When Lars Magnus Ericsson opened his engineering shop in the 13 square meters space in Stockholm, Sweden, his starting capital was a mere SEK 1,000. This was 140 years ago.
The engineering shop – Ericsson, has come a long way. The company has gone on to become a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility.
Based on Lars Magnus Ericsson’s belief that communication is a basic human need, the company has gone on to innovate in mobile telephony, Bluetooth, 4G, Internet of Things, and 5G – all of which have contributed to building a multinational company that today employs around 115,000 people, and operates in 180 countries.
Today, Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility.
Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world rely every day on networks that Ericsson manages. With more than 39,000 granted patents, Ericsson is proud of one of the industry’s strongest intellectual property rights portfolios.
Entering sub-Saharan Africa
20 years after opening its doors, Ericsson entered what is now one of the world’s fastest growing mobile market; sub-Saharan Africa. In 1896, Ericsson made the first delivery of fixed line services in the Cape Colony and Durban, both in South Africa and Nairobi, Kenya. At that time, four telephone exchanges were installed in South Africa between 1896 and 1900, making it Ericsson’s largest market for exchanges outside Europe. In Kenya, Ericsson laid telegraph wires next to the railway from Mombasa to Kisumu, on Lake Victoria which enabled communications from the coast into the interior. The railway and the communications were key to developing the economy.
120 years have passed since then and Ericsson now employs over 3,000 people and operates in 43 countries in 22 offices in the region.
A vision of a Networked Society
Ericsson believes that through mobility, our society can be transformed for the better. New innovations and forms of expression are finding a greater audience, industries and hierarchies are being revolutionized through ICT, and creating a fundamental change in the way we communicate, socialize and make decisions together, thus impacting how almost every industry, business and individual plays, lives and works.
The ‘Networked Society’ is all about a society that will fundamentally change the way we innovate, collaborate, produce, govern and achieve sustainability. The combination of Mobile broadband access, affordable devices and the resultant transformation in the way businesses and society operate will yield opportunities for empowerment and inclusion.
Mobility is a driver for industry transformation in Africa. We are excited about our journey in Africa. According to our Sub-Saharan African appendix of the Ericsson Mobility Report, WCDMA/HSPA combined with LTE will account for almost 80 of mobile subscriptions by 2021. These numbers excite us. We were here when there were no subscriptions, and now we are here making projections of 100 percent penetration by 2021. We will be here to usher this market into the 5G era and whatever technologies develop beyond that. We can’t wait to see what the next 140 years will bring.
Changing industries through mobility
Ericsson has been innovating and transforming over the last 140 years, and as the industry and consumer demands have changed, so has its business. From a consumer perspective, Ericsson’s partnership with Sony might still be remembered. In 2011, Ericsson ended this partnership, thus shifting the focus from the handset business. The introduction of mobile data services has enabled access to even more services that benefit individuals and transforms industries. Today, Ericsson provides solutions and services that shape mobile networks, support operators with IT transformation, impact smart solutions for industry and society, as well as provide innovative solutions for an enhanced television and media experience.
In the financial sector, Ericsson believes that connectivity based Mobile Financial Services can be a game changer for advancing financial and social inclusion. Ericsson is currently doing a pan-African rollout of in several countries with various operators for which it won an AfricaCom award in 2015.
Since 2015, Ericsson is the Government of Rwanda’s technology advisor on the Smart Rwanda initiative to design and deploy solutions and services required to create a fully functioning knowledge-based society. This partnership will see the deployment of solutions covering financial services and other solutions, enabling the creation of a smart society.
Also in 2015, Ericsson’s first end-to-end subscription video-on-demand content service, NuVu, was launched, marketed in close collaboration with service providers. This solution takes into consideration the preference of consumers for downloaded content instead of streaming services due to evolving broadband services. A core feature of the service is the built-in ability to distribute content to consumers during off-peak periods. This minimizes data costs for both operator and consumer, addressing the cost challenge that has so far been an obstacle for video-on-demand uptake in Africa.
Future technology … the road to 5G
Ericsson is driving the development of 5G technologies together with partners and leading operators around the world. As with past transitions to next generation technology, 5G will enable much higher performance. This means tremendous flexibility, lower energy requirements, greater capacity, bandwidth, security, reliability, and much lower latency and device costs. The full potential of the Networked Society will be here when 5G is rolled out globally; creating new opportunities for use cases we haven’t yet dreamed of, new markets and radically new business models, many that include IoT applications. With 5G, we’ll have the ability to download a full-length HD movie in seconds, to conduct remote surgery, to have battery lifetimes exceeding 10 years for remote cellular devices.
These historic milestones mark Ericsson’s commitment to the region, and the innovation is testament to it. Ericsson’s aim today is to continue paving the way for life in the Networked Society, empowering individuals through technology, transforming industries to deliver more value and advancing society through sustainable development.
(The author is the Head of Ericsson RSSA)