Börje Ekholm

Emma Okonji

Ericsson, a networking technology company has stressed the need for counties, especially African countries, Nigeria inclusive, to develop a strong 5G foundation network that would position service providers at the centre of the digital ecosystem.

The President and CEO of Ericsson, Börje Ekholm, who gave the advice in a keynote speech at the just concluded 2018 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, spoke with the co-anchor of Squawk Box Europe on CNBC, Karen Tso, during the day’s first keynote session called The Foundations of The Digital Economy.

He reinforced many of the same messages from his press conferences that 5G has moved from buzzword to a commercial reality, highlighting the company’s 38 MoUs and several commercial contracts with service providers.
“We see 5G as a way to show the value of the network. A lot of technology depends on a strong mobile infrastructure, he said.

He added that while increased speed would be important with 5G, lower latency and longer battery life could be even more so.

5G has been designed to be the industrial internet, with remote control of machinery and maintenance with augmented reality as two prime examples.

In Nigeria, service providers are beginning to roll out 4G services, which come with higher speed of connectivity, but the connectivity speed of 5G is far more higher than that of 4G, among other fascinating features that will boost broadband penetration, which 5G has.

“At the same time, the consumer will see this too, for instance, in health care and autonomous vehicles where low latency will be a critical factor,” Ekholm said.

Ekholm addressed the need for the right regulatory regime, a point he also made earlier, while emphasising deregulation in Europe and easier site permitting processes, which will allow for the rapid build out of sites necessary for 5G.

“It’s important for governments to see networks as critical natural resources. About 100 years ago, we built out railways and roads, but the future roads are digital highways”, Ekholm added.

Tso and Ekholm finished by looking ahead to the future on several levels – commercially, in terms of new devices and in how 5G will dramatically change the lives of Africans and other continents.

“5G will be a commercial reality for a couple reasons. The first is data traffic. We need 5G to bring cost per gigabyte down. We also see that early movers in new technology gain a benefit. We saw that with early movers in 4G – they get higher average revenue per user and higher market share,” Ekholm said.

Ericsson predicts there will be a billion 5G devices on the market by 2023, and they could likely shift how people interact with connected devices.

“We will see more wearables, and fragmentation on the device side will be larger. Today the smartphone is the centre of ecosystem. That could look different in a 5G world,” he said, pointing out that it is about opening up possibilities.