Speaking from his home over a videoconference link, Ekholm delivered a keynote speech that kicked off a new series of online events, the Ericsson UnBoxed Office.
“Our absolute highest priority remains the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees, our customers and our partners,” said Ekholm reflecting on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. “We are working hard to do what we can to contribute to the efforts to contain and slow down the pandemic.”
Ekholm stressed the importance of strong and reliable communications networks in the current environment and on staying close to customers and providing them with the best possible connectivity and network quality.
“Even when a country goes into lockdown, our engineers are still active in order to keep the networks up and running,” he says.
Ekholm provided a few examples of where Ericsson engineers have been on the front-line providing support for essential services including connectivity for hospitals in Wuhan, China and contributing to an AI data challenge with the US government.
He also highlighted the transformative changes that have been going on in the networks over the past 2 months. That shift has seen traffic move rapidly from business areas to residential areas over just a matter of days. In many networks, traffic has increased upwards of 20 percent.
Even with stay at home orders in place over much of the globe, Ericsson was able to move employees who operate customer networks from our global Network Operation Centers to home with zero impact on performance levels.
Ericsson made the transition to remote work globally already at the beginning of March and now has 85,000 employees routinely working from home.
The importance of network quality
“More than ever, connectivity is key. With the spread of COVID-19, fixed and mobile telecommunications networks have become an even bigger part of the critical infrastructure, showing the importance of quality in the connectivity,” says Ekholm.
In a recent study based on 4G life cycle data from more than thirty countries, Ericsson analyzed the correlation between network quality and financial performance. The conclusion: network quality is a powerful way to drive lower churn rate and increase the average revenue per user (ARPU).
“When we looked across all service providers, not just leaders, network quality correlated with increased ARPU and reduced churn. Put simply, investing in network quality keeps subscribers happy.”
5G offers service providers an opportunity to gain first-mover advantage and create a significant network performance gap with the competition.
“We are already seeing early signs of service providers monetizing the 5G opportunity, with positive ARPU trends and growing revenues in pioneering 5G markets,” says Ekholm.
The future of 5G
Given the importance of connectivity, and 5G in particular as critical national infrastructure, Ekholm believes that it is in the public interest to ensure that pervasive, high quality, affordable and secure networks are available when and wherever they may be required.
“5G will unlock the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and will be the cornerstone upon which a country’s relative competitiveness is built. While 4G gave us the app economy, 5G will be the greatest open innovation platform ever,” he says.
Ekholm adds that 5G will drive exponential public and private sector value including efficiencies in public services and new and more effective modes of delivery, for example in healthcare, education, transport and disaster control.
“It is vital that public policy supports a narrowing of the digital divide. Governments should ensure that every citizen and business will enjoy the benefits of the 5G era equally.”
This includes, according to Ekholm, countries developing a common and holistic policy that maximizes investment incentives for the private sector. It also includes making sufficient 5G spectrum available as soon as possible and optimizing spectrum assignments to deliver expansive 5G connectivity.
“In this time of crisis, we are prouder than ever of our people, the ones who are helping us connect the world. We have the best people in the industry, and I know I speak for all Ericsson employees when I say that we are, and will continue to be, a significant company on the world stage.”