Ericsson predicts 50 billion networked devices

In 20 years, 50 billion devices with microprocessors will be connected to networks, many of them wirelessly, a senior executive with Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) said Friday.

When you walk around, you encounter various non-computing devices, such as door openers, soap dispensers, security cameras and thermostats, said Dragan Nerandzic, chief technology officer of Ericcson Canada Inc.

“All microprocessors that are not connected today will be connected in the future,” Nerandzic said in a speech Friday at the Toronto Board of Trade. “As a consequence, the number of connections will be in the tens of billions.”

Stockholm-based Ericsson is a major supplier to cellular wireless carriers including Rogers Wireless Inc. In Canada, the company has more than 2,700 workers, a research facility in Montreal and makes Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) products for North American wireless telcos.

The CDMA business employs more than 700 in Ottawa alone, which Ericsson acquired from Nortel Networks Corp. last year.

Ericsson is also working on Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless technologies, designed to transmit data over cellular networks at more than 100 Megabits per second (Mbps).

“This year we are announcing first commercial deploying of LTE networks in Scandinavian countries with up to 150 mbps,” he said.

This is a far cry from where the industry stood in 2004, when the first third-generation networks were launched with 384 Kilobits per second (Kbps), he said.

Nerandzic noted High Speed Packet Access (HSPA), first launched in 2005 with 3.5 Mbps, had peak data transfer rates of 21 Mbps last year.

To prepare for LTE, carriers will need to increase capacity of their networks by a factor of 10 within five years, he said.

“If I told you that you have to make the 401 ten times wider in 10 years that will be an enormous task,” he said,  referring to Ontario highway 401, which runs from Windsor to the Quebec border and is 16 lanes in some sections in Toronto.

Canada’s major carriers have yet to announce LTE upgrade timelines.

At last June’s Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto, Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed said it will be at least a few years before Rogers launches LTE in Canada. Rogers, he said, is still trying to get the most out of its HSPA network.

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) Inc. and Telus Corp. co-operated on their HSPA network, which was completed last year.

Nerandzic presented graphs showing the increase in subscribers over time for successive generations of wireless service.

He noted the first generation of cellular technology took 16 years to reach 10 million subscribers.

Today, he said, users are looking for the same service on wireless and wireline.

“We want video content available on our mobile devices and on our PCs over the internet,” he said. “The equipment to do that is already there.”

Carriers, he said, are building common network cores that let them offer services at lower prices.

High-definition video over wireline networks is changing, he said, with smaller TV sets and more high-definition displays. Users’ viewing habits are changing, he said, with more features such as sharing, personalization and voting. Each stream requires eight Megabits per second and in some cases users want more than one stream for their home.

Although the second generation of digital subscriber line (DSL) provide higher speed, not every user lives close enough to the DSL access module (DSLAM), he said. 
Users are looking for different video content on wireless devices he said.

For example, some will want to watch video updates to weather or sports on a handheld wireless device while waiting for the bus.

“You will probably not watch Avatar on your cell phone.”




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