Ericsson has claimed that it is ahead of competitors, including Huawei, when it comes to 5G deployment.

The Swedish telecommunications giant held a briefing in London the day after it was announced that Mobile World Congress would not be going ahead due to coronavirus risks.

Ericsson had already pulled out of the event last week, with Stella Medlicott, senior vice president and head of Group Function Marketing & Corporate Relations, saying that “it wasn’t a decision that we made lightly, but it was unanimous across the company”.

“We looked at the fact that this could impact our employees, it could impact our customers, our partners, press and analysts and a lot of government officials that we’re meeting there as well. Although the risk was low, it wasn’t a risk we felt we were willing to take,” she continued.

Medlicott did not comment on how much it had cost the company to withdraw from Mobile World Congress, but said that it had been a “costly decision”.

Ericsson challenges Huawei on 5G deployment

The subject of 5G inevitably took centre-stage, with Ericsson now having 24 live 5G networks in 14 countries, and 81 5G commercial agreements.

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By GlobalData

However, Huawei has dominated discussions of 5G in the last few months, following the UK Government’s decision to allow Huawei equipment in the country’s non-core 5G network, meaning it will not be used in sensitive parts of the network.

A source in the telecoms industry reportedly told The Guardian that Huawei was “nine to 18 months ahead of their competition”, with Nokia and Ericsson “playing catchup”. Vodafone CTO Scott Petty also told the BBC that a Huawei ban would “slow down the deployment of 5G very significantly”.

With the company keen to address any claims that it is not a front-runner, Fredrik Jejling, Executive Vice President and Head of Business Area Networks, said:

“We deploy 24 networks across the globe and we’ve been first in deploying networks across four continents so for us it’s hard to see anyone ahead of us currently at this stage.”

“If you look at certain bands and certain radios we might be ahead in certain ones, and competitors might be ahead in another on,e but we believe we have a competitive portfolio that is on par, if not ahead of our competitors currently, ” he continued.

Medlicott also explained that the company is working on “mythbusting” such claims, saying “we’re not 18 months behind from a technology point of view”.

This follows comments made at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month by Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm that “no one ahead of us”.

Yesterday, Ericsson has announced that it has reached record speeds of 4.3Gbps over-the-air using a 5G smartphone form factor test device in its lab in Stockholm, which it claims is the “fasted 5G speed to date”.

Ericsson also addressed the news that some regions of Switzerland had halted the rollout of 5G  due to health concerns, saying, “we monitor very carefully and we believe that we are within regulatory standards set by the World Health Organisation”.

Read more: Mobile World Congress has been cancelled.