As if the launch of a new indoor wireless solution wasn’t enough to keep Ericsson’s marketing folks busy last week, the vendor also had to pull off its annual analyst conference. From a self-serving standpoint, the timing couldn’t have been better; we had lots of questions about the Radio Dot System and Ericsson served up lots of execs who could answer those questions in person. On top of that, the weather down in San Jose was beautiful!
Fast forward and it might seem that the question-answer dynamic wasn’t exactly smooth. Comparing notes with colleagues – and even competitors – some questions just didn’t have answers. Worse yet, some questions had different answers depending on the day. Some examples:
- “Can the cabling used to connect radio units and antennas (Dots) carry both enterprise data and RF signals?” An initially negative response was followed up by a positive one, with the caveat that Ericsson’s doesn’t recommend doing that.
- “Does each frequency require a different set of infrastructure?” An initially positive response was followed up by noting that different Dots and radio units would be necessary but that one cable could support two bands.
- “How might the Radio Dot System align itself with operator interests in putting compute power and memory close to the network edge?” Initial references to potential synergies were later met with rather confused looks from RAN executives – while cloud and virtualization sessions outlined those exact use cases.
For a company that has traditionally excelled at delivering a coherent and consistent message, this confusion was somewhat surprising. With commercial availability of the Radio Dot System more than a year off, it’s perhaps unreasonable to expect Ericsson to have all of the answers now. Instead, I’d like to propose that this was all part of a larger message – if not a concerted plan.
Ericsson has made a point of highlighting its presence in Silicon Valley. More than just a place where Ericsson employees go to work, this is meant to showcase that Ericsson is doing its best to get close to the innovations driving network transformation. Yet part of embracing the Silicon Valley culture is accepting failure and uncertainty on a daily basis – taking risks, many of which won’t pay off. A closing dinner at AT&T’s Palo Alto Innovation Center (Foundry) made this clear when AT&T execs noted extreme pride in the high failure rate of service investigations coming out of the Foundry.
Ericsson has more than a year to get all of the details around Radio Dot sorted out. If operators expect them (or their competitors) to fully embrace an innovative culture, however, they shouldn’t ever be expected to have all of the answers. Taking risks isn’t always comfortable, but if it’s a necessary part of network innovation, then it’s a discomfort we need to embrace.