Over the course of this year, we’ve talked to many Ericsson experts and leaders about the impact that the pandemic is having on business, technology, and society. In this episode of the Ericsson News Podcast, we’re revisiting some of those conversations – about how our world and industry has changed and adapted to the new normal.
Erik Ekudden, Ericsson CTO:
If you then look at the pandemic, it has really forced many industries, many enterprise leaders to look for technology as a solution to those challenges. And of course, we what we are doing now, launching 5G around the world, digital infrastructure is really important. So, I think it’s even in more timely, and for that matter, I think it is really an exciting time ahead now us. If we’re gonna tackle the biggest challenges of our time, then we have to do it through technology. So, 5G, AI, edge, clouds, and IoT — these are just technologies that actually will be part of changing the world, and that’s why it’s key in this journey.”
Host: That was a conversation with Ericsson CTO, Erik Ekudden, about the importance of digital infrastructure as well as his vision for the future of network platforms, which driving change in our industry.
It has been and still is a very unusual world at the unprecedented events. It’s teaching us about digital. It’s a big change, or an acceleration, when it comes to adoption of digital, and the new normal that we live through today. I’m a firm believer it has to be a mixed-mode, so many things will not be as it is today. But this rapid transition into digital is very linked to these trends. In fact, what we’re talking about is connected to how to continue to build efficient digital infrastructure, how to make infrastructure more intelligent, and being able to answer to new needs. In fact, if you look just at the pandemic, that the traffic numbers in many cases, in many areas around the world, where you don’t have a fixed structure, traffic has grown by up to 70 percent because of work from remote locations — could be education, could be regular work. And that, of course, means that the digital infrastructure and the technology surrounding the digital infrastructure are even more important in the years to come.
Host: In one of the episodes this year, I spoke with Stevan Filipovic, Head of Technology Leadership at Ericsson Managed Services Business Unit, about how the pandemic and shifts in behavior impacting networks as well as how those networks are coping.
Stevan Filipovic, Head of Technology Leadership, Ericsson’s Managed Services business unit:
Just the fact that two of us are speaking from homes and you said it’s the suburbs of Stockholm, this gives like the first obvious impact of the COVID-19 situation to the traffic patterns and our behaviors. There’re obviously a couple of main mechanisms that are behind the scenes in order to understand what is really happening in the networks regarding the COVID-19 and situation. First thing is regarding the lockouts and isolation. We tend to move less, so we are staying in our fixed positions; most likely, this is the home. Very few people they are traveling and commuting daily to work. In some countries, people or kids are not going to school. So, what you will be seeing from the network’s site, this reduced mobility is actually a reduction of handovers. People are not moving from one cell into the coverage of another cell while they’re doing sessions. So, that’s also one thing that we are seeing, and that’s like, this less network mobility. Another thing and another phenomenon is also that since we are staying more at home, either to perform work or you just because of the isolation measures, is the traffic was shifting from the traditional hot spots, which are pedestrian streets, shopping malls, entrances to the subway more to the residential areas.
Even though traffic is shifting from city centers to the suburbs, and you know, this is good news for all of us is that actually network KPIs are not that much effective. And you look at the overall network KPIs; they are in fact, a little bit increasing because there are less handovers, we are less moving, and every handover is a risk for the bad quality, and we are offloading traffic to Wi-Fi. So, in that sense, we could see that there is a positive impact on the network KPI, which is, you know, interesting enough, right?
Host: With so many people around the world right now working, learning, or isolating at home, a spotlight has been put on networks; it’s critical national infrastructure. As part of the series, I spoke with a number of Ericsson’s engineers about their work to keep these networks up and running.
Neil Easter, Lead Engineer, Ericsson UK Field Services Organization:
So, not only do we look after base stations in the field towers, but we also switch sites as well — we call them MTXs, where the hardware hub sites are basically. And so yeah, but software, hardware, the whole network as a whole really. The sites are all over the UK, obviously predominantly in city centers, we have a larger cluster of sites because of population. But yeah, you can have sights on rooftops, in city centers, on the high-rise blocks of flats, or on the street side — we have small, sort of macro sites, on the side of the streets. And then, moving into rural areas, we have them on farm sites, within the side of the highways, alongside railway lines, and even sites on pylons.
