On April 1, 1876, Lars Magnus Ericsson opened his mechanical engineering shop in the 13 square meters mechanical workshop. From this small space, a multinational company grew that today employs around 110,000 people, operates in 180 countries and holds 39,000 patents. For 140 years, Ericsson's ideas, technology and people have created monumental impact and real turning points that have transformed lives, industries and society as a whole.
During April 2016, Ericsson celebrated 140 years of innovations. On this occasion, Telecom Review had the pleasure to interview Fida Kibbi, Vice President & Head of Marketing and Communications, Ericsson MENA, Head of Marketing and Communications, Ericsson MENA.
What does 140 years of presence in the industry mean for Ericsson?
In today's technology landscape, new companies spring up constantly. For a large multinational company in this competitive industry, it is noteworthy that we have 140 years of experience and innovation to draw upon. Throughout our history, Ericsson's innovations have moved society forward by enabling communication between people. Today, with our leadership in mobility, broadband and cloud, we are not just enabling communication between people; we drive transformation of whole industries and societies - enabling new business models, new ways of innovating and new ways of finding solutions to common challenges.
Can you please tell us more about Ericsson's history in the Middle East?
The company had its first historical milestone, in Region Middle East & Africa, in the 1890s with the installation of the first telephone line in the DolmabahÃ§e Palace, in Istanbul Turkey. This line is still active today, and has played witness to many more milestones across the company's 140 years of presence. In the 1890s, Ericsson's presence in the region grew with the first telephone exchange in Egypt in 1897, and the commencement of sales of telephone receivers in Ethiopia in 1894. Yet, telephony services in Turkey and Egypt grew through the 1920s. In fact, during that period Ericsson was effective in selling large numbers of telephones and this is when the word "Ericsson" became a generic term for a telephone in the Middle East.
Throughout the decades, Ericsson has always brought its latest innovative services and solutions to the region, building network infrastructure and growing the connectivity potential across different markets, while supporting operators to overcome business challenges and achieve their strategic objectives in new areas.
The company was there to introduce many firsts in Middle East & North East Africa, including some of the first GSM networks, the first thirds generation networks, and radio dot system installations.
These days are riddled with many other firsts as well, such as the first LTE-A network in Lebanon recently, the introduction of the first radio dot system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the first non-operator industry transformations to the Networked Society in the region.
How do you summarize Ericsson's contribution to the world?
Ericsson's history is full of turning points and defining moments. As part of our celebration we have highlighted some of the most significant turning points that have had a real impact, transforming lives, industries and societies. These include the introduction of mobile telephony and mobile internet, bluetooth, mobile broadband and more. But perhaps we are in the middle of the most defining moment right now. Today, we are not just enabling communication between people; we drive transformation of whole industries and societies, enabling new business models, new ways of innovating and new ways of finding solutions to common challenges.
Our founder, Lars Magnus Ericsson, stated that communication is a basic human need and that the possibilities to communicate should be available to all. Looking at where we are today, where we have more than 7 billion mobile subscriptions in the world, it would be certain to say that enabling communication between people across the globe is one of our major contributions. If you then think about how this contribution enables transformation of the ways we interact, innovate and do business, that contribution becomes even more significant.
Looking ahead to the next decade, what will the future unfold for Ericsson?
Our CEO Hans Vestberg has often said that change will never be this slow again. We expect that we will have a number of turning points in the upcoming 10 years. Perhaps the most significant one will be the commercial debut of 5G, and we look forward to seeing what kind of industry turning points this advanced network can foster.