Cisco, Ericsson: Engaged To Get Married?

Cisco EricssonLast April we wrote a piece on the history of consolidation and divestment in the global telecoms equipment market that resulted in the four major global players that dominate the market now: Cisco, Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia.

This Monday, Cisco and Ericsson announced that they will enter in a strategic partnership that they expect to deliver $1 billion in incremental revenues for each company by 2018.

In a nutshell the partnership entails:

  • Ericsson to resell Cisco’s networking products
  • Comprehensive systems integration and managed services for service providers
  • Joint cloud and 5G architecture customer engagements
  • Intended cross patent licensing agreement

More details of the strategic partnership can be found here.

In the short term, the alliance will give Cisco the opportunity to sell more gear into telecom service providers and Ericsson the opportunity to manage and integrate a broader set of telecom service provider infrastructure. While this is good news for Cisco and Ericsson, it is bad news for Juniper (Ericsson’s current router and switch networking partner) and Cisco’s current service provider integration and services partners. Ericsson’s attention will be on selling Cisco rather than Juniper gear. The integration of Cisco gear into telecom provider networks will increasingly be done by Ericsson.

Cisco has shunned acquiring large telecom equipment providers in the past because of the lengthy approval and integration process and the high percentage of managed services that telecom equipment providers have in their revenue stream. This strategic partnership provides Cisco with a firmer foothold in the telecoms service provider market without having to invest in or buy a large service and integration unit.

Unlike Cisco, Ericsson has steadily grown its services (and software) revenue share from 27% in 1999 to 66% in 2014. And with an increasing number of telcos outsourcing network operations, this service component will continue to grow in share. With incorporating Cisco into its managed services and integration capabilities, Ericsson becomes a more strategic partner for its telco customers.

In the long term, Cisco and Ericsson will jointly develop products to address emerging cloud, 5G, and IoT markets. For Cisco, this will mean a broader and deeper customer base for its next generation products in telcos. For Ericsson, this means an opportunity to provide transformational services in cloud, 5G and IoT markets on a broader set of infrastructure. Unlike the enterprise market, where virtualisation is mainstream and public and hybrid clouds are becoming increasingly popular, telco networks are still at the beginning of the virtualisation and cloud trend. There is no AWS for telco networks, as telcos move slowly towards network outsourcing and managed services. Telco hardware (NFV) and networks (SDN) virtualisation products will likely be a big part of the joint product development roadmap. Together with Ericsson’s network management and OSS capabilities this should lay down the transformational platform for telco service providers to develop services that take advantage of the Internet of Things.

Last but not least, just like VMware, Cisco and EMC created VCE to address the converged infrastructure market. Cisco and Ericsson could decide in the not too distant future to consummate the strategic partnership and set up a joint venture that sells pre-integrated virtualised telco infrastructure to telco customers.

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About Pim Bilderbeek