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Ericsson, one of Sweden's largest companies, is a provider of telecommunication and data communication systems, and related services, covering a range of technologies, including especially mobile networks. Ericsson is currently the world's largest mobile telecommunications equipment vendor with a market share of 35%.

Either directly or through subsidiaries, Ericsson also plays a major role in mobile devices and cable TV and IPTV systems. Ericsson was also the inventor of Bluetooth.

The company was founded by Lars Magnus Ericsson way back in 1876 as a telegraph equipment repair shop, and was incorporated on August 18, 1918. Since 2003, it has had its headquarters in Kista, Stockholm Municipality. Ericsson is considered part of the so-called "Wireless Valley". Since the mid-1990s, Ericsson's extensive presence in Stockholm has helped transform the city into one of the major hubs of information technology (IT) research in Europe. Ericsson has offices and operations in more than 180 countries around the world, with more than 17,700 staff being in Sweden, and also significant presences in, for example, Brazil, Finland, China, Italy, India, Ireland, Hungary, the UK and the US.

In the early 20th century, Ericsson dominated the world market for manual telephone exchanges but was late to introduce automatic equipment. The world's largest ever manual telephone exchange, serving 60,000 lines, was installed by Ericsson in Moscow in 1916. Throughout the 1990s, Ericsson held a 35-40% market share of installed cellular telephone systems. Like most of the telecommunications industry, Ericsson suffered heavy losses after the telecommunications crash in the early 2000s, and had to lay off tens of thousands of staff worldwide in an attempt to manage the financial situation, returning to profit by the mid-2000s.

Early History

Lars Magnus Ericsson began his association with telephones in his youth as an instrument maker. He worked for a firm that made telegraph equipment for the Swedish government agency Telegrafverket. In 1876, aged 30, he started a telegraph repair shop with help from his friend Carl Johan Andersson. The shop was in central Stockholm (No. 15 on Drottninggatan, the principal shopping street) and repaired foreign-made telephones. In 1878 Ericsson began making and selling his own telephone equipment. His phones were not technically innovative, as most of the inventions had already been made in the US. In 1878, he made an agreement to supply telephones and switchboards to Sweden's first telecom operating company, Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag.

Also in 1878, local telephone importer Numa Peterson hired Ericsson to adjust some telephones from the Bell Telephone Company. This inspired him to buy a number of Siemens telephones and analyze the technology further. (Ericsson had a scholarship at Siemens a few years earlier.) Through his firm's repair work for Telegrafverket and Swedish Railways, he was familiar with Bell and Siemens Halske telephones. He improved these designs to produce a higher quality instrument. These were used by new telephone companies, such as Rikstelefon, to provide cheaper service than the Bell Group. He had no patent or royalty problems, as Bell had not patented their inventions in Scandinavia. His training as an instrument maker was reflected in the high standard of finish and the ornate design which made Ericsson phones of this period so attractive to collectors. At the end of the year he started to manufacture telephones of his own, much in the image of the Siemens telephones, and the first product was finished in 1879.

With its reputation firmly established, Ericsson became a major supplier of telephone equipment to Scandinavia. However, as its factory could not keep up with demand, work such as joinery and metal-plating was contracted out. Much of its raw materials were imported, so in the following decades Ericsson bought into a number of firms to ensure supplies of essentials like brass, wire, ebonite and magnet steel. Much of the walnut used for cabinets was imported from the US.

As a result of Stockholm's telephone network expanding rapidly that year, the company reformed into a telephone manufacturing company. But when Bell bought the biggest telephone network in Stockholm, it only allowed its own telephones to be used with it. So Ericsson's equipment was sold mainly to free telephone associations in the Swedish countryside and in the other Nordic countries.

The high price of Bell equipment and services led Henrik Tore Cedergren to form an independent telephone company in 1883 called Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag. As Bell would not deliver equipment to competitors, he formed a pact with Ericsson, which was to supply the equipment for his new telephone network. In 1918 the companies were merged into Allmänna Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson.

In 1884, a multiple-switchboard manual telephone exchange was pretty much copied from a design by C. E. Scribner at Western Electric. As the device was not patented in Sweden, this was legal, although in the US it held patent 529421 since 1879. A single switchboard could handle up to 10,000 lines. The following year, LM Ericsson and Cedergren toured the US, visiting several telephone exchange stations to gather "inspiration". They found that US engineers were well ahead in switchboard design but Ericsson telephones were as good as any available.

In 1884, a technician named Anton Avén at Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag had combined the earpiece and the mouthpiece of a (by then) standard telephone into a handset. It was used by operators in the exchanges that needed to have one hand free when talking to their customers. Ericsson picked up this invention and incorporated it into Ericsson products, beginning with a telephone named The Dachshund.

