Today marks the end of a big move for wireless network equipment maker Ericsson Canada.
Forced to move from a campus it shared with other networking companies that also bought pieces of bankrupt Nortel Networks, Ericsson will open a new research and development lab in Ottawa this afternoon with company CEO Hans Vestberg to help cut the ribbon.
In terms of square feet, the lab will be a little smaller (45,000 sq. ft.) than the one it vacated. On the other hand, there will be lots of space (245,00 sq. ft in total) for the 900 Ottawa-area employees who will now be under one roof, including those of Wi-Fi equipment maker BelAir Networks, which Ericsson bought last year.
Not only will it house radio access development and new wireless technologies, it will also be a centre of excellence.
For testing wireless equipment, the company had to create a building within a building.
“This for us is an extremely important market,” Vestberg said in an interview Thursday morning. Ericsson is a major supplier of carrier equipment to Rogers Communications Inc. and other Canadian wireless operators. But also, he said, “this is a global hub for Ericsson from and R&D point of view. Here in Ottawa, for example, we’re doing much of the latest and greatest on LTE and Wi-Fi for the whole group.”
LTE is the current fastest cellular data transfer technology, offering download speeds under ideal conditions of up to 75 Mbps. It has the potential, Ericsson says to go over 100 Mbps.
Canada is also important in another way: Three weeks ago Ericsson announced it will consolidate all of its global data centres into three locations, one of which is being planned for construction outside Montreal.
Separately, Vestberg also talked about the just-released report of a UN-sponsored task force he chaired on how broadband can be used to meet its millennium development goals to help countries build a more sustainable and healthy world.
One of the report’s conclusions is that countries use national broadband plans as key policy instruments to leverage the full potential of broadband to accelerate sustainable development, including fighting poverty, gender inequality, uneven distribution of health care service and education and carbon emissions.
One hundred and third four countries have a broadband plan, he noted. When the task force started its work that number was 50.
But Vesberg shied away from criticizing Canada for not yet issuing its long-promised digital strategy. “Canada is still very well developed” in broadband access, he said. But the task force learned that what’s more important is that when governments set targets to solve social problems they harmonize their strategy with technology.
On the other hand, he added, non-developed nations that don’t have a broadband plan lag dramatically behind other countries.
Five countries were cited in the report for their best practices: Japan, Sweden, Mexico, the Philippines, and Rwanda.
Ericsson has been in Canada for 60 years, with more than 3,100 employees across the country. It says it is one of the top R&D spending companies in the country.