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Ericsson CEO: 5G Wireless Networks Are ‘Critical National Infrastructure’

Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm is bullish on 5G, the nickname for next-generation cellular networks that promise faster data exchange, reduced latency, energy savings, and cost reductions. I spoke with him in September at the 2018 Mobile World Congress Americas convention in downtown Los Angeles.

“Given that it is a digital infrastructure for countries, it becomes a critical national infrastructure,” Ekholm says. “We see all the operators here in the U.S. investing in 5G. But we see this also happening in other countries.”

For example, China is rolling out next-generation wireless infrastructure “very fast,” Ekholm says, with a goal to complete the effort in 2020. So are Japan and South Korea. Why so hurried? “Because it impacts the economies in those countries,” the executive says.

But there will be challenges as each country vies with one another to be first. For example, the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump has vowed to take an “America first, 5G first” approach to the technology. “Access to spectrum is a critical component of the technological capabilities that enable economic activity and protect national security,” reads a presidential memorandum issued on Oct. 25. “Wireless communications and associated data applications establish a foundation for high‑wage jobs and national prosperity.”

“You need interoperability,” Eckholm says. “That’s the big thing with mobile networks—they are global, and they are immediately global. That’s why cell phone technology has scaled the fastest of all technologies known to mankind, basically.”

“Compare it to, in a way, building roads. The cars came, then the automotive industry became big. It’s the same thing here. We need that critical infrastructure. There will come applications built upon that infrastructure…that’s where the competition comes in.”

For more, watch the interview above.