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Pekka Lundmark & Börje Ekholm at CII Partnership Summit

The pace at which India is building out 5G, it will have the most modern digital infrastructure in the world, Börje Ekholm, President and CEO of Ericsson Group, said on Wednesday. He was joined by Nokia CEO Pekka Lundmark, who said his company has already begun to export 5G base stations or radios manufactured in India.

Speaking at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Partnership Summit on Thursday, the leaders of both the global telecom giants said their companies were firmly focused on India. Both firms are currently rolling out 5G tech in the country, partnering with telecom service providers Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.

Ekholm said 5G will digitalise society and enterprise both, and the jobs that come with it will be created where enabling infrastructure is built out first. “That’s why I’m excited about India, and if I were 25, I would have moved to India,” he added.

He said the consumer base actually digitised on top of 4G. “We saw all the big consumer applications developing over the past two years in the two countries that built out the first 4G networks in the world. That was the United States and China. Almost all digital jobs in the consumer world were created there,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lundmark stressed that the next big thing for India will be industrial digitalisation enabled by 5G. “Most of the value of this (telecom) technology has been created through consumer apps. Going forward, manufacturing 4.0 products will attract more manufacturing and research,” he said.

Saying it was impressive how India has systematically built out a digital identity for its large population, democratised fintech and is making 5G popular, Lundmark said these were cornerstones of future economic growth.

Focus on India
The Nokia CEO said India was its largest manufacturing base. “We had 30 per cent growth here last year with sales worth 1.2 billion euro. That growth is now accelerating, so this is clearly our fastest growing market,” he said.

“India is our biggest single employment base. We have over 25,000 employees here–more than 2,000 in R&D, more than 500 in AI. For us, this is one of the bigger commitments. We have almost one in four employees based in India today,” Ekholm said.

India is also Nokia’s largest payroll base, with 16,000 employees and a significant R&D base.

Slowdown in US, EU
Tepid growth in developed markets, however, remains a worry for the two companies. “The economics of the US is quite strong. It seems to be doing well. A temporary slowdown is what we see from our customers, but the fundamental economy seems okay. While we read about job losses in the US tech sector, most of the people who lose jobs in one company, are re-employed in another one very quickly. The value of tech is big,” Lundmark said.

Europe on the other hand, is a big question mark. While the war in Ukraine has dented consumer sentiment, the presence of very high inflation, very high food inflation and high cost of living has also removed a lot of consumer income from the market, he stressed.

“Europe is not the role model in the digital world any more. It is not building out digital infrastructure. I see big concerns about Europe when I talk to customers,” he added.

Lundmark said he was hopeful because only 30 percent of the global economy is digitalised. “I’m not seeing big cuts in spending despite the economic slowdown. The technology we are providing is a central part of the answer to almost all of the main global challenges,” he said. Business Standard

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