Ericsson CEO: 5G will 'fundamentally change' manufacturing

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Ericsson logo at the Mobile World Congress in February 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. Photo: Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The chief executive of Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson (ERIC-B.ST) believes 5G technology and robotics will “fundamentally change” manufacturing around the world.

“Connectivity drives disruption by itself,” Börje Ekholm told an audience at Davos on Tuesday. “What we’re starting to see is more disruption moving from consumer applications … into the industrial space.”

Ekholm gave the example of Ericsson’s own factory in Texas.

“We are building our new factory in Texas to manufacture 5G equipment for the US market and the North American market,” he said. “We can supply all of the North American demand with only 100 employees in Texas.

“This is going to fundamentally change the way enterprises think about the manufacturing structure. 

“Now we see robots – battery powered robots, wirelessly connected – that can do a lot of things. We’re just at the brink of this whole new opportunity.”

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The comments came during a panel on the future of the digital economy at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Ekholm appeared alongside Salesforce (CRM) chief executive Keith Block, PayPal (PYPL) president and chief executive Dan Schulman, and NetHope chief executive Lauren Woodman.

Ekholm said 5G — the next generation of wireless internet connection technology — was “super exciting” and would create a “platform for innovation”.

“Think about a factory, you’re going to have thousands of sensors in a factory,” he said. “That needs 5G to connect.

“Ultimately, we need to be able to connect everything. Now we sit with a technology that is uniquely positioned to [do that].”

Around 3,000 world leaders and top businesspeople are meeting in the Swiss skiing village of Davos for a week-long conference discussing the biggest issues of the day. High on the agenda this year is climate change and its effects on the planet and 17-year-old climate campaigner Greta Thunberg was one of the first speakers at the conference.

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