What’s up with… Orange, Ericsson, SK Telecom

  • Orange reports modest growth in 2023
  • Ericsson spews news ahead of MWC24
  • SK Telecom unveils AI-based power-saving tech for smartphones

In today’s industry news roundup: Orange grows its revenues in 2023 and highlights business unit turnaround; Ericsson unveils a slew of hardware and software products ahead of Mobile World Congress; SK Telecom works with chip and AI partners on smartphone power-saving tech advances; and much more! 

Orange has booked modest growth in revenues and earnings for 2023, but has notably managed to reduce its annual operating costs by around €300m, half of the total it was aiming to save by the end of 2025. The telco group’s overall revenues in 2023 were up 1.8% year on year to €44.1bn, an increase of €790m, driven by a 3.5% rise in retail services and a 7.3% increase in equipment sales. On a geographical basis, the company’s best-performing region was the Middle East and Africa (MEA), where revenue grew by 11.4% to €7.2bn in 2023. Orange CEO Christel Heydemann attributed the rise to growth in mobile data, Orange Money and business-to-business activities. She also noted the company’s “solid performance” in Europe, where the region booked a modest 2.2% increase in revenues to €11.6bn, mainly driven by gains made in Poland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Spain brought in year-on-year growth for the first time since 2018, with a 1.1% rise in revenue to €4.7bn. Heydemann expressed confidence that the proposed €18.6bn merger deal with MásMóvil in the country will be approved by the European Commission, ahead of a decision expected by 22 February. In its domestic market of France, Orange saw its revenues decline 1.4% to €17.7bn. However, Heydemann noted that the transformation plan for Orange Business is delivering “encouraging initial results” with an improvement in the earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation after leases (EBITDAaL) trend. Orange Business revenues were slightly up by 0.2% year on year to €7.9bn, with the main contributors, IT and integration services, growing by 6.3%, and mobile revenues up by 2.6%. These increases offset a decline in the voice and data legacy businesses, which dropped by 6.7% year on year. The company’s overall EBITDAaL for 2023 stood at €13bn, up 1.3% on 2022. Orange also noted that it managed to save some €300m despite inflation, mainly due to a headcount reduction as part of the French “part-time for seniors” agreement, and programmes targeting savings across purchasing, IT, networks and real estate. According to the company, it has retained a leadership position in convergence, boasting 11.9 million convergent customers group wide, up by 0.7% in 2023. “One year on from the announcement of our ‘Lead the Future’ strategic plan, we have achieved all our financial targets for 2023. These results are a testament to our ability to execute and advance our major strategic projects,” commented Heydemann. Find out more.

Ericsson launched a slew of new products on Thursday ahead of the upcoming MWC24 gathering in Barcelona at the end of February. The new launches included a range of radio products (all of which the vendor says are Open RAN-enabled), headed up by the AIR 3255, a massive MIMO time division duplex (TDD) radio that, the vendor claims, boasts a 20% lower embodied carbon footprint (related to greenhouse gas emissions that occur prior to first use of the product and throughout the process from raw material extraction up to final product delivery) and offers 25% lower power consumption compared with previous Ericsson radio products. The vendor also launched new software offerings, including its new Service Orchestration and Assurance stack, which is designed to enable network operators to orchestrate and manage services across multiple multivendor network domains in hybrid IT environments and which, the vendor notes, “works across network generations to efficiently coordinate service creation and management.” Ericsson also announced its Dynamic Network Slicing solution, which is based on the Service Orchestration and Assurance system. Telia’s group chief operating officer, Dr. Rainer Deutschmann, is keen on the Service Orchestration and Assurance product: “At Telia, we’re at a transition point within our transformation to industrialise our capabilities – transforming how we create, manage and monetise services. We’re pushing boundaries on the innovation front with our NorthStar programme enabling open innovation with industry partners. And the only way to be successful is if we force the need to simplify, standardise, and scale. Ericsson Service Orchestration and Assurance will help us get new, innovative services to market and to revenue quickly, reliably, and easily.”

And in more news from Ericsson…. Its Vonage division, which is developing a global platform that can expose network APIs to developers, is collaborating with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to combine the assets of the Vonage platform, the hyperscaler’s services and Ericsson’s 5G network capabilities to help “accelerate the availability of new solutions to millions of AWS developers through AWS Marketplace.” Niklas Heuveldop, the recently appointed CEO of Vonage, noted: “By working with AWS, we will accelerate our ability to embed communications and network APIs in applications and deliver new product offerings for AWS and Vonage customers. With network APIs, we are exposing new capabilities from within the 5G network that have never been available before, allowing existing applications to be enhanced with network information and enabling the development of a new class of applications.” Read more

SK Telecom (SKT) has developed an AI-based power-saving technology for smartphones together with chipmaker MediaTek and AI startup Nota AI. The on-device technology allows the handset to make real-time predictions about whether data transmission will occur within a certain period of time. As a result, it can control an “optimal connection status” between the device and the base station. When the technology predicts that data transmission is unlikely to occur, it will disconnect the smartphone from the base station to prevent unnecessary use of power. To develop this technology, the trio selected an “optimal AI model” and focused on making the model as lightweight as possible, using techniques such as “quantisation and pruning to enable low-latency and low-power operation on smartphones.” They then applied the lightweight AI model to a real smartphone modem to verify its real-time operation and to predict data transmission needs. The South Korean operator noted that it will introduce its R&D work at its MWC Barcelona 2024 booth and that it will continue to focus on improving the “completeness of the technology” by advancing AI models and testing network interworking. Find out more.

Telecom Italia (TIM) has reported a 3.2% year-on-year rise in group total revenues to €16.3bn in 2023. In its preliminary results, the telco stated that this growth was driven by improved performance in its Brazilian unit (total revenues were up by 10.7% year on year to €4.3bn), as well as gains made across its Enterprise unit (with total revenues up by 4.6% to €3bn), boosted by ICT revenues growth: Cloud services were 31% higher year on year, followed by internet of things (IoT) revenues that were up by 24%, and security services – up 11% from their 2022 levels. TIM also booked gains in NetCo, its domestic fixed line network business that is to be acquired by private equity firm KKR for €18.8bn, with total revenues up 3.7% year on year, though a specific figure has not been disclosed. The Italian operator further revealed that its capital expenditure (capex) stood at €4bn on a group level, of which €3.1bn was related to its domestic business. Net financial debt stood at €25.7bn by the end of December 2023, some €300m higher than in 2022. Alongside the results, TIM CEO Pietro Labriola has reportedly stated that the company does not expect any antitrust issues, which could impede the planned sale of NetCo, and that the deal would not create market concentration. The transaction is expected to be finalised by mid-2023.

German open-source software specialist SUSE has launched the latest version of its telco cloud stack, the Adaptive Telco Infrastructure Platform (ATIP), which has now reached its third iteration. The company says ATIP, which is designed for flexible and automated distributed network operations, has been enhanced following feedback from SUSE’s telco customers, as well as vendor partners such as Ericsson and Huawei. “The telco market is undergoing transformation, and our customers are responding to SUSE ATIP as it delivers on the promise of an adaptable platform for telecom operators,” stated Thomas Di Giacomo, chief technology and product officer at SUSE. “We are seeing adoption for a broad range of use cases across mobile and fixed networks, such as 5G packet core, cloud radio access network (RAN), fibre-to-the-home/building and others,” he added. 

- The staff, TelecomTV

Email Newsletters

Sign up to receive TelecomTV's top news and videos, plus exclusive subscriber-only content direct to your inbox.