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Juniper Networks has partnered with Ericsson to offer carriers a collection of products for moving 4G and 5G traffic from a cell site to the network core. The deal marks an important win for Juniper, which is filling the void left by the nearly dead partnership between rival Cisco and Ericsson.
The Juniper-Ericsson alliance combines routers and software from both companies to build an optical transport for a mobile network that carriers can manage through a single software console, according to the vendors. The partners' combined routers include Juniper's MX and PTX series and Ericsson's 6000 hardware.
Juniper and Ericsson have partnered on technology for almost 20 years. But the latest deal is a "significant win" for Juniper, because it improves the company's chances of winning deals, as service providers build out their network infrastructure to deliver 5G wireless services to consumers and businesses, said Rajesh Ghai, an analyst at IDC.
For example, the partnership could provide Juniper with access to the many service providers that use Ericsson's radio access technology to connect customers' mobile devices to the carriers' core networks, Ghai said. Ericsson has a 40% share of the radio access market.
Also, of the three top carrier suppliers, Ericsson is the only one without an extensive routing portfolio -- a void Juniper can fill. The other two suppliers are Nokia and Huawei.
"It was critical that Juniper get aligned with Ericsson," Ghai said. "It remains to be seen how exclusive Ericsson can keep the relationship."
Meanwhile, Juniper's biggest rival, Cisco, is more focused on selling its routers directly to service providers, rather than through Ericsson, Ghai said. Also, Cisco and Ericsson compete with products for the packet core, which has created "suspicion between the two partners."
Cisco and Ericsson announced a wide-ranging partnership in 2015, but financial troubles pushed Ericsson into an extensive reorganization that prevented the company from following through on the deal. Nevertheless, Cisco has never declared the partnership dead, despite its failure to reach sales goals.
"Where we need to partner with Ericsson, we will continue to do that. And where we're working directly with SPs [service providers], we'll continue to do that," said Sumeet Arora, general manager of service provider network systems at Cisco.
Juniper, Ericsson combined products for service providers
The Juniper-Ericsson partnership includes Juniper's MX Series 5G Universal Routing Platform and its PTX Series Packet Transport Routers. The hardware supports mobile infrastructure for 10 Gb, 100 Gb and 400 Gb optical transport.
Juniper has aimed the MX at the service provider's WAN edge, which could include routing traffic from a cell site onto the service provider's core network. The PTX Series can handle traffic on the service provider's backbone. Juniper has also designed the hardware to handle Internet peering and data center interconnects.
Juniper's MX and PTX routers are interoperable with Ericsson's Router 6000 mobile backhaul and fronthaul portfolio. A wireless backhaul router connects mobile device traffic to a network node, such as the internet or a proprietary network. A fronthaul device sits at the access layer of the network and aggregates traffic from IoT devices.
Other hardware covered in the partnership includes Ericsson's MINI-LINK microwave radio backhaul device. The partners are also offering software such as Juniper's firewall, called the SRX Series Services Gateway, and Ericsson's management and orchestration technology for controlling all the partners' products.
In general, analysts do not expect service providers to take 5G infrastructure technology into production until next year, with businesses unlikely to buy 5G services until 2020 at the earliest. Industry observers expect IoT to be an initial driver of the 5G commercial market.