Europe’s 5G deployment plans are beginning to emulate that of 4G LTE where much of the region lagged behind the rest of the world in terms of getting the latest mobile technology rolled out to customers. Swisscom is quickly building a widespread 5G network in Switzerland and multiple operators in the United Kingdom will have 5G service in select markets very soon, but some telecom executives aren’t pleased with the pace of progress.
Count Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm in that camp. He blames European government officials and regulators for failing to act and letting Europe fall behind Asia and the United States in 5G deployments.
“It’s time to speed up 5G in Europe,” he said this week during a speech at the Viva Technology Conference in Paris. “We can’t afford to have our European entrepreneurs and enterprises innovate on an old and aging infrastructure. 5G must be seen as a critical national infrastructures — just as vital as trains or ports or airports.”
Europe lacks a comprehensive regulatory effort to drive 5G deployments and the region risks being at a competitive advantage if it doesn’t catch up soon, Ekholm explained. “The [United States] and China sees 5G as a critical national infrastructure and the backbone of digitalizing society.”
Each respective European country needs to decide when it wants to join the push to 5G, but other actions must also be taken on a regional basis, he said. Ekholm, like his colleagues at other equipment vendors and network operators, called for more spectrum to be made available in a coordinated manner and at reasonable prices.
“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.”
Of course, those network build outs are Ericsson’s bread and butter, so it’s in the company’s financial interest to call for more and faster deployments.
Ekholm also spoke at length about security concerns and called for a tempered approach that doesn’t impede or slow progress on 5G. Calling security of “critical importance,” he noted that although it was factored into the 5G standards it’s impossible to guarantee complete security.
“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,” he said.
“The question about security is a global question and it’s going to be big,” Ekholm added. “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.”