How can businesses prepare for 5G? Ask Huawei

China is now home to the most well-connected commercial 5G networks in the world, and businesses anticipating how best to leverage the technology could do worse than learning from its approach. 
25 November 2020

Is 5G poised to create new value and growth opportunities for industries? Source: AFP

There’s a global race to roll out 5G fast. The next-gen cellular networking tech is poised to deliver super-low latency. It can run 10 to 100 times faster than a typical cellular connection today.

And while consumer-grade 5G will become more readily available in the next couple of years, much has been made of the high-speed, low latency, high-bandwidth connectivity benefits 5G is expected deliver to various industries.

China is now home to the most well-connected commercial 5G networks in the world, and businesses anticipating how best to leverage the technology could do worse than learning from its approach.

Huawei Technology’s deputy chairman Ken Hu recently addressed the value that 5G technology is bringing to over 20 local industries in China, including healthcare, ports and shipping, steel, power grids, mining, and manufacturing.

“There’s no out-of-the-box approach to innovation,” he said at the 11th Annual Global Mobile Broadband Forum. “We’ve got to focus on real needs in real scenarios – and build up the capabilities to meet those needs. This is a challenge. But more importantly, it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved.”

‘Huge’ is the right word. In China, over 600,000 base stations have been deployed in more than 300 cities, supporting more than 160 million 5G connections across the country. With the groundwork already laid, 5G networks in the country are now delivering speeds in the hundreds of Mbps that can deliver on the industrial potential of next-generational connectivity.

“The adoption of 5G in industries has moved from technical verification to commercial deployment,” Hu elaborated. “As of September 30, 2020, China’s three major operators have implemented over 5,000 innovative 5G projects and signed over 1,000 5G business contracts.”

But the deputy chairman stressed that “there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution, because every industry has vastly different requirements,” laying out four observations on the best ways to drive 5G innovation for industry applications.

Assess for success

Firstly, Hu said that while many industries have demonstrated an eagerness to embrace 5G, the need to develop a concrete set of criteria for specific scenarios and to assess whether or not 5G is indeed the right tool, should come first.

“This is how we can identify the real needs that are worth investing in,” Hu said, proposing to assess the actual business needs based on the criteria of technical relevance, business potential, value chain maturity, and standardization.

Network adaptability

Next, networks need to be adaptable as they are the foundation of strong connectivity services. Therefore network equipment, network planning, construction, maintenance, and optimization must be able to meet the requirements of an incredibly diverse range of industrial use cases. This requires operators and vendors to work together to share expertise and to keep innovating based on knowledgeable insight into specific industrial challenges.

 5G ecosystem

Possessing a thriving industrial 5G device ecosystem, comprised of both consumer devices and industrial-grade applications, will be key to harnessing its full potential. Huawei estimates that the average price of 5G modules will level out at around US$100 by the end of 2020, and hit US$40 by the end of 2022, which will greatly enrich the 5G device ecosystem.

Telco potential

Lastly, 5G technology might be a critical element in the next stage of the digital transformation journey, but it is merely an enabler. Huawei’s Hu thinks telecoms operators need to develop new capabilities to serve business-facing 5G markets, such as build a range of adjacent capabilities in areas like cloud operations, industry application development, and end-to-end system integration.

If telecoms carriers can supplement their position as connection suppliers with cloud and integration capabilities, they can then provide a combination of connectivity, cloud, and integration services to their respective markets.

“5G will create increasingly greater value for industries over the next decade. This means another period of rapid development for the telecoms industry,” finished Hu. “Moving forward, we will have to overcome a number of difficulties, and every step forward requires change. But I firmly believe that the hardest things are the things worth doing most.”