk0Crc



Alibaba Cloud expands to Turkey

Alibaba Cloud has established a partnership with Istanbul-based B2B services provider e-Glober to accelerate its entry into Turkey's cloud market.

e-Glober was already Turkey’s sole authorized agent and business partner of Alibaba's global wholesale platform. It will now deliver Alibaba Cloud’s suite of services to the exporters, small and medium-sized businesses and other local companies it Turkey.

“Alibaba Cloud has always been dedicated to making our future-proof technology inclusive within the markets in which we operate,” said Yeming Wang, deputy general manager of Alibaba Cloud Global. “We aim to become the preferred cloud service provider for all sizes of business in Turkey by providing a full range of cloud solutions and combining this with E-Glober’s local expertise.”

Alibaba acquires C-SKY Microsystems for embedded IoT CPUs

Alibaba has acquired Hangzhou Zhongtian Microsystem Co. (C-SKY Microsystems, a leading developer of embedded CPUs, for an undisclosed sum.

C-SKY, which was founded in 2001 and is based in Hangzhou's Hi-Tech Zone, offers a series of 32-bit "C-SKY" embedded CPU cores based on independent intellectual property rights. The chips are widely used in Internet of Things intelligent hardware, digital audio and video, information security, networking and communications, industrial control, and automotive electronics.


See also