Ericsson and Nokia are intent on countering the notion that they are not as prepared as China-based rival Huawei to supply operators with 5G network equipment. The push comes just days ahead of the MWC 2019 event in Barcelona, Spain, where 5G will be the hot topic.
Executive from both Nordic vendors wrote blog posts touting their healthy position in the 5G ecosystem. And both said that their operator customers are not in danger of falling behind in their 5G deployments.
“In recent weeks, we’ve seen daily reports that Europe would fall behind on 5G,” penned Börje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson. “It is true that there is such a risk, but it is not true that this is because European service providers lack access to the right technology.”
Ekholm explained that Ericsson’s “resources and the supply chain capacity” is meeting market demand. “We have a strong and flexible 5G portfolio in place and we will make sure that our customers stay ahead of the game,” he added.
Instead of vendor concerns, Ekholm said that operators are being challenged by the lack of available spectrum to support 5G services and heavy government regulations.
“As we talk with our customers, it is clear they are impacted by this uncertainty,” Ekholm wrote. “They have made large investments and will continue to make large investments to have strong performing networks. They have a lot at stake, and we understand that continued uncertainty will impact their ability to move forward.”
Barry French, chief marketing officer at Nokia, sounded a similar tone of concern regarding spectrum availability.
“The reality is that it is not technology topics, or the ability of European vendors like Nokia to deliver, that will define the speed to 5G in Europe,” French wrote. “Rather, it is about spectrum, which is not yet available in every country. We continue to encourage every country to make 5G spectrum available quickly and to ensure that it is affordable.”
A number of European countries have 5G spectrum auctions booked for this year.
Cost and Competition
Both execs also weighed in on the elephant in the room – Huawei. Neither mentioned their competition by name, but it was definitely implied.
“Much of the discussion around 5G globally is focused now on security,” Ekholm wrote. “As 5G becomes a critical infrastructure, what will really determine the security of a network will be the security technology and operational procedures that are put on top of the standardized features.”
French took the argument a step further by stating that the lack of availability by a vendor or two will not impact competition. Or at least not impact competition to Nokia’s concern.
“On the cost side … being competitive is just part of being in pretty much any business, and Nokia has always put a premium on productivity and efficiency,” French wrote. “And, of course, cheaper is not always better. Better is better, and when it comes to network security, better really matters. Nokia builds security into its products as an integral part of our design processes and, like ethics, it is an area where we do not believe in compromise.”
The executive missives come as some European operators have expressed concern that their 5G plans could be delayed if Huawei is not part of the infrastructure puzzle.
Germany-based Deutsche Telekom is reported to have warned that the roll out of 5G technology in Europe could be delayed by at least two years if wireless service providers are forced to remove the China-based vendor from their lists of 5G equipment suppliers.
Vodafone CEO Nick Read told investors during the carrier’s most recent quarterly earnings conference call that a ban on equipment from Chinese vendors would create a “significant delay” for carriers’ 5G deployments and have a “significant implication” for related costs.