Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping discusses how synergy across the five major tech domains of connectivity, AI, cloud, computing, and industry applications, will help unlock the full potential of 5G to drive commercial success at the Huawei virtual Better World Summit 2020 this month.
By Guo Ping
The COVID-19 pandemic has made online communications the new default. In fact, our internal data shows that, during the pandemic, Huawei has been holding more meetings with our customers than ever before. These days I’m always on one video call or another.
I’d like to share our thoughts on where things stand at this unique moment. In particular, I’d like to talk about how we can use 5G to boost digital transformation across all sectors of society.
Two weeks ago Huawei announced its business results for the first half of 2020.
Our H1 revenue was 454 billion yuan, up about 13% year-on-year. This growth didn’t come easy, especially given the complicated environment we are currently in.
Going forward, we will continue investing heavily in R&D, and bringing more high-caliber R&D talent on board to keep the innovation coming.
As our CEO Mr. Ren puts it, we are keeping focus and doing what we do best. No matter what challenges come our way, we will fulfill our obligations to our customers and suppliers. We will get through this and keep forging ahead, helping grow the digital economy and pushing technology forward.
The pandemic has reshaped how we live and work, and has dealt a heavy blow to the global economy. Fortunately, ICT can help us fight back against the virus on multiple fronts.
As an ICT company, it’s our responsibility to use the technology, together with our partners and customers, including carriers and enterprises, to effect a positive impact on our communities.
By drawing on our experience in China, Italy, and other early hotspots, we have identified nine scenarios where ICT can help combat the pandemic. These scenarios exist across four stages of the pandemic: when cases first begin to rise, widespread transmission, when cases begin to plateau, and post-peak recovery. Whether it’s hospital network deployment, remote consultations, online education, or restarting governments and businesses, we’ve been sharing our experience and capabilities to help control the spread of the virus and reopen economies.
For example, during the pandemic, countries all over the world have been building field hospitals, but the shortage of doctors is still a constant headache. In February, Wuhan built a field hospital with 300 beds in just a few days, while China Telecom got an emergency 5G network up and running in just 24 hours. With this network, a medical expert over 700 kilometers away was able to perform remote ultrasounds on patients in Wuhan. It only took 15 minutes per patient, and the results were perfectly clear.
Technology enables seamless interaction between doctors and patients, no matter the distance. In 2018, the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University opened a national telemedicine center that provides remote medical services to more than 1,400 medical institutions in China, Zambia, Morocco, and others. Each year, the center supports more than 40,000 remote consultations and 500,000 remote diagnoses in specialized fields like electrocardiography, pathology, and radiology. We believe that the combination of 5G and medicine will help us make the most of medical resources.
While we hope we can get the pandemic under control soon, the ICT industry needs to plan for the more distant future.
As of this June, 81 telecom carriers have rolled out commercial 5G networks. The countries and regions covered by these networks account for 72% of the world’s GDP, including leading economies in Europe and Asia Pacific.
Globally, there are already more than 90 million 5G users. Over 700,000 5G base stations have been deployed, and we expect to see more than 1.5 million by the end of this year. As global 5G deployment begins to wrap up, we need to strengthen our focus on industry applications. This will help us unleash the full potential of 5G.
On July 3, 3GPP announced that Release 16 specifications are now frozen. This will jumpstart the development of 5G industry applications.
The business case for 5G is not just connectivity. When technologies like 5G, computing, cloud, and AI come together, they reinforce each other to create greater value. Building on this synergy, Huawei can develop scenario-based solutions that address the unique needs of our customers and drive their business success.
Let me give you a few examples. From businesses, to campuses and cities, we can meet a diverse range of digital transformation needs by drawing on the synergy between five major domains.
First, a business example. An aviation technical service provider in Europe is using 5G applications to make aircraft maintenance more efficient. One of these applications is 5G-enabled remote inspection. Before 5G, in-depth aircraft inspections would take two full months of work onsite. Now with the support of 5G, engineers can inspect aircrafts remotely using four different 4K livestreams. This solution alone cuts labor costs by 78%.
