Ericsson appoints former BT exec to lead its UK 5G charge

Ericsson has poached longtime BT executive Katherine Ainley to head up its UK and Ireland business, whose current focus is squarely on the rollout of 5G networks.

Ainley will join the Swedish vendor next month, after leaving her current role as Managing Director, Ventures, at BT, a unit that focuses on small businesses and start-ups. She has been with the UK incumbent since 2007 in a variety of different roles, prior to which she held a senior manager position at banking group Lloyds TSB.

Despite her varied career history, Ericsson appears pretty single-minded when it comes to her new position.

“Katherine will be a key part of our 5G journey, bringing a wealth of industry experience to the role,” said Arun Bansal, President and Head of Ericsson Europe and Latin America, in a statement that also included the customary comments about the economic and societal benefits that those selling mobile equipment insist 5G will bring.

Ericsson has made much of the “crucial opportunity” 5G will afford markets like the UK and Ireland, particularly on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic and related demand for connectivity. But the truth is that this is a crucial opportunity for Ericsson as much as anyone else, with China’s Huawei out in the cold in many Western 5G markets.

Indeed, the company noted that it is the only 5G vendor in the UK to have commercial agreements in place with all four network operators and that it will upgrade 20,000 sites by 2024 as part of the UK’s 5G rollout effort.

UK mobile operators are barred from installing any Huawei 5G equipment after September this year and are required to rip out all Huawei kit by 2028. The government is pushing diversification of suppliers on the back of these rulings, but the fact is that there remains a big opportunity for big players like Ericsson; further, Ericsson cannot afford to squander it and that is doubtless having a bearing on its leadership decisions.

“Ericsson is at the forefront of 5G deployment around the world, playing an especially critical role here in the UK and Ireland where the technology is so important to the economic ambitions for both countries,” said Ainley. “I am honoured and excited to be joining as CEO in February and look forward to leading Ericsson’s accelerated network deployment and opening up 5G as an exciting innovation platform for the future in partnership with all mobile network operators.”

Ainley replaces John Griffin, who has served as acting CEO for the UK and Ireland since October and will now return to his regular position as country manager for Ericsson Ireland. Ericsson is playing its cards very close to its chest when it comes to the whereabouts of former UK and Ireland chief executive Marielle Lindgren, merely telling us she ‘decided to pursue a new opportunity outside of Ericsson late last year.’ It must have been a rather sudden decision.for them to need to draft in an interim…


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