Cisco, Ericsson CEOs claim they always are thinking 5 to 10 years ahead

ASPEN, Colo.--Cisco CEO John Chambers and Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) CEO Hans Vestberg may have very different management styles but one area where they are similar is that they claim to always be thinking five to 10 years into the future.

At the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference here this week, Chambers said that his company typically sees trends five to 10 years ahead of its peers. Specifically, he said that Cisco started looking at the Internet of Things more than seven years ago. "We did the [connected] refrigerator and car demos 10 years ago," he said.

Chambers also said that he believes that mobility and IT will infiltrate all areas of industry and that soon the CEOs of firms like Walmart or Allstate will start describing their companies as technology companies that specialize in retail or insurance. "Technology will change everything," he said.

Likewise, Ericsson's Vestberg said that his obsession with the future is what instigated the "networked society" vision that the company is now promoting to the global telecom industry. Although former CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg came up with the term, Vestberg fine-tuned the strategy. Currently, he said, he is five years into that plan and the next phase is really to bring down the price points of networks and devices.

Vestberg said that the next-generation of wireless technology--or 5G--will help with that goal and that's why the company is so involved in the 5G standardization process through groups like the NGMN Alliance and METIS 2020. "By 2019 90 percent of people over age six will have a phone," Vestberg said in an interview with FierceWireless. "That's why we are working on standardization. I will sell the same equipment in Nairobi and in the U.S. That's how you get the price points down."

Of course, Vestberg admits that there are challenges to that vision, particularly the scarcity of available spectrum. However, he sees unlicensed spectrum continuing to play a key role.

Earlier this year Ericsson became more vocal in its desire to get 3GPP to enable LTE for use over unlicensed spectrum such as Wi-Fi. Ericsson's research unit said that unlicensed spectrum can be complementary, particularly if it's aggregated with licensed spectrum to increase network bandwidth.

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