Ericsson EVP and head of networks Fredrik Jejdling tipped European operators to begin switching-on commercial standalone (SA) 5G in 2021, as the company used its Q2 earnings call to continue staking a claim to replace Huawei kit in the UK.

In an interview with Mobile World Live, Jejdling said SA 5G was “coming at a rapid pace” with the technology expected to enable the “benefits 5G was designed for.” He noted an initial drive in Asia and the US, but said it saw demand across major markets.

Elsewhere, the company continued to push its abilities to replace Huawei in the UK’s networks following a ban announced by the country earlier this week. Jejdling said it was ready to step-in and help operators meet their existing 5G deployment timelines.

Citing the UK’s decision during an investor call earlier in the day, Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm said it was key across Europe to create a more investment-friendly environment for operators.

“What we have had for a while now is very uncertain,” Ekholm said, elaborating: “Who’s approved, who’s not approved, what’s going to happen, what’s not going to happen, and that creates an environment for our customers that are not friendly for investments.”

“For us Europe has been a good market but only thanks to share gains, we’ve seen growth in the second quarter due to market share gains not the general market.”

Open season
During the investor call, Ekholm also took a swipe at rival Nokia’s recent bullish statements on the open RAN market.

When asked about its prospects in comparison, he said Ericsson is focusing more “on delivering the solutions to the customer and less about marketing,” adding “we are also big believers” in open RAN.

“In high performance applications you need to solve a number of different use cases, some of them demand very high performance…and some are less performance intensive”.

“I believe we are well positioned to capture opportunities across that spectrum. That includes the purpose-built for high performance as well as possibly open solutions for more lower-end performance requirements.”

During Q2, Ericsson net income increased 40 per cent year-on-year to SEK2.6 billion ($287.6 million) with sales broadly flat at SEK55.6 billion. It noted earnings in Q2 2019 had been impacted by restructuring charges and several one-off costs.

Its Network business grew 4 per cent, Ekholm said, noting up to today (17 July) it had 99 commercial 5G contracts in place with 54 networks live.

The executive added the Covid-19 pandemic had “limited impact on operating income and cash flow”, though uncertainty related to the public health situation remained.