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Ericsson issues a rallying cry on 5G roll-out, warning that Europe isn't keeping pace

Börje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson, took to the stage at VivaTech in Paris, France, to issue a rallying cry for the roll-out of 5G.

“5G offers a new ecosystem for innovation,” Ekholm said. “USA gets it, China gets it … the only part [of the world] where we see a slow traction is in Europe – it’s only Swisscom who have launched commercially so far.” 

Of course the CEO of a telecoms company actively involved in the deployment of 5G networks is going to want to speed-up the process, but this wasn’t purely about boosting the bottom line of Ericsson. It was about boosting Europe’s standing on the world stage and supporting Europe’s entrepreneurs.

When 4G networks were launched, no one really knew what the use cases would be. There was talk about faster data and video calling, but the real explosion in innovation came from things like e-commerce, ride hailing and other connected services – and in the main, those have come from the US and China.

“In Europe when 4G came there was a lot of debate about use cases … Meanwhile China pressed ahead to build-out 4G networks,” and the result was huge companies like Alibaba and Tencent. 

“We [in Europe] don’t have a current infrastructure built-up – it’s comparable to saying that a country with no roads will build the fastest car,” he said, warning that Europe will see the experience of 4G repeating itself, and will be left behind when it comes to future innovation.

To get things on track Ericsson says there are a number of clear steps to be taken: 5G needs to be seen as a critical national infrastructure and things need to be done at a reasonable price, to ensure that innovators in Europe and compete. 

While much of the talk about 5G has been about connected cars and lag-free VR, in reality we don’t yet know what new technologies it will bring and what doors 5G will open in the future. But the warning from Ericsson is clear the time to strike is now, or risk being left behind for another generation.


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