The world is talking about 5G. We are deploying it.
It is virtually impossible to check the news without finding a story on 5G.
There are stories on the benefits it will bring and stories on the risks that need to be mitigated. There are stories about who is leading and who is lagging in 5G deployment and about the rules of engagement for building and running 5G networks. 5G networks are critical national infrastructure with large impact on society and the competitiveness of countries. Like any technology shift, the noise level is high.
So the world is talking about 5G. But for us, it’s not just talk. We are already busy building the first 5G networks together with our pioneering customers. We were first with commercial live networks in the United States and have already deployed operational 5G networks based on commercial equipment in Europe, Australia and Asia.
That is what Ericsson is about. We are tech leaders – in the market where it really matters.
Our focus is on providing competitive solutions and technology that creates value for our customers. It is the only way we can build a long-term sustainable company. Over the last two years, we have hired net 4,000 engineers in R&D to lead in 5G.
Competition is the mother of innovation. So also in our industry, and we see that the competition between vendors has been positive in developing future network technologies.
We are proud of our market position and of our portfolio. We have to date publicly announced 5G deals with 15 named service provider customers, which is more than any other vendor, as well as 43 memorandums of understanding. The Ericsson Radio System hardware has been 5G-ready since 2015 and can be used also for 5G NR with a remote software installation. This means we have already shipped more than 3 million 5G-ready radios to our customers worldwide. We have also been the largest contributor to the standardization body in 3GPP during 2018 to show our leading position.
But I’m not just excited about 5G for Ericsson. We are on the threshold of a global technology shift - with new opportunities, new efficiencies, and new business models. This goes beyond our industry. It is a shift for our entire society.
Paradigm shifts in technology are powerful things, generating excitement but sometimes also unease. This makes it crucial that we clearly explain our technology to the world around us. We must make sure that other industries, governments and people trust the security and integrity of our networks. And we must do all of this against a complicated and changing geopolitical backdrop.
Why Europe could fall behind in 5G
In recent weeks, we’ve seen daily reports that Europe would fall behind on 5G. It is true that there is such a risk, but it is not true that this is because European service providers lack access to the right technology. Instead, it is lack of spectrum, high spectrum fees and heavy regulation that is blocking progress. For example, spectrum auctions have not even been held in the majority of European countries.
As we talk with our customers, it is clear they are impacted by this uncertainty. They have made large investments and will continue to make large investments to have strong performing networks. They have a lot at stake, and we understand that continued uncertainty will impact their ability to move forward.
Ericsson’s capability to deploy 5G
Over many years we have built up vast experience and industry-leading capabilities to support new and existing customers in transforming their networks, including several large swaps.
We have the resources and the supply chain capacity to meet a fast ramp-up of market demand as 5G is introduced globally. Our strategy is to work with the first movers in lead markets, driving 5G introduction as spectrum becomes available.
We have a strong and flexible 5G portfolio in place and we will make sure that our customers stay ahead of the game.
5G security – going beyond standards
Much of the discussion around 5G globally is focused now on security. With 5G, security is not an add-on, but built in from the start as part of the standardization process. That’s why 5G is the most secure network generation ever.
Yet the 5G standard is not the full answer to a secure 5G network. As 5G becomes a critical infrastructure, what will really determine the security of a network will be the security technology and operational procedures that are put on top of the standardized features.
When it comes to questions about software embedded in the core of 5G networks, Ericsson, like most other software providers, conducts software testing during the development phase. This has the benefit of providing instant feedback and makes it possible to fix issues promptly as part of normal development.
Post-development testing is sometimes brought forward as a means to achieve security assurance of live telecom networks. This is a decision for the policy makers, and if it is mandated we will of course comply.
However, we see it as an insufficient tool since lab-testing only reflects a limited representation of a network, at a given point in time in a specific test configuration. It also risks slowing down innovation and delaying time to market, including new security updates while leading to extra costs in the entire system as modern software development builds on continuous deployments of new releases and functionality. In particular critical 5G use cases, such as autonomous driving and manufacturing, will potentially require expanded scope of testing further slowing down the development of new industrial business cases.
Winning with our technology
5G is happening now, and we are embracing its transformative potential. Again, we are already deploying commercial 5G equipment with frontrunner customers in frontrunner markets and we will be there when the time is right for 5G in each market.