“Rookie” Ericsson CEO ducks strategy update at MWC 2017

New Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm opted to completely avoid the topic of his company’s urgently-needed strategic overhaul in his maiden MWC media event.

“I’m a rookie at Mobile World Congress,” he announced at the start of an 8am briefing that was short on detail. It was mainly top-line, aspirational, corporate fare with lots of the usual talk about how 5G will change the world and so forth.

This was the best we got on strategy: “We at Ericsson are working on our strategy, we’re evaluating where we will invest and how, to make sure that we are relevant in the future,” said Ekholm. “One thing is certain, we’ll be building on our strength in mobility and our ability to manage complex projects.”

Neville Ray from T-Mobile US was invited on stage to tell us how great his company is, saying “T-Mobile US is kind of kicking arse.” We also saw representatives from Telstra, 20th Century Fox and Scania join the corporate love-in. There followed a brief Q&A session where, frustratingly, most of the questions were directed at Ray concerning minor, technical TMUS matters. We would’ve asked about strategy but weren’t given the opportunity.

A month ago Ekholm had his first public media outing, where he teased the grand strategic overhaul Ericsson clearly needs. While he has presumably been pretty busy since he took over the top job it wasn’t unreasonable to hope that in the intervening time he might have at least fleshed out his vision a bit.

The complete lack of any volunteered information on the matter combined with a convenient absence of any such questions left this correspondent and analysts spoken to immediately afterwards feeling somewhat underwhelmed. The early start combined with the lack of substance made the superior coffee offered up by Ericsson at its MWC area especially well-received.

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