Chinese telco supplier Huawei may be banned by the US and Australian governments, but it’s powering ahead in most of the globe. It owns the Chinese market, of course, but it is also doing particularly well in Europe.
This week Huawei is holding its tenth annual Global Mobile Broadband (MBB) Forum in Zürich, Switzerland. It is a tour de force of its technology and its 5G strategy. The Europeans don’t share the Anglosphere’s concerns about the giant Chinese vendor – just this week Germany announced that no vendor would be excluded from that country’s 5G rollout.
The theme of this year’s MBB Forum is ‘5G, Gear Up’. Zürich’s cavernous Exhibition Hall has dozens of stands displaying technology from Huawei and its partners on that subject.
Huawei deputy chairman Ken Hu outlined the current status of 5G development around the world. He highlighted what 5G has brought to consumers and industries in early adopter countries, He also spoke about the importance of policy development and cross-sector collaboration for speeding up the next stage of 5G development.
"We've made great progress," said Hu. "But to make the most of 5G, we need to work together to deal with the real challenges that lie ahead: spectrum, site resources, and cross-sector collaboration. 5G is not just faster 4G. It will play a completely different role in our lives, so as an industry, we all need to have a fresh mindset to drive its future development."
Hu said it was less than a year since 5G standards were agreed. "In that time we have seen large-scale commercial deployment, much faster than 4G. Carriers in more than 20 countries have launched a total of 40 commercial 5G networks. More than 60 are expected by the end of 2019.
“5G is supercharging user experience,” said Hu. “In South Korea, the first market to launch a commercial 5G network, local carriers have signed up more than 3.5 million 5G subscribers in less than six months.
I can attribute much of this growth to new services like 5G-powered AR/VR and live 360 degree HD sports broadcasting. With these services alone, data consumption among early 5G adopters has increased by a factor of three, up to 1.3 gigabytes a month.”
Hu said carriers are also seeing more revenue. “For example, South Korean carrier LG U+ released 5G-powered VR/AR services as part of its premium data plans. In just three months after 5G launch, the proportion of premium subscribers grew from 3.1% to 5.3%.
But he said spectrum resources, specifically the cost and availability of spectrum, are one of the most significant barriers that carriers face. "We hope governments can provide more spectrum resources to carriers, and consider more flexible pricing models. This will reduce the initial CapEx burden on carriers as they rollout their 5G networks."
A keynote presentation from Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer at industry body GSMA, “Three factors will affect the speed at which 5G is adopted and the value that it will generate: the opportunities for value generation, cost considerations and deployment dependencies.”
Almost half the countries that have already implemented %G are in Europe. Speaking at the Huawei event were CEOs and CTOs from major European telcos including Telefonica, Orange, Elisa (Finland) and Sunrise (Switzerland). All are working closely wither Huawei.
Graeme Philipson visited Zürich as a guest of Huawei.