The revolutionary potential of 5G is not yet fully understood by the public. While the switch from 3G to 4G was mostly a matter of increased speed, the rise of 5G will unlock the potential of a flood of new technologies. From self-driving cars to virtual reality, from Internet of Things to drones, 5G has the power to propel the Middle East forward on its path to digitalization.
All industries are now adopting digital technology and artificial intelligence. Not just manufacturing and agriculture, but also service industries like livestock management, logistics, and public safety. Mobile is the enabler of this process - the foundation of digital transformation. The telecom industry is the pillar on which the intelligent world will be built.
Today, there are 20 million shipping containers in the world, and 300 million LED streetlamps. There will be 1.8 billion water meters by 2025, and every year, 100 million new bicycles roll off the factory floor. "Each of these is a potential new subscriber," remarked Hu Houkun, Huawei's rotating CEO, at the 2017 Mobile Broadband Forum in London. The day when all machines are constantly connected and communicating is near and the development of 5G will play a key role in ushering in this day.
5G is necessary for the Middle East to progress in digital transformation. Already the development of 4.5G is making an impact in key regional initiatives: 4.5G Narrow Band-M2M is enabling the development of smart cities. The technology can provide smart intelligence within the city to optimize the daily use of energy (for example through remote control of public transport systems), guarantee better public safety (through video surveillance in streets) or leverage an efficient smart metering system.
4.5G is transition stage to reach 5G, which will truly revolutionize the world. Huawei identifies 15 typical services scenarios in which will 5G closely impact our daily lives. These include: ultra HD video, virtual reality, self-driving cars, and the deployment of drones. These are not futuristic fantasies: 5G might be commercialized by 2020. It is estimated that by then, 6.5 billion people worldwide will use mobile networks for data communications and that 100 billion additional ‘things', such as vehicles, home appliances, and medical devices, will also be connected via mobile networks.
The potential of 5G is huge, but there remains obstacles to its widespread implementation. Telecom operators need to strengthen network performance and management. Future networks need to be application-centric, data-driven - and eventually, intelligent.
Experience is becoming a bottleneck that plagues broadband development and operators need to provide better experience to meet the needs of individuals, households, enterprises, and the future intelligent world. By increasing the efficiency of broadband investment and shortening its payback period, operators can achieve sustainable development. Huawei will work with global operators and partners across the broadband industry to build a new industry ecosystem based on quality broadband.
Governments in the Middle East can also take steps to promote widespread implementation of 5G. They must set in place a regulatory framework that enables telcos to pursue a "scale-out and scale-up" approach. First, telcos must scale out to provide more connections. This will generate revenue, and pave the way for scaling up. Next, they can work with partners to develop value-added services based on the specific needs of industrial applications. This is the "scale-up."
Telcos can begin now by accelerating deployment of 4.5G and NB-IoT to boost network performance and pave the way for 5G. Then they need to take a look at how to improve their Operations & Management. From O&M to service provisioning, Huawei wants to build networks that are automated, self-optimizing, and self-healing, with the ultimate goal to reach full autonomy. This will drive an exponential increase in efficiency and resource allocation across the board. Huawei is already developing predictive maintenance systems for network sites. With operational data and AI, we can predict up to 50% of network faults, helping our customers reduce network failure rates by 20%.
Huawei Wireless X Labs recently released a white paper on the Top Ten 5G Use Cases. By analyzing multiple dimensions like industry reliance on 5G, business value, and service maturity, the white paper identifies ten of the most promising 5G use cases, leading the future direction of the 5G industry. The white paper focuses its analysis on industry reliance on 5G and industry value in the 5G era. According to the white paper, industries that require higher bandwidth and lower latency will be more reliant on 5G; and the larger the market space is, the more commercial value a service can deliver. For example, as the computing and storage resources of cloud VR/AR are located on the cloud, we need a network that can provide the 5ms latency and 9.5Gbps bandwidth to guarantee a high-quality experience. The white paper also predicts that by 2025, the market volume of cloud VR/AR will be USD 292 billion. Carriers can benefit from this huge commercial value.
These opportunities are real, but to seize them, we need a new model. The global broadband industry used to benefit from its large user base, but now, the industry has moved into an era in which it can monetize experience and data. According to statistics from the International Telecommunication Union, global broadband penetration increased from 18% in 2006 to 52% by the end of 2016. Leading global operators are actively accelerating their deployment of high-speed broadband networks. So far, more than 350 operators have launched gigabit services, further consolidating their leadership positions in broadband services. As we enter an intelligent world, broadband will be more than network connections; it will become a cornerstone of the intelligent world.
Vision to reality: what Huawei is already doing in 4.5-5G
Huawei is already taking an active role worldwide to bring 5G from vision into reality. By the end of August 2017, Huawei has deployed 105 4.5G networks worldwide, accounting for nearly 70% of the global total. Here are some highlights of our 5G achievements across the globe:
- For the first time in the industry, Huawei has proposed the five stages of cloud-based VR/AR applications and joined hands with partners to develop 5G cloud-based VR prototypes.
- Huawei has become the first in the industry to complete 5G-based Tele-operated driving (ToD), fleet driving test and LTE-V based autonomous driving test.
- Large-scale business deployment has begun as Huawei forges ahead with NB-IoT application incubation with more than 600 manufacturers in more than 40 industries: bike sharing (ofo, Mobike), home appliances (Haier, Little Swan), logistics (DHL), dairy testing (AOTOSO), smoke detection (HOTHINK), smart door locks (Dessmann), fuel gas (Fiorentini, GoldCard), water meters (Ningshui, Huizhong, Sanchuan), street lamps (Philips, Telchina, Towins), ammeters (Janz, Holley Metering), parking (Fangle, InnoTek), and wristbands (Oviphone).
- Huawei achieved the best air interface test result to secure industry-leading dominance. Using 200 MHz bandwidth on the C-band, the downlink cell peak rate exceeded 32 Gbps. Huawei assumed the initiative to integrate all key 5G New Radio (NR) technologies. These include f-OFDM, new frame structure, new codes (such as Polar Code), new parameter sets, Massive MIMO, and SCMA.
One of the immeasurable values of the birth of 4.5G is that it gives clear direction to operators and businesses as they grow their digital footprint. It's one standard that builds on existing investments and paves the way for future innovations. It helps that current 4G networks are widely deployed in the Middle East with LTE-Advanced even being commercialized this year. Leading operators in the UAE, KSA and Kuwait have already announced plans for 4.5G networks to be commercialized as soon as the standards are released by industry regulators. At Huawei, was have been working with these regulators and local operators on a 4.5G vision that leverages experiences in LTE systems and which taps the $600 million that we've already allocated for 5G research by 2018.
Beyond developing the technology itself, the telecom industry needs to ensure the mobile ecosystem is able to nurture the implementation of 5G. In the past, we focused on connecting people. That was like planting a single tree. Now we're connecting things. That's like planting an entire forest. We have to integrate with the ecosystem, and build it out together. Huawei will work with partners and governments in the Middle East to achieve widespread 5G connectivity and Build a Better Connected World.
By Lan Yun, CNBG president, Huawei ME Region