Åke - the new Lars Magnus
Three other important events in 1977 involved shifts of leadership at L.M. Ericsson, SRA and Sweden’s Televerket: Björn Svedberg succeeded Björn Lundvall (L.M. Ericsson), Åke Lundqvist took over from Ivar Ahlgren (SRA), and Tony Hagström replaced Bertil Bjurel (Televerket). Lundvall, Ahlgren and Bjurel had been keeping pace with each other in the same three-sided relationship for more than ten years; now their roles were to be taken over by Svedberg, Lundqvist and Hagström – and they too were to occupy those roles for more than a decade.
Although nobody realized it in 1977, exactly one century after Lars Magnus Ericsson became acquainted with his first telephone, Lundqvist was to start the process that led to the new L.M. Ericsson, the telecommunications company we know today. In many ways it differed fundamentally from the old L.M. Ericsson.
Lundqvist, like Lars Magnus Ericsson, was born and brought up in Värmland, although Lundqvist grew up in Ransäter, about 50 kilometers northeast of Lars Magnus’s village of Norrtomta. Like Lars Magnus, he spent his final years before moving to Stockholm in Karlstad, although Lundqvist attended high school there instead of working in a workshop like Lars Magnus.
Ransäter had a radio shop: as a teenager, Lundkvist spent all his spare time there, attempting to talk the staff into giving him components. Sometimes he was given some spare parts to take home, using them to construct his own radio. When he left school, the next logical step was to apply to the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm to study radiotelephony.
After graduating as an engineer, Lundqvist found a job in Stockholm at Nordisk Teleproduktion, the Swedish representative of companies including Motorola, and so became involved in the development of mobile phones for the MTB system. In 1963 Lundqvist moved to SRA, initially as a project manager and later as chief engineer in the civilian applications section. This involved, for instance, collaboration with one of SRA’s part-owners, Marconi, and Sweden’s Televerket.
One important aspect was that Lundqvist managed SRA’s contacts with the NMT group and developed a good relationship with Carl-Gösta Åsdal at Televerket.
THE FIRST NMT TENDERS
Another event in 1977 was that the Nordic telecom authorities issued tenders for base stations and exchanges for the impending NMT system. Everyone noticed that L.M. Ericsson and SRA were not on the ball: “They were out of step with the market,” is Meurling & Jeans’ comment. In fact, things were even worse: because of L.M. Ericsson’s lack of understanding, which purchasers saw as arrogance, the company nearly got left behind completely.
A Swedish company, Magnetic, and the Japanese company Mitsubishi became the suppliers of the first series of base stations for all the Nordic telecommunications agencies.
But what exchange should the agencies choose? Mäkitalo and his colleagues were well aware of the work going on to develop AXE. And Mäkitalo had known for a long time that he did not want anything else.
L.M. ERICSSON SKEPTICAL
The Ellemtel agreement between L.M. Ericsson and Televerket allowed them both to build AXE exchanges in their factories. The agreement stipulated, however, that all AXE orders outside Sweden were to be handled by L.M. Ericsson. But L.M. Ericsson was skeptical and felt that the Nordic agencies should opt for the AKE-13.
One of L.M. Ericsson’s arguments was that the AXE was over-dimensioned for mobile telephony. And adapting the AXE for NMT would involve extra work: Mäkitalo recalls: “The people dealing with AXE were kings at L.M. Ericsson. They could not understand why the system should be used for something as peripheral as radiotelephony.”
The Japanese suppliers, on the other hand, had no problems. Haug recalls: “Their usual response was something like, ‘If that’s the way you want it, then that’s how we’ll do it.’” Mäkitalo adds: “NEC and Mitsubishi proposed electronic exchanges that matched our requirements. We had an enormous discussion with the L.M. Ericsson people. I told them that the Japanese were offering what we were asking for and pointed out that L.M. Ericsson could not be considered as a supplier if they did not comply with our requirements.”
For Televerket’s NMT group, it was difficult to understand how the exchange their own people had helped develop could not be supplied.
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn
Åke Lundqvist, president of SRA/ERA 1977-1988, president of Ericsson GE Mobile Communications 1989-1994.