Ericsson’s Börje Ekholm cracks the 5G whip: Europe should get a move on

CEO Borje Ekholm © Ericsson

CEO Borje Ekholm © Ericsson

  • Unless Europe speeds up it will be 4G deja vu all over again
  • Spectrum is being used as a cash-grab and its assignment is uncoordinated
  • Security shouldn’t be based on post-development testing

Speaking at the Viva Technology Conference in Paris yesterday, the Ericsson CEO called on  European governments and regulators to get rid of the barriers hindering 5G roll-out. That’s the usual technology leader refrain in Europe, but Ekholm fleshed out his criticism by maintaining that unlike the US and Asia, Europe as a whole lacked a concerted regulatory effort to facilitate the speedy realization of 5G and that means that the region will be at a competitive disadvantage, he warned.

“5G must be seen as a critical national infrastructures - just as vital as trains or ports or airports,” he claimed.

“The US and China sees 5G as a critical national infrastructure and the backbone of digitalizing society,” he claimed, suggesting that Europe looks set to repeat its mistakes with 4G - “failing to act on the technology, while the US and Asia pressed ahead, resulting in Europe falling three-to-four years behind,” he claimed

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

Spectrum - too expensive and uncoordinated

Ekholm said 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,” he said, “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 also called 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.


“Given the complexity of future architecture, and future networks, the security in 5G will 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," he said. “The question about security is a global question and it’s going to be big. Ultimately, we believe operators will make choices for what kind of customers they will serve and what kind of network and operations they are going to have, and that will drive how the security looks.”

Ekholm said this was why Ericsson doesn’t believe that extensive post-development testing is the solution.

“Actually, we believe that post-development testing and source code disclosure risks creating a false sense of security. In modern software development we have continuous deployments. For example, we have new feature roll out every two weeks. So, if we are going through that testing cycle it will just delay the introduction of new features.”

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