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Björn Odenhammar

Chief Technology Officer, Networks & Managed Services, Ericsson UK & Ireland

COVID-19 has shown the importance of connectivity and digitalisation. That’s why investment in technologies such as 5G can help the UK emerge as winners from the current crisis.

Before coronavirus, it was easy to take digital technology for granted as we texted, posted social media messages or made video calls.

But we’re certainly not taking it for granted now, notes Björn Odenhammar, Chief Technology Officer, Networks & Managed Services, at Ericsson UK & Ireland.

That’s because COVID-19 has underlined just what a lifeline digital technology can be. Throughout the pandemic, it has been a way to keep in touch with family and friends; while businesses have relied on it as an essential home-working tool.

5G will be crucial to the UK’s post-COVID future

While today’s tech has become part of the ‘new normal’, it has the potential to deliver much more. This is why 5G, the next generation of cellular technology, is so highly anticipated.

The UK is an early 5G adopter, with coverage available in over 140 towns and cities. However, Odenhammar believes its roll-out needs to speed up or the UK risks losing its position as a global technology leader.

He points to Ericsson’s latest ConsumerLab study, that gathered insights into behaviours and attitudes around ICT and connectivity during COVID-19.

The company talked to smartphone users from 11 different countries and discovered that 63% were positive towards the role 5G could have played during the pandemic – and four in 10 wished 5G had been rolled out faster.

“We’re at a critical moment for the UK’s digital future. We are one of the first countries in the world where all operators have launched 5G services, but we can’t lose momentum,” says Odenhammar.

“We need to push on with a plan for releasing spectrum, removing deployment barriers and taking up opportunities like Fixed Wireless Access to provide new broadband connectivity.”

Enjoying the benefits of automation and digitalisation

Odenhammar remains convinced the technology can also offer solutions to many of the country’s pressing domestic needs, including economic growth, SME innovation, and industrial transformation.

A study from Communications Chambers notes that enhanced mobile broadband, Internet of Things and low latency connectivity could benefit the UK economy by up to €334 billion by 2030.

There are opportunities across many sectors. For example, in healthcare 5G connected ambulances could deliver specialised patient care from a remote doctor before reaching hospital.

In manufacturing, 5G offers higher flexibility, lower cost and shorter lead times, helping to boost productivity and efficiency.

And with 75% of IT decision makers in enterprises reporting digitalisation as ‘very important’ or ‘crucial’ to the future of their business, Odenhammar believes that technology can boost the UK economy at the right time.

“The pandemic has shown that countries need to operate in a more automated way. Companies that invest in new technologies will reap the early benefits. They can be the winners coming out of this crisis by starting the journey to digitalisation, of which 5G is a key part,” Odenhammar says.

“The UK has a great opportunity to embrace a modern digital infrastructure. Ericsson has laid the foundations of world class connectivity alongside UK operators and, by working with government and businesses, we can provide a platform of innovation to help drive the UK economy forward.”

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