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A Conversation With: Mark Henderson

CNS: In March, Ericsson announced the reopening of the Experience Centre in Plano, Tex. What is the centre all about?


November 1, 2008  


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CNS: In March, Ericsson announced the reopening of the Experience Centre in Plano, Tex. What is the centre all about?

HENDERSON: It is a hands-on environment for customers to come in and experience the technologies that Ericsson is bringing to the market. You have a lot of the big wireline, wireless, cable, media and Internet companies that are trying to discover what type of leading- edge, revenue generating applications they can deliver to their consumers to create loyalty and growth. It allows us to demonstrate what these are and to provide a converged look at technologies such as High-Speed Packet Access mobile broadband with speeds of 7.2 megabits on the downlink, as well as long-term evolution products that will come into the market over the next few years.

We have a similar facility in Montreal. The point there is the same in that customers should be able to come in and be shown some real-life applications of the technology.

CNS: Is IPTV strictly a consumer service or will it become pervasive within the corporate sector?

HENDERSON: We believe that it will make its way and expand into the corporate sector. Initially it is going to be a consumer market initiative, however, the idea of being able to interactively share video, buddy lists, messaging, multimedia, whiteboarding and texting, while you are interacting with these and other applications will naturally migrate its way into the corporate sector. It will allow an organization to move multimedia between employees, branches, cities and countries.

IPTV will permeate the consumer market first because that is where the industry wants to drive it, but the corporate applications will follow.

CNS:When will that happen?

HENDERSON:That is a bit of a trickier question to answer. IPTV as a consumer product is being deployed in a number of different forms today. I think it’s in the early part of the curve right now, but I’ll take my own personal guess and predict you will start to see these capabilities and technologies moving in to the corporate sector within the next three to five years.

CNS: Ericsson entered the mobile advertising market in September with the signing of a deal involving Dutch network operator KPN. Are there any plans to launch in Canada?

HENDERSON: This is a service that allows KPN to deliver targeted advertising to their consumers based on their preferences or profiles. It is very much direct advertising that is based on profiling using mobile Internet pages or various messaging services. The second part of this announcement is that it is hosted. In other words, the platforms are hosted and maintained by Ericsson, and the operator itself does not have this equipment on site. Equipment can be expanded based on requirements and forecasts that come from the operator.

This is an opportunity that can be imported to the Canadian market, but that would be up to the operator to see the need at which point we would supply the service.

CNS: As an aside, also indicative of how Ericsson’s space has expanded into so many different areas.

HENDERSON: Ericsson is one of the few vendors that has an end-to-end view of the technology, which ranges from the joint ownership of Sony Ericsson to the service layer where this type of application would exist. From that perspective, it allows us to understand what consumers will react to and ultimately what will drive capacity and growth within the networks themselves.

CNS: You announced last year plans to add 200 new positions to your Montreal Research Centre where much of your IP Multimedia Subsystem platform is developed. What developments have occurred during the past 12 months?

HENDERSON:There are and have been a number of different assignments. A large portion of people working at the centre are tied up in global services, which includes software deployment, service deployment and systems support. Another big area within the centre is dedicated to multimedia, and there are a whole host of projects that they are working on. The major new initiative that we work on is the Rich Communication Suite (RCS) industry initiative that was launched at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona this year. We are developing end-to- end RCS products and solutions here as well as hosting operator trials

In mid-2007 we also announced this growth of 200 jobs. At the time, it was a mix of global services and R&D. Most of the pickup on that head count has been based on the global services area.

I will say that the head count in Montreal has been fairly static. We have a steady group of people with very low turnover. When we do announce growth, we have the luxury of taking competence from one area and moving it into new assignments as they come into the building.

CNS: Have you had difficulty filling the positions and if so, what is your take on the current IT staffing shortage in Canada? HENDERSON:We have a lot of collaboration with the universities in Montreal -McGill, Concordia, cole Polytechnique — and we draw through job fairs, education and campaigns from all three. That has been our way of attacking the staffing shortage and build up a candidate bank that is always active and relatively full.

Montreal is an interesting market. People that are born and live there, may want to travel and work globally with Ericsson, but they like to have their base in Montreal.

That contributes to the low turnover rate. That said, there are definitely shortages and companies will become more aggressive about recruiting and we will have to be more proactive in our own methodologies to make sure that we retain the people we have and keep the attrition rate where it is today.

CNS: Hydro-Qubec has installed MINI-LINK, your microwave transmission product. What does it do?

Henderson: It is a microwave transport technology for voice and data. Hydro-Qubec is upgrading its own telecommunications network on the backbone for employees. MINI-LINK comes from a military background. Ericsson is one of the largest producers of microwave hop in the world and this product comes from a business unit of the company that has been around for a long time. It is high reliability equipment that is designed for severe weather conditions. Following a series of tests and trials, we’re happy to say that Hydro-Qubec selected it.

CNS: In late September, 16 IT and mobile companies including Ericsson united behind a GSMA-led initiative to create a new category of mobile broadband devices. What is it all about?

HENDERSON:High-speed packet access (HSPA) technology is being adopted worldwide at a very fast pace and it’s moving from 3.6 megabits downstream up to 7.2 megabits and soon it will go to 21 megabits. These are high-speed, always on, always connected mobile broadband technologies for users. There are hundreds of HSPA devices that are in the market now. In addition, HSPA chip sets for mobile broadband are being implemented by a number of PC manufacturers.

Now, the GSMA members are putting their power and their brands behind the mobile brand initiative to the point that they want to create a Mobile Broadband service mark.

The goal is to drive it forward in a big way.

CNS: Finally, what can you tell me about the Ericsson Network Technologies (Cables) unit?

HENDERSON: Ericsson Network Technologies (Cables) unit provides a range of cable-related solutions for telecom and power networks. LM Ericsson is engaged in the passive fiber access network field including integration of copper, fiber optic and mobile technologies. About a third of the sales from its Cables group is attributable to inter-segment sales. Manufacturing is carried out in China, India, Malaysia and Sweden. CNS

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The president and CEO of Ericsson Canada discusses some of the key technology areas the Swedish telecom equipment giant is currently focusing on. They ra
nge from the Rich Communication Suite to a GSMA-led initiative to create a new category of mobile broadband devices.