Host: One of the things that we’ve reported on previously is that there’s been quite a dramatic shift in traffic load on the network, moving from city centers out to residential areas because that’s where people are right now.
I mean, yes, the priority of rural sites is quite paramount now because of, like you said, people are working from home. So, we tend to try and get to those sites a lot quicker than we normally would — not saying that no fault is high priority. But for instances, interference work, which tends to be, can be, fairly low priority, where we have an interference on the site. But the current situation we’re in, those interference tasks can be quite important to get it resolved because obviously, you don’t want to be at home having bad broadband signal or, you know, you wouldn’t be able to do your work from home. So, that’s important for us, and myself personally. I live in a rural location, and my wife’s working from home so that the fact that, you know, our closest base station needs to be up and running. I can see the effect it would have if you did have some faults on that site.
Host: Soon after the pandemic broke out, Ericsson transitioned about 85,000 employees to a work-from-home environment. In this next conversation, Ericsson CEO, Börje Ekholm, talks about the new social reality and how strong and reliable communication networks are more important than ever.
Börje Ekholm: President and CEO of Ericsson:
What we have seen in this pandemic is really the criticality of connectivity. And I was on a call just yesterday with a number of other CEOs of some large multinationals. And the interesting thing is, six months ago, when I brought up connectivity, no one really had any interest — they kind of took it for granted. And now, spontaneously, on the meeting, one of them actually said that there is a renewed love for connectivity, and we are now really realizing how important it is. So, I do believe it’s going to be front and center of the infrastructure going forward. This is ultimately — it’s hard to talk about something being positive with the pandemic — but I do believe this is going to drive growth in mobile infrastructure going forward.”
And our ambition is to be in a stronger competitive position once we come out of the pandemic. This means, of course, that we need to be flexible, we need to adjust, we need to be agile in the way we work, in the way we serve our customers. And here, I do think that what we’ve shown by migrating 85,000 colleagues to work from home shows great stamina in the company, and it makes me enormously proud to work in a company that can actually achieve these overnight.
Host: As Börje said, this pandemic is really highlighting the criticality of networks. And one proof point of that was the announcement of Ericsson’s 100th commercial 5G agreement. This added to a list of more than 40 live commercial networks across four continents. In this next conversation, Peter Linder, a 5G Evangelist and Head of 5G Marketing in North America, talks about how we got to this point.
Peter Linder, Head of 5G Marketing, Ericsson North America:
I think that the numbers are saying that it’s really fast-moving market. So, getting from, say, 20-ish million to 190 million in this year, it’s signaling that there’s a lot of networks out there and a lot of interest to adopt it. I think we’re seeing that mobile broadband is the remains a driving application, so that is the thing that is driving the large volumes here. Fixed wireless access starting to contribute now in the second half of the year with new types of devices coming to market, and that is very much a consumer-led introduction of networks that drive coverage and capacity in urban areas, and then branching out to businesses and IoT soon thereafter.
But I think that the realization is going up for consumers — this is not just a faster horse, so it’s not just 4G, but a little bit faster, it’s something different. Consumers see it when we talk enhanced mobile broadband, that 5G can deliver new video formats, it can stream games to mobile devices, and you can introduce AR/VR, without the wire to a desktop computer, making a difference both for entertainment but also for knowledge-transfer applications. I think consumers are seeing that ‘hey, fixed wireless, perhaps that’s what we should have everywhere with fiber doesn’t reach’ or where fiber comes too late — going for consumers and small/medium businesses. I think that it’s always good to ask: what will consumers laugh at? Saying the generation before or after me, they laugh at me reading manuals. It takes me 30 minutes to find the manual, another 30 minutes to read it. And when they try to solve the same problems, they look five minutes to YouTube and pretty much figured out what to do. Their children are gonna laugh at them and say: ‘YouTube? That’s so old school. Why don’t you just put on your AR glasses and tell us the instructions for cooking Swedish meatballs? Everything’s just coming up in front of you just as you’re standing by the stove.
Host: It’s been said so many times already, but this truly has been an extraordinary year. And while we don’t exactly know what the future will hold, we do know that communications technology will continue to play an essential part in our society going forward, and I look forward to reporting on those ongoing developments.
So, be well, and thanks for listening this year.
We got this article from latest news in Ericsson newsroom.
Please read it in the Ericsson site: https://www.ericsson.com/en/news/2020/12/podcast-2020-in-review