Swedish telecom company Ericsson plans to open its first U.S. factory in North Texas — and it will be a smart factory that makes equipment for 5G technology, the company announced Thursday.
Ericsson will open the 300,000-square-foot factory in Lewisville in early 2020 to manufacture advanced antenna system radios for the next-generation wireless network. The factory will be “smart” because of its many digitized and connected features, and will have automated warehouses and assembly and use of autonomous carts.
The company will hire 100 employees for the factory by the end of 2019 and increase staffing to 400 over the next three to four years, said Matthias Lidén, Ericsson’s head of group supply in North and South America. It will invest about $134 million in the Lewisville facility.
The factory will be close to Ericsson’s North American headquarters in Plano. It will be on South Valley Parkway near State Highway 121.
It’s one of many investments Ericsson is making to speed deployment and adoption of 5G. For the telecom firm — and its competitors, such as Nokia — the new wireless network is a major business opportunity.
To prepare for 5G’s rollout, Ericsson opened a research and development site and a product design center in Austin. It created innovation hubs in Silicon Valley and Montreal focused on artificial intelligence, and it opened a Lewisville training facility for tower climbers.
“We continue to increase our investments in the U.S., so that we can more rapidly respond to customer demands, accelerating our pace of innovation and time to market for critical new products,” said Niklas Heuveldop, president and head of Ericsson North America, in a statement.
Lidén said Ericsson will convert its existing factories into smart factories over time. Earlier this week, the company completed a $51.6 million upgrade to its factory in Nanjing, China. That plant makes 5G and 4G radio products for communication service providers in the Chinese market.
5G is expected to bring the speed, reliability and bandwidth to keep up with customers’ hunger for data, the growing number of connected devices and emerging technology. Wireless carriers buy equipment made by Ericsson and install it on utility poles, buildings and cell towers. It ultimately supports customers’ phones and other devices.
Ericsson will receive nearly $3.6 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund, which the state uses to attract companies and close deals. To receive the funding, the company must create more than 400 jobs.
“From manufacturing to technology, the Texas economy is firing on all cylinders thanks to investments of world class companies like Ericsson,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.
Lewisville officials expect to vote on an economic incentive package for Ericsson in the coming weeks, said Jason Moore, the city’s director of economic development.
Smart factories, which can have robots or automated features, have gained popularity across industries. Last year, Dallas-based AT&T and network equipment maker Samsung announced they were creating an innovation zone in Austin to test how 5G could power manufacturing and change how factories look in the future.
Ericsson chose Lewisville because of the company’s existing North Texas facilities and the many companies in the Dallas area, Lidén said. He said Lewisville will be its main distribution point for the North American market.
Ericsson has about 2,500 employees in Plano. It has 95,000 employees across the globe, including about 10,000 in the U.S. and Canada.