5G the foundation for realizing networked society’s full potential: Ulf Ewaldsson

Ulf Ewaldsson, SVP and group CTO of Ericsson, on the firm’s 5G journey

Ulf Ewaldsson, senior vice-president and group chief technology officer at Ericsson. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Ulf Ewaldsson, senior vice-president and group chief technology officer at Ericsson. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: Ulf Ewaldsson is excited to be in India and it’s not just the rainy weather that has perked him up. The senior vice-president and group chief technology officer of Ericsson Inc. is gung-ho about India’s potential as a key technology player, the coming spectrum auctions and Digital India.

Ulf Ewaldsson, 51ULF Ewaldsson was appointed group chief technology officer at Ericsson Inc. on 1 February 2012. He was earlier the head of product area radio at Ericsson’s Business Unit Networks and was instrumental in helping create some of the products that reflect Ericsson’s technology leadership. Ewaldsson graduated with an MSc in Engineering and Business Management from Linköping Institute of Technology.

Of course, he is equally excited about 5G and how his company is leading efforts in this direction, ensuring that 5G becomes the global standard. In an interview, Ewaldsson spoke about Ericsson’s 5G journey. Edited excerpts:

On why he’s visiting India and his thoughts on India:

India is a market where we see enormous potential, and it is expected to continue to grow with a very, very rapid speed and much higher than many other markets in the world, as far as data traffic is concerned. In fact, according to our forecast, while the rest of the world will grow 10-12 times maximum when it comes to data traffic, India will grow 17 times; so there is very high growth here. The other thing that brings me here is the spectrum auctions—India is probably the only market which has the least spectrum allocated to service providers. Excitement around the new 700 auctions here is very high. In fact, it is a hot topic and there are expectations from the government, expectations from the service providers’ side, there is a risk of high price which can then limit the roll-out plans and how much can be left for deployment of equipment. But, nevertheless, it is important that new spectrum comes out in India. India is also a market where people are talking of Digital India and even non-telco companies are waking up to digitalization.

On 5G, Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud as major drivers of the networked society:

5G is the foundation for realizing the full potential of the networked society. 5G will enable organizations to move into new markets and build new revenue streams with radically new business models and use cases, including IoT applications. The new capabilities of 5G span several dimensions, including tremendous flexibility, lower energy needs, greater capacity, bandwidth, security, reliability and data rates, as well as lower latency and device costs.

The first-generation mobile network (1G) was all about voice. 2G was about voice + texting. 3G was about voice + texting + data. 4G was everything in 3G but faster. 5G will be something totally different.

Like the transitions to 2G and 3G, the move to 5G will add a new element: the industrial Internet. And, like the transition to 4G, it will be much higher performance than the previous generation. But it will be much more than that. With 5G, we’ll see connectivity-as-a-service based on network slicing. 5G will enable more secure transactions and the energy efficiency to deploy IoT devices with a battery life that is 10 times longer than today. All this will create opportunities for new use cases that we haven’t yet dreamed of, new markets, and radically new business models.

On the road map for 5G and use cases for 5G:

5G is not financially optimized yet. We are spending enormous amounts of money on research projects in the US, in China and in Europe. I hope there are more research projects in India on 5G because it is important for India to be a part of the research phase because we are studying how this will benefit society and companies both. We are entering an exciting phase of the 5G journey as we are at the standardization phase. The gigantic standardization process is gaining ground and great efforts are being made in all areas to align the industry. As the technology leader, Ericsson takes enormous responsibility in leading this journey and ensuring 5G becomes the global standard. We aim to finish standardization by the end of this year, build first chips by 2018-19 and the target is to roll out 5G by 2020.

5G can be used across industries as an end-to-end solution that is extremely reliable.

For example, smart cities in India: given the fact that about 843 million are expected to live in urban areas by 2050, India needs to find smarter ways to manage complexities, reduce expenses, increase efficiency and improve the quality of life. Talking about smart cities, the first step in transforming a city into a sustainable smart city is to connect it. From street lights, to water pipes to garbage trucks, everything will be connected. At Ericsson, we are already designing 5G to meet the needs of cities, creating the next generation of networks that will solve city challenges.

Once connected, city services will be improved and augmented to increase city attractiveness, competitiveness and sustainability. In the sustainable smart city, utilities are connected to improve energy consumption, and distribution and transportation are managed in real time through connected vehicles and traffic infrastructure, and public safety is integrated and coordinated across response agencies for maximum efficiency.

Other use cases include the low latency of 5G which will enable connecting robots and moving their intelligence in the cloud. This will lower the cost of the robots and make it possible to control a group of robots centrally, e.g. on a factory floor.

5G for automotive: 5G will enable vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-pedestrian, and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, as well as platooning, which is assisted driving for trucks... And we’ve got 5G radio prototypes that operators can deploy in live field trial environments. Smaller and more powerful, the prototypes build on insights gained from testing on Ericsson’s 5G radio test bed, together with operators, both indoors and outdoors, for testing in realistic network environments.

As 5G includes so much more than radio, the transition to 5G for operators will be more extensive than any previous generation network. At Ericsson, we are building 5G as an evolution of our industry-leading 4G LTE technology and, as a result, we expect many components to be launched before 2020.