Ericsson's annual Innovation Day stretched the definition of 5G to its limits, as the vendor claimed Europe was leading on latency-focused use cases.
The event, which was held at its ICT Development Centre in Aachen, Germany, featured the now familiar wealth of 5G demonstrations from remote driving cars to Coco, a sensor equipped cuddly toy designed to accompany a child travelling alone on a journey. The toy can be tracked via cellular networks and Wi-Fi and can answer questions through the Siri interface on the iPhone it is carrying.
However, Ericsson appeared to be playing fast and loose with the definition of 5G. At one point, it discussed an invoicing system for health companies, which offers billing and discounting according to consumer behaviour.
Granted, this amounted to technology offering solutions on a grand scale, but is a billing system strictly 5G?
Ericsson argued it was, claiming the opportunities of 5G lay within transformation and efficiencies or "using technology in a smarter way", as Arun Bansal, Head of Ericsson's Europe and Latin America business, described it.
Mikael Bäck, Head of Strategy and Partnerships, said in addition to Ericsson learning new ways of doing things, partners also needed to be aware of how technology was changing. He said work needed to begin early for operators and vendors to ensure that customers could ultimately trust the different types of services that will be offered under the 5G umbrella.
This is why the vendor is holding global trials of potential 5G technologies to try and build up this familiarity. There are 33 in total, 17 of which are in Europe. Bansal said Europe's dominance in these trials goes some ways to counter the argument that the continent is lagging behind the United States and Asia in the development of 5G.
He added: "The use cases are different in different markets. In North America, it's fixed wireless, which isn't latency dependent. For [North American] consumers, the latency use cases will not be so paramount. It's speeds and throughputs rather than latencies."
He said Europe's demand for the sub-1ms latencies will mean deployments will begin in earnest from 2019 onwards, when the technology has been fully developed.
Ericsson has already conducted trials with Telia and built a "5G motorway" in partnership with Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Vodafone as it seeks to crack the latency issue.
Bäck said Ericsson believed transport and automotive, as well as manufacturing to be the key areas for 5G. He said manufacturing was particularly interesting as there was plenty of scope for companies to use connectivity to find efficiencies.
Bansal picked up that baton at a later point in the day, suggesting efficiencies were a vital part of 5G. He said expected economic growth from 5G could not come from sales alone – companies would also gain substantial financial benefits from streamlining their processes.
Aside from a brief mention that security risks were the "dark side" of 5G and a problem that needed to be solved, the tone of the Innovation Day was positive about the opportunities ahead.
Bäck was particularly effusive, suggesting 5G offered a "completely game-changing" experience and an opportunity to do something that has not been done before. However, he added this opportunity was "a journey that will take some time".
Given Ericsson’s well publicised problems, he could be talking about the company’s turnaround plans as much as about 5G.