Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Tuesday, December 11, 2018
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Ericsson Unveils U.S. 5G Roadmap 

Iaremenko Sergii/Shutterstock

The deployment of 5G wireless networks for low-latency applications like the Internet of Things is accelerating with plans for production of the first U.S. radio base station by the end of this year.

Ericsson said this week it would begin producing 5G base stations at it Austin, Texas, ASIC design center. The Swedish telecommunications giants also said it would it would boost “U.S.-based” R&D in areas such as 5G baseband software, AI and other automation tools.

Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) opened the Austin design center in late 2017 to develop core components for 5G base stations. It now plans to open a software development center focused on baseband development. Baseband software provides intelligence to the radio access network. It also serves as the interface between the core network and radio units, processing and forwarding voice and internet data to end users.

Along with U.S. base station production beginning during the fourth quarter of this year, the company said Friday (Aug. 10) it would begin releasing 5G products and software that will be marketed internationally. The goal is to “shorten the timeline for new product introduction and product delivery to customers,” the company added.

Initially, Ericsson added it would work with an unnamed production partner to manufacturer the first U.S. 5G radios.

Given current trade frictions, the Swedish company stressed the need to be close to the huge U.S. market that accounts for the majority of its business. Ericsson projects that 5G subscriptions will eventually reach 150 million, with North America accounting for nearly half by 2023 as IoT devices, autonomous vehicles and data-heavy mobile subscribers connect to high-capacity networks.

A company report released in June estimates about 3.5 billion cellular IoT connections by 2023. Of those, China is expected to account for about 2.2 billion connections as large-scale IoT deployments ramp up.

For now, Ericsson and other 5G network specialists are focusing on the U.S. market as demand skyrockets for low-latency machine and device connections for applications ranging from IoT to autonomous vehicles.

“The United States is our largest market, accounting for a quarter of Ericsson’s business over the last seven years,” said Börje Ekholm, Ericsson’s president and CEO. “To serve the demand of these fast-moving service providers, we are strengthening our investment in the U.S. to be even closer to our customers and meet their accelerated 5G deployment plans.”

The company’s U.S. R&D investments include a new software development center expected to employ about more than 200 developers along with expansion of its AI and automation development that is also scheduled to be up and running by the end of the year.

Experts note that 5G is expected to usher new datacenter architectures such as multi-edge computing that enables processing closer to where data is generated. The emerging wireless standard is designed to provide 10 Gb/s peak data rates and massive amounts of device connectivity.

Vendors also note that cloud native approaches will be required to avoid inevitable 5G scaling bottlenecks.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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