MWC 2018: Ericsson CEO on 5G revenues

During his MWC 2018 keynote, Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm covered the hundreds of billions of dollars in potential 5G revenues, telling ZDNet that Telstra is a global frontrunner in the upgrade of its mobile network ahead of 5G implementation.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm and Telstra CEO Andy Penn

(Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet)

Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm has announced the Swedish networking giant's guide for how telecommunications carriers can maximise revenues during the transition to 5G, telling ZDNet that Telstra is one of the global leaders.

During his keynote at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona on Monday morning, Ekholm said that while there are many use cases, he believes enhanced mobile broadband will be the first commercial deployment of 5G.

According to Ekholm, 4G will serve as the foundation for 5G, with Ericsson providing capabilities across Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (Massive MIMO) and network slicing.

"[Ericsson] pioneered the concept of network slicing," Ekholm claimed.

"We believe network slicing is critical as we move into the 5G world; we performed a joint study with DT that showed a cost reduction in the core of the network of 40 percent, and at the same time creating a potential for revenue increase of 35 percent compared to one large network."

Making an appearance during the keynote, Telstra CEO Andy Penn echoed comments made to ZDNet last month at CES in Las Vegas by saying 2018 will be a big year for 5G.

"It's not just about the marketing pitch; it's actually about building an integrative roadmap to the world of 5G, and so there's a lot more that we can do on 4G," Penn said on Monday, pointing towards Telstra's 2Gbps 4G capability, NB-IoT and Cat-M1 networks, and the continued virtualisation of its core network with Ericsson and Ciena.

"It's a big year, it is all about 5G, but what's crucial is that we bring together the whole ecosystem rather than just one single 5G solution."

Telstra had on Sunday announced that it would be rolling out a 5G network in 2019 to major cities and regional areas in Australia in partnership with Ericsson, with Ekholm telling ZDNet that this makes the telco a leader.

"We think they are very early, and clearly one of the key frontrunners we work with in order to build penetration of 5G," Ericsson's CEO told ZDNet.

Read also: MWC 2018: Telstra's 5G rollout plan for 2019

Penn said Telstra has always been a leader in networking technology, and it is "critical" to remain so by working in partnership with Ericsson.

"What's critical for us as an industry, and certainly for us as Telstra, is we absolutely have to look at the technology through the lens of our customers," he explained.

"There's all this amazing stuff that's happening in Massive MIMO and artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things and 5G, and I always have to sort of ground myself in the reality of the world of our customers."

Ericsson's newly unveiled 5G-IoT report showed nine "use-case clusters" for 5G industry digitalisation, including real-time automation, which it said has a revenue potential of $101 billion by 2026.

Enhanced video services came in second, with potential revenue of $96 billion.

With Ekholm saying licensed spectrum will be a "key competitive advantage" for service providers, the chief executive also spoke to the role of governments in enabling the 5G migration.

"We believe governments need to make new spectrum available in the mid band and the high bands," Ekholm said. "This is really critical for 5G capacity and performance. We believe this will complement the current low band that's available in sub-2GHz spectrum today.

"Nations will also need to provide a stable regulatory environment and access to harmonised frequency bands as the foundation for 5G infrastructure. In addition, we need to have a faster permitting process to allow for a faster build-up of 5G.

"In short, government must start to look at mobile infrastructure as a critical national resource, and not just a resource for tax dollars."

In relation to the hot topic of net neutrality, Ekholm said that while Ericsson believes in non-discriminatory access to information and data, he added that "not all traffic is created equal". Once remote surgery is being performed over 5G, for instance, it should be given priority over other traffic, he said.

Ekholm also revealed that Ericsson on Sunday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China Mobile on Internet of Things (IoT) acceleration to work on developing a joint innovation centre in China.

Ericsson had announced the completion of its 5G commercial software across radio and core networks earlier this month, saying it would allow telecommunications carriers to launch 5G services from Q4 this year.

MWC 2018 Coverage

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