Ericsson CTO Håkan Eriksson is moving to Silicon Valley, where he will become the head of the company’s Internet Protocol business as well as staying on as its CTO, the company said on Thursday.
The move highlights an overall shift from Europe to the U.S. being at the forefront of the mobile telecommunications sector. Verizon will, for example, be one of the first to launch mobile broadband services based on LTE (Long-Term Evolution). Also, on the mobile-application and handset side, the U.S. is leading the way, with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s mobile operating system Android, according to Eriksson, and his move to the U.S. is linked to that shift, he said.
His role as CTO is about helping Ericsson make the right strategic technology choices, and that becomes easier if he is based where a lot of the action is.
Eriksson is also interested in following what’s happening on the U.S. fixed-broadband market up close. In many parts of the world, the rules for building fiber networks aren’t settled, and that is holding those markets back. However, in the U.S. it has been decided that an operator can build a fiber network and compete without having to give up the network to competitors, which is accelerating the rollout of fiber, he said.
The rapidly growing number of Ericsson employees in North America is yet another reason for the move. With the company’s acquisition of Nortel’s CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and LTE wireless assets and the recently announced outsourcing deal with Sprint, the number of employees in North America has increased from about 5,400 to 14,000 since the end of March.
The IP business Eriksson will head up in Silicon Valley includes Redback Networks, which Ericsson acquired about three years ago.
Redback’s routers are mainly meant to be used at the edge of operators’ networks, which will come under more pressure as mobile and fixed-broadband speeds increase. Handling that traffic growth in a cost-effective way is one of the biggest challenges operators face, according to Eriksson. Having intelligence on the edge of the network is an important part of the solution, he said.
“With the traffic explosion that’s happening we can’t bring all the traffic into the core. You have to fend off as much as you can on the edge,” said Eriksson.
LTE is also close to his heart. Key to early success for the technology is to manage customer expectations. In the end it depends on what you tell the customers when you sell the service, according to Eriksson. If operators promise too much users will get disappointed, he said.