International Expansion

In the late 1890s production grew, and as a result the Swedish market seemed to be reaching saturation point, Ericsson was able to expand into foreign markets through a number of agents. Britain and Russia were early markets. This eventually led to the establishment of factories in these countries. This was partly to improve chances of gaining local contracts, and partly because the Swedish factory could not keep up supply. In Britain, the National Telephone Company had been supplied with Ericsson equipment for some time and was a major customer. By 1897, Britain was accounting for 28% of Ericsson's sales. Other Nordic countries had become Ericsson customers as well, spurred by the rapid growth of telephone services in Sweden.

Other countries and colonies were exposed to Ericsson products through the influence of their parent countries. These included Australia and New Zealand, which by the late 1890s were Ericsson's largest non-European market. With mass production techniques now firmly established, the phones were losing some of their ornate finish and decoration.

Despite their successes elsewhere, Ericsson did not make significant sales into the United States. The Bell Group and local companies like Kellogg and Automatic Electric had this market tied up. Ericsson eventually sold its US assets. In contrast, sales in Mexico were good and led to further development into South American countries. South Africa and China were also generating significant sales. With his company now multinational, and growing strongly, Lars Ericsson stepped down from the company in 1901.

Business Unit Networks: Mobile and Fixed Networks

One of the things that LM Ericsson does these days is to provide mobile systems solutions to network operators. Its systems offerings include radio base stations, base station and radio network controllers, mobile switching centers and service application nodes. Its end-to-end solutions offer operators a network migration to 3G.

Mobile Access

Ericsson provides mobile telecommunications systems that incorporate any of the major second-generation (2G) (global system for mobile communications (GSM), time division multiple access (TDMA), code division multiple access (CDMA)), 2.5G (General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)) and 3G (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE), wideband code division multiple access (W-CDMA), High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), Evolved HSPA (HSPA+, I-HSPA), Evcode division multiple access (third generation cellular/radio technology) (CDMA2000), time division synchronous code division multiple access (TD-SCDMA)) mobile technology standards.

The company is able to offer tailored solutions to a network operator, regardless of the existing network standard used. Ericsson is actively involved in the development of standards for the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) of 3G. Through network operators Ericsson offers service to over two billion customers worldwide.

Fixed Broadband Access

The expansion of Ericsson's fixed broadband offering is an important step to address network operators as they begin integrating their fixed and mobile networks. It supplies broadband multi-service communications equipment and services mainly to fixed network operators in Latin America and Europe. Its solution for such multi-service networks utilizes a layered soft-switch service and control architecture, combined with broadband access and core network routing and transmission elements. Fixed network equipment and associated network rollout services account for 7% of Systems sales.

Devices

Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB (Sony Ericsson) delivers mobile phones, accessories and personal computer (PC) cards. Sony Ericsson is responsible for product design and development, as well as marketing, sales, distribution and customer services. About one-third of Sony Ericsson's handsets are produced at their factory in China. The remaining two-thirds of production is more or less equally split between contract manufacturers (EMS) and other device manufacturers (ODM) at locations in several countries in Asia, Latin America and Europe, mainly Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Slovakia, Germany, and Malaysia in that order.

Since the joint venture Sony Ericsson started in 2001, Ericsson does not make cell / mobile phones by itself anymore.

Ericsson Mobile Platforms

Ericsson Mobile Platforms is a supplier of technology platforms for GSM/EDGE and WCDMA/HSPA platforms used in devices, such as mobile handsets and PC cards. Through Ericsson Mobile Platforms, LM Ericsson licenses open-standard, end-to-end interoperability tested GSM/EDGE and WCDMA technology platforms. The product offerings include reference designs, platform software, application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) designs and development boards, development and test tools, training, support and documentation. Ericsson Mobile Platforms has operations at nine global locations, with main operations in Sweden.

.mobi and Mobile Internet

Ericsson was instrumental, as an official backer, in the launch of the .mobi top level domain created specifically for the mobile internet. Since the launch of .mobi in September 2006, Ericsson has launched Ericsson.mobi, its mobile portal, and SonyEricsson.mobi, the mobile portal of Sony Ericsson. Additionally, Ericsson hosts a developer program called Ericsson Developer Connection, designed to encourage fast development of applications and services. Ericsson also has an open innovation initiative for beta applications and beta API's & tools called Ericsson Labs.

October 2011: Sony and Ericsson Split

In October 2011, Sony and Ericsson announced that they were not going to renew their ten-year pact, allowing the two companies to go their separate ways.

You can find out more about Ericsson and its history here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ericsson.


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