Another application is 5G-enabled cockpit design. In the past, engineers had to spend at least an hour each day downloading 3D model data. 5G has changed this by providing a downlink rate of up to 1.5 Gbps, allowing multiple engineers to download 3D model data whenever they need it. 5G, coupled with our Digital Twin solution, can help engineers promptly identify any conflicts in the design process. The result is a 20% improvement in efficiency. With 5G, this customer can reduce costs by 66% annually.
5G applications for industrial and business campuses tend to be more complicated. Let’s take a look at the Hong Kong airport.
The airport worked with a local carrier to deploy a dedicated 5G network, which has created a new ecosystem for industry partners. The airport analyzed different service touch points, as well as passenger, baggage, and information flows, and uncovered the need for a rich array of 5G applications. Things like paperless travel, baggage tracking, and self-driving baggage trucks. These applications will maximize the value of their 5G network.
At the Shenzhen airport, they’re using ICT to optimize the flow of passengers. They have reduced peak boarding time from 40 minutes to 25 minutes. In the future, we will see more and more airports use 5G, strong computing power, cloud, and AI technologies to improve their experience, safety, and efficiency.
5G also lays the foundation for digital cities. In Xiong’an, China’s three leading carriers have already built more than 7,400 5G base stations. These 5G networks mesh closely with general urban planning to support a wide range of applications, including integrated environmental monitoring, 5G slicing for banking services, and autonomous driving for delivery vehicles, buses, and cabs. The Beijing-Xiong’an expressway, spanning about 100 kilometers, will provide two lanes for self-driving vehicles and support vehicle-to-infrastructure communications.
We see a clear trend in which carriers are expanding their business focus, from simply providing network services to delivering municipal services through 5G, edge computing, cloud, and front-end equipment. This shift doesn’t really add to their existing cost burden, and it helps them to extract greater value from digital services for vertical industries. 5G is highly adaptive to the bandwidth needs of front-end equipment. It can support both bandwidth-intensive video services for cameras, as well as latency-sensitive services like radar speed detection, allowing carriers to provide low-cost access for both B2B and B2G markets.
We believe this shift will open up more market space for telecom carriers.
For 5G to succeed commercially, the whole industry needs to work together.
First, we need unified standards for industry scenarios. Here’s a mining example. We deployed an underground 5G network for the Yangquan Coal Industry Group in Shanxi. During this process, we designed one set of standards to connect seven disparate, complicated communications systems that had already been in use in the underground environment. This resulted in huge efficiency gains.
We also need to unify standards for applications. For example, at ports, the reliability standard for HD video upload should be 99.9%, whereas the standard for bridge crane control signals should be 99.999%. It’s only when standards are unified that 5G can be integrated, as a basic capability, into digital platforms.
Moving forward, Huawei will double down on efforts to equip our partners with the capabilities they need, promote joint innovation, and drive growth for everyone in the value chain.
Of course, given the current economic environment, carriers need to focus on both short-term and long-term goals. More precise deployment is how they can maximize the value of their networks. We have three suggestions for this.
First, carriers should prioritize user experience and spend money where it’s needed most to maximize the value of existing networks.
Second, carriers should make the most of existing 4G and FTTx networks, and integrate them with new 5G networks through holistic coordination and precise planning.
Third, 5G deployment plans should prioritize hotspots and key industry applications. This is the only way for carriers to unlock the full potential of 5G.
Carriers also need to figure out how they should evolve their networks in a way that best addresses scenario-specific requirements. Future network plans should take into account four factors: business growth, uncertainties, social responsibility, and cost optimization. The ideal target network would be one that provides ultra-broadband connectivity, a network that is simplified and intelligent. But the most fundamental goal should be to maximize the value of networks to unlock their full potential and achieve business success across the board.