First quarter results from Ericsson look set to benefit from a recovery in the global network gear market that could help soften any impact on its supply chain from the earthquake in Japan.

Ericsson said in mid-March the situation in Japan was not expected to have a material impact on first-quarter sales, but there would be some effect on supply.

This could mean a hit to sales in the coming months.

Ericsson's mobile phone joint venture, Sony Ericsson, said it was facing shortages of items like printed circuit boards and saw the biggest impact coming in the second quarter.

Nokia also said its phone sales would be hit in the second quarter with the impact easing in the following three month period.

The global tech gear market has begun to rebound after a sharp downturn as operators invest in new network equipment to meet surging demand from smartphone and mobile internet users.

Ericsson rival Alacatel-Lucent reckons the global market for telecom gear will grow in the high end of a 0-5 percent range this year.

But Ericsson has said a shift in business mix with more activity in China and India would hit its gross margin. It also faces tough competition from the likes of China's Huawei and investors will be looking to see how this has impacted profitability.

Analysts forecast the gross margin to dip to 37.5 percent against 38.5 percent a year ago.

Despite headwinds from a strong Swedish currency, rising sales should offset the fall and push core profit -- excluding restructuring and joint ventures -- to 5.4 billion crowns ($882 million) from 4.5 billion.

Sales are seen up 9 percent with the key networks unit up 12 percent. A disappointment in sales or gross margin would likely hit Ericsson shares.

Ericsson reports on April 27 at 0530 GMT. Rival Alcatel-Lucent reports on May 6.

(Editing by Jane Merriman)