The Senior Vice President and Group Chief Technical Officer of Ericsson has said that mobile technology will continue to lead in technology innovations and drive the next levels of development in the post COVID-19.
Picking lessons from COVID-19 and the need for connectivity, Eric Ekudden said that the move into upgrading internet connectivity from 4G to 5G internet with the latter being the dominant technology around the world in the next five years of less, or at least by 2027.
Ekudden said that this is informed by the current uptake of subscriptions which is very high and Africa having the highest in the world especially the uptake of smart mobile phones growth per year.
The current Ericsson Mobility Report shows us that, by 2025, 77% of subscriptions in the Middle East and North Africa are expected to be for mobile broadband, while in Sub-Saharan Africa mobile broadband subscriptions will increase to reach around 72% of mobile subscriptions
Ekudden said that this is something that can inform the importance of digital transformation infrastructure (for both 4G and 5G internet) to serve the continent.
Ekudden made the revelation during an exclusive media interview this June 6, 2022 in Kigali following the company’s commitment to tackling the digital divide, continuing to build a robust ICT infrastructure, promoting sustainability, innovation, education and entrepreneurship in Africa.
On what Rwanda is doing
Ekudden said that a forward leaning government that can leverage ICTs in Africa is another aspect that the organisation is looking for to push the fourth industrial revolution but without interfering with regulations.
He said that the internet has to be beneficial for all sides- the government, the companies and the users and this is where partnership is needed.
We need partnerships but we also need to be clear that the government sets up clear but also non interfering rules to do innovation, commercialization and the roll out.
This is where I hope that Africa and Rwanda in particular strikes a balance between building, holding hands to making the right decisions and making sure policy sets clear rules so that companies can invest to have return on capital and push this forward.
If that happens Rwanda and Africa will have a much faster uptake of the digital connectivity) than countries which have infrastructure legacies.
The mobile miracle over the 30 years
Ekudden said that 30 years ago when he joined the tech industry, no one could imagine mobile technology would have a few million users, yet today there are 8billion users because it is the fastest growing tech which will last for a very long time.
You can talk of any technology (cloud, space, app, electric vehicles in auto-mobility, but Mobile technology has the fastest technology development of any of these.
He explained this is because in every ten years mobile technology has hundred times bandwidth in device performance and in 30 years much faster (one million times) compared to 30 years ago and for the next ten years it will grow much faster.
“They (governments) should not compete with mobile technology but instead ride on this exponential technology and make sure that they conserve on the waves of mobile technology,”
He advised that there is no need to spend more money innovating on mobile technology but instead use it, as it comes out with much better performance every year- at lower costs, energy consumption
Broadband Inclusion / Connectivity
On the sidelines of the United Nations Broadband Commission Meeting for Sustainable Development held in Kigali this week, President Paul Kagame met with Ekudden and the latter said that the meeting agreed on connecting all communities in various ways at a cost efficient and affordable manner.
According to the 2021 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report, 3.6billion (40%) of the world population (7.7billion) is connected to the internet and the 2019 World Bank report says there is need for $428 billion in investment to connect all of humanity to the internet by 2030 and Africa is needs $109billion.
Ekudden said that the biggest barrier is not connectivity, since there are many ways of connecting communities using available infrastructure but affordability, literacy and connection to digital tools are demanding.
For instance, after Ericsson entered a global partnership with UNICEF to support the Giga Initiative’s school connectivity mapping efforts, the initiative has reached a major milestone in mapping the location of one million schools.
The GIGA initiative, launched in September 2019 is aimed to connect every school to the internet by 2030 and every young person to information, opportunity, and choice.
Ericsson has provided funding and applied data science to help map internet coverage in schools across seven countries. Along with contributions from multiple partners, this has helped Giga accelerate the mapping work and pass the one-million-school milestone.
Under the partnership, Ericsson has committed to help map connectivity in schools across 35 countries by the end of 2023, supporting Giga’s ambition of mapping every school in the world including Rwanda.
The Digital Opportunity
He said that this is something that can inform the importance of digital transformation infrastructure (for both 4G and 5G internet) to serve the continent.
In the early stages, Ekudden said some countries have started shifting to 5G roll out and for a large part of the continent this is what lies ahead in the years to come.
For example some action has been seen in Burkina Faso and South Africa.
“5G internet is expected to be a dominant technology globally but also here in Africa,”
Ekudden said that digital health and care is the only way forward in providing health services in Africa and specifically Rwanda but more digitalization opportunities are in agriculture and education.
He predicted that these three sectors are going to go through the same that phone technology did to become Smart phones with applications and into the Fintech ecosystem as we know it today.and widely based on mobile technology.
“It is a disruptive move from a technology and business point of view but it is a necessary and important step that countries are going through,” he said.
For Ericsson, as a leading mobile technology provider needed to connect and build this digital move and network Ekudden said that they are investing in technology leadership, best products on the market with low energy consumption – which is predicted to go down as a result of Ericsson lastest technology.
With assurance of low energy consumption and high performance mobile technology, Ekudden said that Ericsson is focused on being the connecting factor to move beyond just the network signal to a high performance, quality service which need to be connected to the Fintech, education, agriculture and health applications.
These applications that are built on top of the network need to get access to capabilities that are built-in and that is were Ericsson comes in to make this shift possible.
For example Ericsson is providing open Application Programming Interface (APIs), programmable network’s and we are making this business for everyone in the ecosystem – providers of digital infrastructure, enterprises, application developers and society.
“So, we (Ericsson) are bridging between the two worlds and that is a paradigm shift that we are pioneering from Ericsson,” Ekudden said.