Ericsson CEO talks 5G infrastructure, spectrum, network slicing with FCC

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Ericsson President and CEO Börje Ekholm applauded the FCC's recent order removing barriers to infrastructure investment. (FierceWireless)

Ericsson President and CEO Börje Ekholm recently met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to talk about how the U.S. is making more millimeter wave spectrum available for 5G, its progress in reducing the time involved in tower siting and clearing the way for network slicing, a key component of 5G.

Ekholm applauded the FCC’s recent order removing barriers to infrastructure investment and expressed appreciation for the chairman’s focus on releasing spectrum, particularly millimeter wave spectrum, to help fuel increased innovation and investment in 5G. Ekholm also noted that the Internet Freedom order clears away a cloud of uncertainty over network slicing, according to an ex parte filing (PDF).

Also present during the Oct. 3 meeting were Niklas Heuveldop, president and CEO of Ericsson North America; Lynn Starr, senior director for Ericsson Government Affairs; Jared Carlson, vice president for Ericsson Government Affairs; and Rachael Bender, Chairman Pai’s wireless and international legal adviser.

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Importantly, Heuveldop covered some of the investments Ericsson is making in the U.S., including Ericsson’s decision to begin manufacturing in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of this year. The Swedish vendor plans on providing volume production of next-generation radios in order to introduce products into the U.S. market faster.

Ericsson is also opening a new software development center with a baseband focus in 2018, eventually employing more than 200 software engineers when it’s fully operational.

In addition, Ericsson said it will increase its investment in artificial intelligence and automation, employing about 100 specialists in North America by the end of this year. The team will work on using AI technologies to accelerate automation, examine product road maps and explore new business opportunities.

It’s worth noting that Heuveldop joined a chorus of other industry leaders in urging the FCC to move forward with plans to make more midband spectrum available for 5G. He also stressed that the U.S. mobile industry will need significantly more than 100 MHz in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band for operators to offer the combination of speed and coverage they need for 5G.

RELATED: Nokia CEO meets with FCC Chairman Pai, keeps pressure on for midband action

Midband spectrum also is of great interest to Ericsson’s rival Nokia, whose CEO Rajeev Suri met with Chairman Pai earlier this year. Suri and other Nokia executives stressed the urgency of making spectrum available in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band as the centerpiece for nationwide 5G deployment in the U.S.

This past summer, the FCC adopted an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that identifies new opportunities for flexible use in up to 500 megahertz of midband spectrum between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz. The notice proposes to add a mobile allocation to all 500 megahertz in the band and seeks comment on various proposals for transitioning part or all of the band for flexible use, including market-based, auction and alternative mechanisms.