T-Mobile took a page out of Verizon's playbook by hiring a former Ericsson executive to lead its 5G networking efforts.
Specifically, T-Mobile US Inc. said that it hired Ulf Ewaldsson, formerly of Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), as its SVP of technology transformation, "where he will drive T-Mobile’s 5G technology evolution strategy," the carrier said. Ewaldsson will report to T-Mobile's longtime CTO and EVP Neville Ray.
Importantly, T-Mobile confirmed to Light Reading that the hire of Ewaldsson doesn't signal a major change to the structure of the company's overall networks business. The carrier said that top network executives like Dave Mayo (most recently SVP and chief of T-Mobile's 5G and IoT plans), Karri Kuoppamaki (most recently VP of radio network technology development and strategy) and Mark McDiarmid (most recently SVP of radio network engineering and development) remain at the operator.
"Ulf has achieved so many firsts and truly supported the evolution of technology for telecommunications across the globe," T-Mobile's Ray said in a statement. "Bringing him on board is a total win for T-Mobile and we couldn’t wait to share it! He is going to be the perfect addition to our consumer-first Un-carrier team to drive our 5G evolution strategy!"
Ewaldsson left Ericsson almost exactly a year ago amid one of the many management shakeups deployed by CEO Börje Ekholm as he works to right the global wireless equipment vendor's finances and strategy. T-Mobile noted Ewaldsson during his 30-year career at Ericsson held various senior leadership roles, including head of the company's Business Area Digital Services, chief strategy and technology officer, head of group function strategy and technology and head of product area radio.
The hire comes at a critical time for T-Mobile. The operator recently confirmed to Light Reading that it has rolled out 5G network equipment in 30 cities, as it promised to do last year. However, the company is not yet offering commercial services on the new network because it is waiting for 5G smartphones to become available. (See T-Mobile Quietly Confirms 5G Network in 30 Cities.)
But more importantly, T-Mobile is working to merge with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S). If that merger is approved, Ewaldsson could well oversee a massive spectrum portfolio for 5G stretching from 600MHz to Sprint's 2.5GHz holdings.
And even if the Sprint merger falls apart, some analysts believe T-Mobile's 5G network, running mainly on its 600MHz licenses, will create a sizable opportunity for the operator. "We believe T-Mobile is best positioned to deliver real 5G whenever that reality actually materializes. T-Mobile’s deep and unused low-band spectrum should enable it to launch real 5G before all of its peers. T-Mobile should therefore be considered a primary 5G investment opportunity for investors whether their acquisition of Sprint is approved or not," wrote Wall Street Analyst Walter Piecyk of BTIG Research.
Indeed, BTIG raised its price target on T-Mobile to $91 from $87, based on higher subscriber growth estimates as well as its 30 MHz of low-band spectrum. "We believe T-Mobile is uniquely positioned to use this clean, low-band spectrum to roll out 5G-NR faster than its peers," Piecyk noted.
Interestingly, Ewaldsson isn't the only Swede from Ericsson to make the move to the United States to deploy 5G. Verizon initially hired Ekholm's predecessor, Hans Vestberg, as its CTO before promoting him to the CEO position last year. Vestberg brought Rima Qureshi with him from Ericsson; Qureshi is Verizon's EVP and chief strategy officer. (See Verizon Restructures in Bid for 5G Growth.)