Huawei ramps up the 5G chest beating

Huawei’s 2018 Mobile Broadband Forum has been all about bigging up 5G and the host hasn’t been shy about banging its own drum.

Director of the carrier business group Ryan Ding used his keynote to announce that Huawei has already signed 22 commercial contracts for 5G. “Every new generation of network comes with new challenges, and this applies to 5G commercial deployment, too,” said Ding. “We take complexity and deliver simplicity. That means we will provide innovative solutions to address challenges in 5G commercialization. Our close collaboration with carriers will help them find the easy way to 5G.”

It looks like the rest of Ding’s keynote was more of the same sort of thing so we’ll spare you the details. His boss Ken Hu had previously announced at the event that Huawei has already shipped 10,000 5G base stations. “From all angles, 5G is ready,” he said. “It’s ready to use, it’s affordable, and most importantly, demand is real. Of course, there are still some barriers to 5G deployment.”

To be fair to Huawei it does seem to have a fair bit to crow about on the 5G front. In a panel at the same event, attended by Light Reading, BT’s Chief Architect Neil McRae declared that Huawei is the only true 5G supplier right now. To some extent those remarks seem designed to motivate Huawei’s competitors to raise their game, but it does serve as a reminder that, in spite of its geopolitical challenges, Huawei is still the team to beat in telecoms.

40% of the world’s population on 5G by 2025, says GSMA

GSMA’s Director General spoke at Huawei’s MBBF 2018 event, talking up the prospect and promises of 5G and artificial intelligence

Mats Granryd, the Director General of the telecom trade organisation GSMA made a keynote speech themed on “intelligent connectivity” at Huawei’s MBB 2018 event at London’s ExCel today. Granryd put spotlight on 5G and AI as the key enablers to what the telecom industry has to offer in the years to come.

In addition to predicting that 70% of the world’s population, or roughly 6 billion people will be on mobile internet, GSMA forecast 40% of the world population will be on 5G networks. When it comes to AI, on top of improving individual experience (e.g. Personal Assistants) and serving new industry needs (e.g. network slicing), Granryd highlighted what the combined AI capabilities can do for society. The GSMA’s “Big Data for Social Good” initiative has launched in seven countries around the world. Mobile operators in those markets have worked with local partners to enable air pollution warning, malaria spreading prediction, and natural disaster preparedness, using big data and machine learning and prediction capabilities.

Guiqing Liu, EVP of China Telecom, the world’s largest integrated operators in the world by subscriber number, then took the stage to share what China Telecom saw as the biggest opportunity for telecom operators to undertake the digital transformation, especially with the ascendency of industry markets. Liu included four key capabilities the industry in particular the operators need to master to succeed in the transformation. They are: end-to-end slicing to cater to different user and industry needs; FMC edge computing to deliver seamless experience; 5G+Cloud based network and services to provide flexible and special customisation; and 5G+AI to both optimise service delivery and network management.

Liu also outlined the key challenges the industry is facing before 5G can become a real commercial success. He conceded that use cases now are still very much focused on eMBB, and the industry has not thought through how to change business models in the new era, including how to bill customers for the new use cases. On network challenges, in addition to the CAPEX and OPEX and skill gap, Liu also pointed the indoor coverage weakness intrinsic of the high frequency bands most 5G networks will be built on.

Operators stress the need to collaborate over 5G

At Huawei’s MBBF 2018 event some of its operator partners talked up the need for greater collaboration, including among themselves, to make a success of 5G.

Howard Watson, CTIO of BT, said “we truly need interoperability,” when detailing all the many moving parts that need to work with each other in order to make all this 5G hype a reality. He identified the TIP initiative as an example of operators collaborating towards a common goal and was careful to stress that he thinks vendors can still raise their game in that area too.

Being given a keynote at MBBF is also a great opportunity for a spot of self-promotion and Watson didn’t hold back. We were reminded of the recent announcement of EE’s 2019 5G rollout plans and even its most recent 5G trial in London. He also took the opportunity to talk up BT’s group strategy, using the diagram you can find here, which BT is bafflingly keen on, to illustrate his point.

Once Watson got all this corporate chest-beating out of his system he did flag up one interesting feature of BT’s broader strategy: the tight integration of wifi into the overall connectivity picture for BTEE customers. BT is extending the IMS network it currently uses for wifi calling in order to facilitate this and will be doing some clever stuff to solve the pain currently experienced when trying to dynamically switch between wifi and cellular. Creating all this simplicity is very complicated, he concluded.

We also heard from Alex Choi, Head of T-Labs at Deutsche Telekom. He couldn’t resist a bit of light self-congratulation in flagging up its 5G efforts in Berlin (in partnership with Huawei). He too stressed the need for ‘an ecosystem approach’ to 5G and highlighted HD video streaming as a key use-case for consumers.

Huawei hyperbolises about 5G at its 2018 mobile broadband fest

At its Global MBB Forum 2018 event in London, Huawei hoped to whip up the large audience into a frenzy of 5G anticipation.

No expense was spared as the main presentation was preceded by an acapella group apparently serenading Huawei and then a cute little girl, squeaking out the many ways in which 5G will improve everyone’s life.

We then heard from Huawei Rotating Chairman Ken Hu, who served up a list of Huawei’s 5G achievements and then went on to expand on the little girl’s 5G hyperbole with the standard references to enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-low latency and massive IOT. He did warn, however, that all this good stuff might not happen if governments don’t muck in by making spectrum available and giving operators better access to sites, infrastructure, etc.

Hu signed off with the statement: “If you build it, they will come”. This encapsulated the theme of his opening keynote, which effectively amounted to a call to the industry to go all in of 5G. It’s fair to assume this theme will be laboured consistently throughout the two-day event.