Don McCullough, Director Strategic Communications, Ericsson

Don McCullough, Director Strategic Communications, Ericsson

Ericsson made a splash at Mobile World Congress, describing and demonstrating their vision for 5G, and all the different use cases they envision for the technology.

Ahead of 5G Forum USA in Palo Alto in a couple of weeks, we had the opportunity to catch-up with Don McCullough, Director of Strategic Communications at Ericsson. During the interview, Don shared Ericsson’s work in innovating and defining the 5G landscape, their objectives and likely use cases for this next generation.

At MWC2015, Ericsson exhibited many new use cases for cellular technology and infrastructure, from construction to transportation networks. What are some of the most promising new verticals for LTE technology?

We think 5G will benefit everyone.  And based on past experience with mobile technology, we expect the unexpected in terms of uses and applications.  But we also have ideas on the likely use cases for 5G.

Ericsson is focused on a few vertical use cases for LTE, LTE Advanced and 5G.  Transportation is a big one.  Here we see both Traffic Safety and Public Safety uses as well as Connected Vehicles leading to Autonomous Vehicle applications.  Ericsson has partnered with both network operators and with vehicle manufacturers such as Volvo to introduce our Connected Vehicle Cloud.  We also use their feedback to evolve the requirements for these applications.  In a similar way, we are also focused on utilities, smart cities and more niche applications like high density usage in stadiums during sporting events.

All the Use Cases help us understand future requirements and recruit new users into the eco-system.

What do you think will be the defining features of 5G?

5G will be defined by its wide-scale, cross-domain integration of network, compute and storage resources.

One of the things we are exploring is how a massive distributed platform can improve performance especially with regard to latency.  So, all the work being done in virtualization and orchestration will be applicable to 5G.

5G will also have a radio component, focused on optimizing the use of spectrum.  Spectrum will be one of the most valuable and constrained resources in the future.  Our CTO, Ulf Ewaldsson, has said that spectrum will be the oil of the future in terms of being critical to a society and being in limited supply.

What role will LTE network infrastructure and existing sites play in the roll-out and implementation of 5G?

LTE will be one of the main networks integrated into the 5G network.  We do not expect that it will be replaced by 5G, but included.  And in many ways LTE Advanced, with its spectrum sharing and better performance, is paving the way for 5G in the future.

What do you see as the main challenges ahead for 5G development and roll-out in the years ahead?

Spectrum rules and availability will be a critical enabler for 5G.  We continue to work hard with regulators around the world to provide input on the needs and possibilities for spectrum.

One of the biggest risks in the 5G future is that industries will continue to build silo networks targeted at specific applications.

The 5G vision is that there is one integrated physical network that allows multiple, customized logical networks to run over it.  We call that Network Slicing.  It is critical to building a high performance, wide scale, global low cost network that we avoid application-specific silos.

What will be Ericsson’s key message to delegates, attendees and speakers at 5G Forum USA in Palo Alto this month?

Ericsson will emphasize that 5G is a system approach that should include many networks in a single platform.  We will be inviting operators and users together to build an eco-system that is ready for 5G.  We will also show that many of the activities going on today, LTE, LTE Advanced, Virtualization, Programmability and Orchestration will all have a role in 5G.  So, 5G will not be a Big Bang in 2020, but will have significant uses and successes in the years leading up to 2020.


Don McCullough, Director Strategic Communications, tells the story of how Ericsson is innovating in the areas of 5G, Software Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualization for Ericsson’s CTO Office.  He has 25 years of high-tech marketing and product management experience in both start-up and public companies.  He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from George Washington University and a MBA from Duke University.

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