Mumbai: Magnus Ewerbring is the chief technology officer of Asia-Pacific group function technology at telecom and network equipment and services company Ericsson AB, where he is responsible for driving technology alignment as well as long-term technology strategies in the region.
A PhD in electrical engineering from Cornell University, New York, Ewerbring will be speaking at EmTech India 2017, an emerging tech conference organized by Mint and MIT Technology Review. In an email interview, he talks about the status of 4G deployments, the impact of upcoming 5G technology and how telcos can face the challenges of burgeoning data traffic. Edited excerpts:
Have 4G deployments matured in India? Where does India stand when compared to other countries in this context?
Only 40% of people in the world have data connection and the proportion in India is around 15%. It’s not as if India is lagging significantly behind in Internet coverage. If you take out the US, Japan, Korea and China, then the average will be less than 40% because China distorts the number. So, there’s a significant part of the world that is still to be covered by LTE (long-term evolution). Although a lot of innovation is happening on 5G, but even more innovation and R&D (research and development) investment goes into 4G as an industry today. What we and our other competitors are investing in is to prepare the LTE network for a smoother 5G migration. Because if you look at the 2G, 3G, 4G networks, they were overlay networks. But 5G will not be an overlay network. 5G will have to work with 4G. If you look at India, they need to make the LTE networks ready for 5G whenever it comes.
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Post the spectrum auctions in India last year, we have witnessed an upswing in terms of 4G deployments with enhanced focus on modernization and densification of the networks. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, the population coverage of 4G LTE networks in India is expected to reach 45% by the end of 2021.
What will be the compelling reasons for consumers to move from 4G to 5G technology when it becomes available around 2020? How easy will it be for operators to recoup their 5G investments?
Better network quality and a host of new use cases will be the drivers for 5G among consumers.
5G can be used to offer fixed wireless broadband service, since you don’t have ubiquitous access to fibre connection in the country.
However, even without 5G in India with 1GB/sec and LAA (license assisted access) where operators can use licensed and unlicensed combined, fixed wireless could be used in areas where there is no fibre. On the 5G devices front, CPE (customer premises equipment) will appear first, followed by tablets and the terminals.
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For 5G to be possible, 4G has to attain a good level of maturity. Operators around the world—and in India as well—are looking at developing a strong LTE footprint in a bid to provide better coverage to the consumer. 5G will not be an overlay network, it will work in tandem with 4G. So, for operators to be relevant in 5G, they would need to have a very good quality 4G network.
We are working for a seamless transition from 4G to 5G.
How will the emerging IoT (Internet of Things) ecosystem benefit from the deployment of 5G technology? To what extent will the success of IoT hinge on 5G?
5G is the foundation for realizing the full potential of the networked society. Like the transitions to 2G and 3G, the move to 5G will add a new element—the industrial Internet.
And, like the transition to 4G, it will be much higher performance than the previous generation. But it will be much more than that.
With 5G, we will see connectivity-as-a-service based on network slicing. 5G will enable organizations to move into new markets and build new revenue streams with radically new business models and use cases, including IoT applications.
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The new capabilities of 5G will span several dimensions, including tremendous flexibility, lower energy needs, greater capacity, bandwidth, security, reliability and data rates, as well as lower latency and device costs. Hence, IoT will only become mainstream on a 5G footprint, using network slicing.
Ericsson has predicted that there will be 7 billion mobile broadband subscriptions in 2021. How will telcos cope?
High video traffic volumes require efficient network management and cost-efficient delivery. Here, video optimization is needed to meet high quality of experience demanded by consumers, especially considering the high traffic demands occurring at peaks.
With the rising user expectations and the growing focus on videos, apps and social media, operators would be required to ensure that their networks remain a relevant and vital part of users’ everyday experience.
Operators are looking at network optimization solutions to accommodate the growing amount of video. We have a suite of mobile broadband products for optimization and compression, which helps operators get best-in-class spectral efficiency that provides enhanced capacity in the network to handle a sudden surge in data with excellent user experience.
Companies like yours are betting on the development of smart cities in India. Other than providing telecom network equipment and smart meters, what are the other solutions that Ericsson is working on to take advantage of Digital India?
We have end-to-end solutions for smart and sustainable cities. Globally, we are working with multiple cities across many countries to help them become not only smart but sustainable. In India, we have been innovating and coming up with solutions which could meet varied demands of various cities/villages in the country.
For example, we recently implemented Ericsson Connected aquaponics at Mori Village in Andhra Pradesh. The solution enables substantial savings on production cost through optimized use of raw materials for maximum yield as well as recycling 70% of the water, and additional revenue through organic farming.
Besides, we have even deployed Ericsson smart water grid management systems at Mori Village, which offers real- time information on the quality of water, flow of water and levels of water in the water tanks via a cloud-based application which is accessible to everyone in the hierarchy.