Ericsson CTO: For mobile networks to keep up, they need to embrace the cloud

The mobile industry needs to make massive investment in future wireless networking technologies if it hopes to even keep up with the pace of innovation on the internet and in the cloud, according to Ericsson(s eric) CTO Ulf Ewaldsson.

While that might seem to be a rather self-serving statement from a company that sells wireless infrastructure, Ewaldsson said Ericsson and the network vendors need to shoulder the burden just as much as carriers. Speaking Wednesday at GigaOM’s Structure:Europe conference in London, Ewaldsson said Ericsson’s own efforts to develop new mobile internet and cloud services have been stymied by the limitations of today’s networking technologies.

“The only reason why the innovation power that’s going on in the cloud will not be unleashed or not happen is if the networks are not good enough,” Ewaldsson said. “Over the years Ericsson has been working with these kinds of technologies, we have innovated a lot of things that we want to do, and then we see they cannot be realized because the networks are not good enough.”

Ewaldsson said that Ericsson believes that incorporating cloud and software defined networking (SDN) technologies into the mobile network will help create faster, more responsive networks –- hence his recent decision to open up two new cloud research facilities in Sweden and one in Canada. Rather than just make the mobile network a means to access the cloud, it could become an extension of it.

Ultimately a large part of the mobile network requires highly specialized radio hardware that can’t be replicated in a data center, but as you move closer and into the mobile core, more of the network can be recreated as software, Ewaldsson said.

Ericsson isn’t the only one pursuing these kind of mobile architectures. Companies from both the computing industry such as Intel(s intc) and traditional wireless vendors like Alcatel-Lucent(s alu) and Nokia(s nok) are investigating ways of virtualizing the base station, the fundamental building block of the cellular network. We’re going to discuss how cloud architectures are creeping further into the mobile network at Structure:Europe’s sister conference Mobilize next month in San Francisco.

Check out the rest of our Structure:Europe 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page