Research and development on the fifth generation of mobile networks advanced "faster than expected" throughout 2017, Ericsson President and Chief Executive Officer Börje Ekholm said Wednesday while speaking at the company's annual general meeting. "5G is now a commercial reality," the official noted, having asserted the Stockholm, Sweden-based company is already in the right place to take advantage of the next wireless revolution. Looking at the broadest picture possible, Mr. Ekholm revealed Ericsson identified three 5G segments that it sees as major growth generators growing forward: improved mobile networks, fixed wireless access, and a variety of enhanced Internet of Things technologies.
The network equipment manufacturer plans to establish a major presence across all three sectors going forward and attempt to lead the transition from 4G to 5G, Mr. Ekholm said, having noted how the industry is already showing increased interest in the company's 5G offerings. To date, the firm announced multiple commercial contracts meant to lead to large-scale deployments of its next-generation technologies, with the majority of them involving its 5G Radio Access Network, a platform targeting wireless carriers planning to be among the first adopters of the new mobile solutions. The firm is expecting to have a major presence in 5G buildouts throughout the world, having already confirmed projects in the United States and Europe.
2017 also marked the conclusion of Ericsson's efforts to streamline its operations and cut costs while waiting for its massive 5G investments to start generating returns in the near future. The firm divested the majority of its Media Solutions unit and identified 45 unprofitable or non-strategic contracts binding its Digital Services division, having said approximately half of them will be exited or concluded throughout 2018. The second half of the year should see first commercial 5G buildouts taking place in the United States, South Korea, and a small number of other countries, with large-scale deployment being expected to start in early 2019. 4G LTE is still positioned to be the dominant wireless technology until well into the next decade, according to recent estimates. First 5G-enabled smartphones are likely to run Android and be commercialized in the first quarter of 2019, as numerous OEMs and telecom giants repeatedly hinted.