Ericsson is buying Kathrein’s antenna business

Ericsson opened MWC 2019 by announcing the proposed acquisition of a big chunk of the antenna market leader Kathrein.

Speaking to press and analysts on the first morning of the show, Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm said the acquisition would be incorporated into its networks business and, while it will add around a quarter of a billion euros in revenues, the main point of it seems to be to add another feature set to its networking offering and also grab around 4,000 boffins.

Kathrein has been around for 100 years, but Ericsson seems to think the dawn of 5G means this is a good time to be a major antenna player. All the extra bandwidth promised by 5G needs a lot more channels and a bunch of new spectrum and Ekholm was keen to show how much thought Ericsson is already putting into this matter by showing off a product called the Radio Stripe, which it doesn’t seem to have spoken about before.

Ericsson radio stripe screen2

“Strengthening our in-house antenna competence is another important step in our networks portfolio strategy,” said Ericsson’s head of networks Fredrik Jejdling. “The acquisition of Kathrein’s antenna and filters business will expand our capabilities and competences in the advanced active and passive antenna domain further. With the additional focus on the antenna and filter business led by Kathrein professionals, we will broaden our offering to further optimize site space, which is vital for the introduction of 5G.”

Aside from that news Ekholm’s speech was, frankly, a bit dull. He mainly went through stuff already in the public domain and indulged in the usual, safe platitudes about how exciting 5G is and how great at it Ericsson is. Other hacks and analysts we spoke to at the event felt the same way and, knowing from first-hand experience that he’s much more charismatic in person, this ‘boring Börje’ on-stage persona is a little bit baffling.

Maybe it’s an understandable correction of the more hype-driven Vestberg era, but Ericsson does sometimes seem to have a bit of an understatement problem. Focusing on substance over style is laudable, but sometimes leaders need to lead ostentatiously. It would be nice to see Ekholm unshackle his personality and go off-message every now and then.

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