Net neutrality - 'The future will bring industrial use of networks, prioritisation is essential' says Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg

Debate: Hans Vestberg discussed net neutrality

The net neutrality debate must incorporate the upcoming industrial use of networks to deliver services ranging from healthcare and education as well as consumer products, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg has warned.

Speaking to The Drum at the Ericsson Executive Media Summit in Sweden, Vestberg detailed his vision for a future of expanding cities and technological advancement and said that the prioritisation of services on networks will be essential not only for functionality but to draw in investment for development.

“When we talk about net neutrality, yes of course everyone should have access to the internet,” he said. “However, we need to be aware that there are going to be services on the network that have different calls to service.

“That is not a contradiction of net neutrality and the principle that people should have internet access, that’s obvious, but we also need to understand that we’re going to need certain priorities if we’re going to get all the efficiency out of our society.

“Think about the healthcare service, we’re not only talking about remote patients, imagine there is a connected healthcare network that connects patients with their doctor, surgeon and nurse, a network that can provide information.

“Of course, that could be life saving, but it’s also providing efficiency for a public service. But if we believe that everybody has to have the same quality of service and we’re not going to prioritise it nobody will invest in it, nobody will do it.”

Vestberg referred to driverless cars, lightbulbs powered by mobile networks and mobile-cutting carbon emissions through making simple processes such as parking a car, as more efficient examples of valuable services that need to be prioritised differently on networks.

While he acknowledged that it’s important to protect and consider the consumer place in the debate, he said there needs to be a broader way of thinking about net neutrality and it should not be discussed on the more basic levels of issues such as commercial streaming services for companies such as Netflix and Verizon.

“The whole notion so far has been about consumers and consumers using it and that’s very important, he said. “But I’m talking about industrial usage on the networks in the future and that’s where we really need to have quality of services. We can always debate whether Facebook should have a better quality compared with other services, but I think that’s another discussion, I’m much more interested in the industrial use of networks in the future.

“I’m passionate about how networks will be in the future and how important they will be for our society. I see this from Africa to New York to Russia to whatever place – I have the fantastic luxury to see all the benefit it can bring and that’s why I think I have an important role to explain how networks will be in future.”

There are currently efforts underway in Europe to protect the principle of net neutrality – which underpins the idea that all online services should be treated equally within networks – while in the US recent court judgements have opened up the commercial prioritisation of networks. Netflix has already stated it is now paying to ensure services are delivered to users with guaranteed quality.

While some critics of altering the pre-existing net neutrality principle of the internet, warn it could stifle innovation and commercialise the fabric of the internet, Vestberg said the future must be taken into consideration along with the wider implications of how networks operate.

“We need to be aware that if we’re going to live in this world in 2050 and have a sustainable world and liveable cities we need to see that technology is actually used and given different quality of service for different types of people, and businesses,” he said.

Vestberg has been CEO at Ericsson for the last five years and has helped the business shift from a mainly hardware company to a software and services business.

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