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Ekow Nelson, Vice President and Head of Global Customer Unit Etisalat and Pakistan at Ericsson Middle East & Africa, takes care of Ericsson’s business with the Etisalat Group worldwide. He also has country responsibility for Pakistan, across sales, delivery, and overall customer management. His job is to focus relentlessly on customers’ strategic priorities and ambitions and to mobilize the best of Ericsson technology and capabilities for their success. Telecom Review caught up with Nelson at GITEX Technology week.

Ericsson has established itself as the leading vendor in deploying 5G. Why do you think this is?

Ericsson has lead in this business for the past 140 years. At Ericsson, we are dedicated to research and innovation, leading the development of cellular technology – from 2G to 5G. We have the largest portfolio in the industry, with over 49,000 granted patents. We’ve been leading the standardization for 5G and we have an industry leading technology which many of our competitors have not got. Over the years we have established ourselves as reliable and dependable technology leaders in telecom industry. We have been blazing the trail for 5G for quite some time and that is really beginning to pay off.

How important are strategic partnerships between Ericsson and telecom operators in providing the best solutions to the end-user?

We adopted a new focused business strategy over the past year. One major aspect of this strategy is that we are very clear about who our customers are - telecom operators. We also know that with 5G, we need to build more industry solutions in manufacturing, oil and gas, agriculture in preparation for Industry 4.0. In order to deliver these solutions, we need to work in partnership with the operators and the industries to build these solutions together. Given our strategy, we cannot do this on our own. Additionally, these solutions are then delivered through our operator partners. They are critical in bringing our solutions to the market. The solutions enable operators to digitalize or offer new services to the industry. Operators are a crucial part of Ericsson.

With all of the focus on 5G especially here at GITEX, is 4G still an important network, or will it be neglected?

No, 4G still remains an important network. In fact, it is still growing. We expect data traffic to grow by 30% between 2018 and 2024. Two-thirds of that traffic will use 4G and perhaps only a third will be 5G. 4G still has a major role to play. As well as that, 5G will be addressing a different segment than 4G. Of course, it’s going to be much faster - customers will be able to download and stream videos at a much faster rate. However, the real benefit of 5G is to provide new use cases to industries.

Once upon a time, phones were fixed and you had to be in a certain place to make a call. Then, mobile freed us so that we could make phone calls anywhere. Think about the industry in that way. The industry still uses fixed cables. Imagine an industry that’s free from all wiring. The manufacturers don’t have to be located in a single place. You could manufacture a part in Dublin and another part could be manufactured in real time in London. This shows the difference in 5G and 4G.

What is the key message Ericsson is sending out at GITEX this year?

5G is here! It is ready. We have 47 collaborations around the world. It is no longer a vision. Etisalat has rolled it out here in the UAE. We are also working with various industries in the Middle East to begin to build the use cases in ports, harbors, oil and gas, mining and other related industries. In Europe, we are literally tearing down the wires in many of the factories in Europe. Our big announcement is it is here and let’s start deploying it!

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