Ericsson Warns Europe of Imminent Dangers in Delay of 5G Rollout

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Emma Okonji

Europe needs urgent and decisive action if it is to benefit from the competitive and innovative capabilities of 5G or it will lose out to the United States (US), China, and other regions, Ericsson President and CEO, Börje Ekholm, has warned.

Ekholm, who gave the warning in his keynote address titled: ‘Europe and 5G- The Need for Speed’, while addressing an audience of international political and business leaders, start-ups, and innovators at the Viva Technology Conference in Paris recently, called on European governments and regulators to act fast to remove barriers hindering speedy 5G roll out in the country.

Ekholm highlighted Ericsson’s ability to roll out 5G now for customers anywhere in the world by pointing to live commercial 5G networks with lead customers in the U.S., Korea, and Swisscom in Switzerland. He said commercial 5G launches were also close in other regions.

But unlike the US and Asia, he said Europe as a whole lacks a concerted regulatory effort to facilitate the speedy realisation of 5G digitalisation. Failure to quickly address this means the region will be at a competitive disadvantage, he warned.

“It’s time to speed up 5G in Europe,” he said. “We can’t afford to have our European entrepreneurs and enterprises innovate on an old and aging infrastructure. 5G must be seen as a critical national infrastructure, just as vital as trains or ports or airports.”

Ekholm said this mindset already exists in the US, Asia, and elsewhere.

“The US and China sees 5G as a critical national infrastructure and the backbone of digitalising society,” he said.

He said Europe had the same approach when 4G was launched, failing to act on the technology, while the US and Asia pressed ahead, resulting in Europe falling three-to-four years behind.

It was no coincidence, he said, that big 4G winners such as Alibaba, Netflix, and Tencent emerged from the US and China, and not Europe.

He said: “It’s up to countries to decide if they want to be part of the revolution that 5G is going to bring,” he said, adding that 5G spectrum must be made available in a coordinated fashion and at reasonable prices to catalyze the roll-out of digital infrastructure.

“Today a spectrum auction is deemed a success if it raises the maximum amount of money for the tax income of the government. But the reality is that we need to factor in all the other benefits you would get from rapidly building out the telecom infrastructure,” Ekholm said, while calling for action on the length of spectrum licenses, saying the current approach in Europe results in investment uncertainty among operators in the latter part of a licensing period.”

On security, Ekholm stressed Ericson’s commitment to working with others to ensure that security concerns are addressed and answered, in a way that doesn’t defeat the purpose of the technology.

“With 5G, when we have the ability to connect every ‘thing’ security is of course of critical importance. End-to-end 5G security was actually factored-in when 5G was designed. But as with every system in the history of technology, it is not possible to always guarantee 100 percent security,” Ekholm added.

He explained that given the complexity of future architecture, and future networks, the security in 5G would not only depend on the equipment in the networks. It will also depend on the security solutions deployed, and the operating parameters of the network, basically decisions the operator will make.

“We see large enterprises reaching out to us to ask about the resiliency of 5G networks and also IPR theft. The question about security is a global question and it’s going to be big,” Ekholm said.

French President, Emmanuel Macron; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; and former US Secretary of State, John Kerry, were among the main stage speakers on the first day of the Viva Technology Conference, as well as several major global technology CEOs.