In an attempt to turn the tides after the company suffered an operating loss in the last three months of 2016, Ericsson hired as CEO, Borje Ekholm, a Swedish business insider and veteran board member. Since Ekholm’s surprise appointment as CEO in 2016, Ekholm has been working toward restoring profitability by shedding costs, terminating unprofitable units and contracts, and making the networks business a 5G market leader.
In the third quarter (Q3) of 2018, the wireless network maker’s results indicated the growing interest of worldwide carriers in investing in 5G services.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Ekholm, during the World Economic Forum annual meeting 2019, in Davos, to find out about Ericsson’s future plans, his method for improving profitability, keeping the current growth momentum going, as well as his thoughts on how the 5G technologies would change the way we are living.
And onto the interview, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
Ericsson’s Q3 results showed earnings increase beating analysts’ expectations, what are the main drivers for growth?
There is strong momentum in the global 5G market with lead markets progressing. The global radio access market is recovering from several years of negative growth and our investments in research and development (R&D) have well-positioned us to benefit from this development.
Can the company’s witnessed growth in North America be replicated in other regions, especially in the MEA, considering the fierce competition from other regional players?
North America is indeed the leading 5G market. But there is a great interest and positive momentum in all parts of the world. One critical factor is the availability of the frequency spectrum and other factors that may slow down 5G investments. This is, for example, one of the reasons why Europe is somewhat behind.
What is Ericsson’s competitive edge when it comes to 5G?
Ericsson has a large established base in networks around the world, and as of 2015, we have shipped base stations that are software upgradable to 5G. This is something that is quite appreciated by our customers. Another thing is that we have a favourable long-lasting customer relationship with mobile operators across the world.
Do you see 5G as the new ‘space race’ between nations?
Ericsson’s focus is on our customers and to deliver competitive solutions based on our leading technology. However, obviously, 5G is important for all countries since it will be a critical part of countries’ infrastructures.
How can we decrease the connectivity gap, and reduce the inequality of access to technology?
The information and communications technology (ICT) offers an important platform for achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Every goal – from ending poverty and halting climate change to fighting injustice and inequality – can be positively impacted by ICT. Ericsson was one of the first pioneers of what is today referred to as “ICT for development,” with some of our main efforts dating back to the mid-2000s.
What can governments do, to increase the affordability of 5G, and increase its implementation rates?
The buildout of 5G networks is essential in order to enable new services and faster connectivity that will benefit consumers, businesses, and society. Ericsson encourages legislators and regulators to ensure that investment obstacles are reduced and that the frequency spectrum for 5G is allocated without delay.
How will 5G transform the way we currently live?
5G will take mobile communication toward a new era, connecting not only people but also anything that will benefit from being connected. We call this the internet of things (IoT) and it will positively contribute to the digitisation of entire countries, particularly through enhanced industrial competitiveness, improved socio-economic conditions in service sectors, and last but far from least contribute to a sustainable society. In addition, experience shows that new communications technology will lead to new innovations that today we may not be able to predict.
Recently, national security concerns have been on the rise, with doubts over the implementations of 5G by some companies, do you believe those concerns towards 5G are exaggerated?
We focus on providing competitive solutions and technology that comply with the high-security requirements demanded by customers and authorities. Furthermore, security is a core design feature of the 5G standard and architecture and compared to 4G networks, as 5G offers important improvements from a security point of view, hence providing strengthened security for end-users.