Ericsson CTO: Open source is good but fragmentation, not so much

Ericsson sign
Ericsson has 35 signed agreements with operators globally with some relationship to 5G.

SAN FRANCISCO—Open source, just like standards, can be a good thing as long as there aren’t too many of them, because that can result in fragmentation and too many resources being spread across too many groups, according to Ericsson Group CTO Erik Ekudden.

“We can’t spread ourselves too thin, so we are focusing of course on open source as it’s relevant to network platforms”—and that includes everything from the cloud side to management and control, he told FierceWirelessTech on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCA).

“I think it’s always a risk that you have overlap and I think right now we’re trying to sort it out,” he added, noting that much of the work from a consolidation standpoint is being capably handled in the Linux Foundation.

Ekudden was named Group CTO and head of Ericsson Technology & Architecture, based in Stockholm, effective this past July 1. He previously was based in Silicon Valley, in charge of Ericsson’’s technology strategies and industry activities.  

The industry’s transition to open source does not pose a significant change to Ericsson’s business, according to Ekudden. The company has always been open in terms of standards, which enable the mixing and matching of gear between vendors. And it's been a multi-vendor system in wireless for a number of years. What's new is everyone is working toward a more horizontal architecture so components and services can be built and delivered in new ways.  

RELATED: Sprint, Ericsson tout field tests for 2.5 GHz Massive MIMO

Ericsson has 35 signed agreements with operators globally with some relationship to 5G, ranging from testing new radio technology like advanced MIMO to new core 5G systems for providing network slices to industries that require service level agreements. China, Korea, Japan and the U.S. are leading the way in 5G, he said.

“It’s really important to think about this journey as this not as just another radio interface,” he said.

One of the things he’s personally interested in is when you can start to move intelligence from devices to the edge of the network—for better human-to-machine interaction and better image and voice recognition and interaction. For example, a drone with little compute power can be connected over 5G and the compute is done on the base station instead of the drone; a cheap drone then could have the performance of a $1,000 drone because the work load is moved from the device to the network edge. Ericsson participated in a drone demo at Verizon's booth at MWCA last week.

Ericsson’s gear was also featured at Sprint’s booth, where the duo unveiled the results of the first U.S. 2.5 GHz Massive MIMO field tests conducted in Seattle, Washington, and Plano, Texas, using Sprint’s spectrum and Ericsson’s 64T64R radios. At Ericsson’s lab in Plano, they reported reaching peak speeds of more than 300 Mbps using a single 20 MHz channel of 2.5 GHz spectrum.    

The two companies are preparing for commercial deployment next year.