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Quest for 50 billion connections

Former Nortel division playing key role in ambitious Ericsson corporate vision empowered by LTE advances


January 1, 2011  


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OTTAWA — For 900 former Nortel Network Inc. employees, their temporary place of employment is the world famous Carling Campus here in the city’s west end that produced so many advances and in the end so much despair, when the company they worked for began to implode three years ago.

The ensuing dissection of the former technology giant looks to have been seamless for the now Ericsson employees, who were part of the November 2009 acquisition of Nortel’s Code Division Multiple Access and Long Term Evolution (LTE) business.

“The integration has gone extremely well,” said Mark Henderson, president of Ericsson Canada at a recent press briefing and tour of the 91,000 square metre facility. “The work that goes on here in Ottawa is intrinsically tied with the products that we are exporting and developing around the world.”

Speaking before a House of Commons standing committee on Industry, Science and Technology three months before approval of the deal, he said the proposed investment will help keep Canadians at the forefront of global advanced wireless research and development.

Dragan Nerandzic, Ericsson Canada’s chief technology officer, said the Nortel employees who were part of the acquisition provided “fantastic” technical competence.

“They understood the technology and the business they were in and quickly embraced the new structure,” he said. “Nothing succeeds better than success. What we are demonstrating here today is the level of success that we have accomplished in the past 12 months. It also demonstrates the Canadian know-how and expertise that we can bring to the global market.”

The work going on in Ottawa and other Ericsson R&D facilities in Vancouver, Montreal and around the world, is tied into a corporate vision introduced last spring by company president and CEO Hans Vestberg of achieving 50 billion connections by the year 2020.

Brad Freathy, Ericsson’s Director of Managed Services for the Americas, wrote recently that the “continued progress will make connectivity simple, usable, interoperable, self-initiating, self-aware, and self-correcting. Given the evolution in ICT in 40 years, it is hard to believe that we are at a tipping point that will spawn a massive continued innovation that can further benefit the connectedness of our societies and the global marketplace.

“When do you believe the world will have 50 billion connected devices? I’m certainly ready now. Why shouldn’t my refrigerator know what I need to replace and why can’t I check from my phone to see if I left the iron on (and turn it off)? From the mundane to the world changing, what smart, connected technology do you predict that you wish you had right now?”

Ericsson and others are betting the farm that LTE will be the primary enabler to achieving what appears to be a lofty goal.

Rogers Communications Inc., which along with Ericsson recently launched an LTE technical trial in Ottawa, says with speeds of up to 150 Mbps it will become the “foundation in a world defined by connected experiences.”

In Ottawa, Keith Shank, Director, Advanced Technology Labs, talked about the importance of IP Multimedia Subsystem or IMS, which he described as the core application layer of LTE.

“When we move from 5 billion subscribers to 50 billion devices in 10 years, you are going to need presence information on devices,” he said.

“LTE becomes a complete SIP network over the radio. It’s IP so now I can assign addresses to anything – cameras, sensors, people, anything I want and I can check the presence of them and make sure they are available or online or usable.”

Meanwhile, LTE applications and services will be driven by the Rich Communication Suite or RCS, an industry initiative that according to the Group Speciale Mobile (GSM) Association, the global trade group for the mobile industry, will enable interoperable enriched communication.

“I want you to think back to the mid-1990s when Short Message Service (SMS) was only inside one carrier,” said Shank. “When they opened the service up, it exploded and everybody started using the service across multiple services. This is what RCS is going to bring to the table. It is a very important change.”

Finally, users can expect downlink transmission speeds of 5-12 Mbps and uplink speeds of 2-5 Mbps.

“One of the key changes for LTE is the capability to improve latency,” said Shank. “Latency is the delay you get on a satellite telephone call when you have to wait for the voice to talk back or when you do a video call and the lips and the face don’t match.

“The human eye, ear and brain of a young person can tell 50 milliseconds of latency discrepancy. 3G technology today is 110 milliseconds. LTE in the field we are seeing live results of 35-40 milliseconds. That is below real time. Video calls become very good and gaming becomes more interactive. We are seeing a lot of improvement there.”

Telecom analyst Michael Sone said that type of bandwidth will be necessary, which is the main value of LTE.

As for the work that goes on in at the Nortel campus, Sone said it “would have been a damn shame to see the technology disappear. With Ericsson, Avaya, Ciena and Genband moving in to pick up the pieces keeps a place like this alive. It’s a positive outcome as could have been hoped for given the circumstances.”

All four companies will soon need to find new R&D space. Late last year, Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) purchased the land and the 11 buildings on it from Nortel for $208 million.

Ericsson Canada