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Ericsson flashes wallet, beds hot Wi-Fi and billing bizes

Now it's spoiling for a fight against Chinese rivals

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MWC 2012 Ericsson, freed from Sony and getting in its retaliation first, used a Mobile World Congress pre-event briefing to set out its Far East battle plans - which included mobile wallet payments and buying billing biz Telcordia and carrier-cosy Wi-Fi company BelAir Networks.

There was a time when the mobile infrastructure companies where all Western – Nokia, Motorola, Alcatel, Siemens, Lucent, Nortel and of course Ericsson. Today the threat comes from ZTE and Huawei.

Describing how it will take on the Chinese, Ericsson didn’t talk about hardware, cell towers and backhaul to explain what made them special. Everyone has that. The twist was making the most of the 1.6bn mobile subscribers who pay their mobile bills through an Ericsson-installed system and their experience of being a player with at least 100 years of telecoms behind them.

The latest direction for mobile broadband is to take the skills involved in meeting the service demands of the developed world and bring them to networks in the developing world. Today it’s the West, and America in particular, that has high penetrations of smartphones. Ericsson has a Silicon Valley-based team which optimises networks as consumers change the way they use their phones, and the several hundred engineers who've been doing this are going to get a lot of stamps in their passports.

Part of this is getting the networks to be proactive in warning consumers of problems - it's much better to flag up issues than have an angry customer call up.

Ericsson is also building its support services in India, Eastern Europe and South America, with network operations centres in each area. Growth has also come from Telcordia and BelAir Networks: a relationship that should prove particularly useful to Ericsson in North America.

The two companies fill in holes in Ericsson’s ability to provide a full range of technologies and services to telcos. The focus on this sees the multimedia department limit its remit to Operations Support Systems (OSS) and Business Support Systems (BSS), junking its dalliance with mobile money on the way.

The mobile money platform, designed to take on Fundamo, SAP and Utiba, will be closed down having failed to attract any customers. Ericsson feels that the developed world wasn’t ready for a mobile money consumer offering. Instead there will be a shift to mobile commerce and a wallet which is integrated with the billing system, much like Siemens walletXpress.

Building on experience is no good if you let expertise drift away and despite Sony taking over Sony Ericsson, the handset company has moved out of Hall 8 – the glamorous, expensive one – to Ericsson’s home territory of Hall 6 – right at the back, with chip maker ST-Ericsson having made the same move.

This might be down to bonding, saving money or just the GSMA’s bizarre points system for booking stand space. Still at least it means the Sony stand won’t be quite so swamped on the first day. There is a nice synergy with managing people and their data traffic in the Ericsson remit. Time will show if it’s enough to fight off the Chinese threat. ®

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