Ericsson’s senior VP fears for European technology leadership as Europe lags behind the US and Asia in 5G innovation

British and European operators must be more proactive in adopting 5G technology to avoid being left behind by operators in Asia and the US, according to Ulf Ewaldsson, senior vice president and head of business services at Ericsson.

Speaking exclusively to Total Telecom, Ewaldsson said that he feared that European operators were being too reactionary in their attitude to 5G technology.

"One issue that we have is that Europe is not very 5G orientated. Here, people are asking "what is the business case for it?". Whereas in the US they are ready to go, the whole industry is moving. This is also true in Asia – the whole industry is moving [towards 5G]. I’m a little bit worried about European technology leadership here". 

Ewaldsson said that British and European operators would miss out on the financial opportunities afforded to them, unless they kick their 5G ambitions into gear.

"I’m a little concerned that we are being too hesitant here. I think in the US they are more technology savvy. The telecoms industry has traditionally worked like this: we roll out a new technology and then it finds its own usage. 3G was a technology that we had no idea of how it was going to be used – everybody was saying that it was going to be all about video telephony and that didn’t really happen so much. However, what it did do was start the smart phone revolution which nobody predicted.

"Today we have given computing power to every single person on the street. They live a completely different life, based around apps and their smartphone. The kind of usage that 3G has enabled is absolutely gigantic, and have the operators derived any revenue from that? Of course they have, billions and billions of dollars! Is it as explosive as the revenue generated by the over the top players? No, but it is still very significant," he said

Ewaldsson said that 3G should act as cautionary tale to operators planning their 5G roll out. He urged operators to move now in order to reap the benefits in the future.

"If operators find themselves being hesitant about 5G they should ask themselves: what could be possible with such a platform? Do I think that the operators need to develop services? Not really. But they need to think about how they are going to monetize the situation by just sitting on that platform," he said. 

"You may ask how [will they achieve this]? The answer is, by doing it. Here [in Europe] we don’t see that attitude. If we meet with China Mobile in China, it’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of how and when."

Ericsson has been forging ahead with its own 5G trials in Europe, recently unveiling plans to deliver the first 5G ready business campus in Europe at the Corda Campus in Belgium.

The firm has also conducted 5G testing at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, in collaboration with its partners Rostelecom. In the preparation phase, Ericsson will deliver the full range of solutions required for the trial and provide expertise for the implementation and integration. The solutions include Ericsson Radio System which is prepared for 5G implementation. The network will be operated in the 3.5GHz frequency band and support LTE/LTE-Advanced devices.