By Khine Kyaw,
The Nation WEEKEND
Following the recent projection by global mobile industry body GSMA that the number of 5G connections will reach 1.4 billion by 2025, big players have intensified their efforts to take the leading role in the global market, according to participants at the Mobile World Congress 2019 (MWC2019) held in Barcelona this past week.
Citing the organisation’s flagship Mobile Economy Report 2019, Mats Granryd, director general of GSMA, said that 5G connections would account for 15 per cent of the global total, and around 30 per cent of connections in markets such as
China and Europe, and around half of the total in the United States by 2025.
“The arrival of 5G forms a major part of the world’s move towards an era of intelligent connectivity,” he said.
“While 5G will transform businesses and provide an array of exciting new services, mobile technology is also helping to close the connectivity gap. We will connect more than a billion new people to the mobile internet over the next few years.”
Granryd forecast that 5G would contribute US$2.2 trillion (Bt69.7 trillion) to the global economy over the next 15 years, with key sectors such as manufacturing, utilities, and professional and financial services benefiting the most from the new technology.
GSMA has calculated that mobile operators worldwide are currently investing around $160 billion (Bt5 trillion) per year on expanding and upgrading their networks, and the Chinese giant Huawei Technologies Co is among the strongest.
A Huawei 5G research and development expert said the technology will change people’s lifestyles as it will be easier to use, run in real-time, and so speed up the global economy.
For example, medical doctors could provide a real-time consultation or treatment with their patients through a 5G system, speeding up their work and making better use of Big Data than is the case with 4G, he said.
The advancement will also help businesses to summarise Big Data to serve their specific needs. For example, 5G technology could help the agricultural sector such as fish farms manage their operations through monitoring and providing real-time information. “5G is a new technology that provides more convenience for people’s lives than 4G,” said the expert. “However, the system will only work once countries develop their infrastructure to serve the 5G technology.”
James Wu, Huawei Group’s president for Southeast Asia, predicted that “within five or 10 years from now, we will have a country using the 5G system. Forecasts say Hong Kong will be the first territory to use it, because it has the infrastructure to support 5G”.
The next will be mainland China, South Korea, Japan and Europe after they each build the infrastructure to support 5G technology, he told a group interview at MWC19 this week.
Thailand needs to open bidding for 5G technology to enable it to soon move to the standard, Wu added.
Meanwhile, Daisy Zhu, chief marketing officer of 5G at Huawei, told The Nation Weekend that the firm has signed more than 30 commercial contracts globally, and its 5G products have been shipped to around 40,000 5G base stations.
Eighteen of the contracts were signed for the commercialisation of 5G in Europe, with others coming from the Middle East. Less than 30 per cent of the commercial contracts came from Asia, she said.
Yet Zhu expects many more contracts will be signed later this year and next year, given the rising global demand.
“It [the outlook] is very promising because we have very competitive products, and we are one of the world’s leading players. As our rotating chairman has said, we are almost one year ahead of our competitors,” she said.
Zhu foresees widespread commercial use of 5G in Asia this year, thanks to the upcoming large-scale trial in China and the acceleration of 5G use in Korea. Other promising regions include Europe and the Middle East, thanks to commercial spectrum auctions for operators there.
“We will definitely invest more in 5G and in building the ecosystem. We will strongly support local operators to realise their 5G visions. We have very good communication with operators around the world,” she said.
Zhu said the firm would continue to collaborate with worldwide operators and partners to get ready for large-scale, commercial 5G deployment.
When asked about the challenge they face entering the US market given concerns there about security associated with the product given its connections to the China government, the executive was quick to deny the allegations.
“Security for 5G is definitely much safer than for 4G. And we think we can handle this risk,” she said.
Zhu said that 5G in the future will be much faster than the current standards. This was also reflected in a speech to the event by Huawei’s rotating chairman, Guo Ping.
“Huawei is far ahead of the game when it comes to single site throughput. … On Huawei 5G, single-user speed reaches 1.3 Gbps,” said
Jeffrey Gao, president of the Huawei router and carrier ethernet product line, said 5G will meet the needs of both individuals and vertical industries, and support new services such as cloud VR, private lines and connected vehicles.
Data centres play key role
Gao said future 5G network architecture will be built upon data centres.
He pledged to innovate data communications and optical fibre to ensure high availability and to build non-blocking physical networks.
Marc Allera, chief executive of BT Group’s consumer brands, warned at the Mobile World Live on Wednesday that operators should prepare for the unexpected with 5G because the deployment of commercial 5G may not go as planned.
He said game developers are already looking at how 5G could transform their business models.
“We believe there will not be a need for new game consoles, with 5G handsets becoming mainstream devices in this sector supported by high bandwidth, low latency and edge computing,” said Allera.
He said the ability of 5G handsets to support 4K video will radically change how people consume content.
“This could see consumers becoming broadcasters, with the result that present-day social media undergoes a huge transformation,” said Allera.
Sigve Brekke, president and chief executive of Telenor Group, said the 5G rollout will be both an exciting and challenging milestone for the industry.
“As we are facing a perfect storm of 5G, we need to engage with business and innovation partners, as well as governments, organisations and other stakeholders across our markets,” he said.