Last week, some 108,000 attendees including myself braved the cold Barcelona weather, to learn about the latest trends, including 5G, IoT, AI, products, and services spanning the tech world.
A few days before Mobile World Congress, I wrote an article where I attempted to predict the main trends
“As operators work towards deploying 5G throughout most of the world by 2020, the ambitious goal of unlocking the future of connectivity for consumers and businesses is still in its infancy….With so many factors, 5G won’t be the main talk of Mobile World Congress in 2018, come back in 2019 for that.”
I expected that 5G will take a backseat to IoT and AI.
I was mistaken.
While IoT and AI were definitely present, 5G was clearly the front-runner.
In fact, after attending Mobile World Congress, I’d argue that 5G dominated the conversation in the telco and ICT space, much like the Galaxy S9 and Nokia banana phone did in the consumer market space.
It’s no secret that in the tech sector, being the leader in innovation offers a strategic advantage.
At MWC, every company wanted to show that they’re leading the way to the future. The proof of this was the number of booths at MWC offering their take on 5G.
The Hype is Gone
For a few good years, technology companies prepared us for the future of mobile connectivity, namely 5G.
At first, like so many tech predictions, it began with a lot of hype.
After all the hype, we’re starting to see 5G come to fruition.
While I expected to arrive at MWC 2018 and learn more about IoT and AI, I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
5G is Now
That is what Huawei boldly stated and launched an entire series of products equipped with a 5G-ready processor.
At its pre-MWC product launch, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group introduced the product line stating:
“Since 2009, Huawei has invested US$600 million in research and development into 5G technologies, where we have led the way with innovations around network architecture, spectrum usage, field verification and more. From connected vehicles and smart homes to AR/VR and hologram videos, we are committed to developing a mature 5G ecosystem so that consumers can benefit from a truly connected world that transforms the way we communicate and share.”
Their early stage investment of this technology has certainly paid off.
5G Product Launch
At this event, Huawei released a full range of end-to-end (E2E) suite of 3GPP- compliant 5G product solutions. Named the Balong 5G01, the chip is apparently the first of its kind to meet 5G standards. Releasing its own 5G chipset (on the tails of its AI Kirin 970 chip released earlier in 2017), allows Huawei to be a stellar competitor in the 5G space. Unlike its previous chipsets, however, Huawei is protecting the Balong 5G01. The company will not allow its competitors to license it for their own devices. The 5G product line is all based on characteristics of all-cloud, full range, and full scenario. Currently, these products are the only ones to offer a full range E2E solution.
Mr. Yu said that “5G technology will underpin the next leap forward for our intelligent world, where people, vehicles, homes, and devices are fully connected, delivering new experiences, insights and capabilities,”
5G promises an enhanced connection between people and the Internet of Things. The increased connectivity raises the potential number of devices that can be connected and the amount and type of data that can be shared between them.
Huawei CBG has developed a 5G device strategy which utilizes the high-speed, low-latency, big-connectivity qualities of 5G to create richer, more varied connected experiences. This strategy includes smartphones, mobile Wi-Fi, industrial modules and other devices to connect people and objects in their homes, vehicles and beyond.
To date, Huawei has partnered with over 30 global telecommunication carriers, including Vodafone, Softbank, T-Mobile, BT, Telefonica, China Mobile and China Telecom. In 2017, Huawei began testing 5G commercial networks with partners. Huawei completed interoperability testing and started offering the first round of 5G commercial networks in 2018.
Yu said the company will have a 5G ready phone that utilizes its new chip ready by Q3 or Q4 of this year.
5G and Digital Transformation
5G is predicated on speed, network capacity, and precision of connectivity. This technology is the next step in a global effort towards digital transformation. In a few years, 5G will become the default network for mobile connectivity. It will change how the world views mobile technology and will transform our understanding of being connected.
According to Gartner’s latest survey digitization contributes to about 20% of the revenues of their enterprises, and there are about 35% of business processes that have already been digitized. Enterprises are increasingly relying on the development of IoT, reshaped by artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, and cloud technologies. This dependence means that real-time user experience perception adaptive optimization and predictive operation become even more critical to improving the efficiency of enterprise digital transformation.
Understanding the importance of AI, Big Data and Cloud technologies (ABC’s) and their interdependence, Huawei launched its Intent-Driven Network Solution, which is driven by business logic and service strategies based around end-user experience, helping enterprises construct user-centric digital networks.
Innovation City, and X-Labs
While 5G will change the future, the best way to gain true consumer and brand penetration requires that it can be applicable to today’s market. In order to highlight what the not-so-distant future will look like, GSMA partnered with operators, technology providers, and brands to showcase the innovative and exciting potential future of 5G solutions in an Innovation City.
Within this impressive, futuristic pavilion, Huawei showcased its XLabs where everything from robotics driven- manufacturing, AR/ VR, and autonomous drone taxis, were on display.
Since these technologies will most likely be the initial beneficiaries of this hyper-connectivity, it made sense to showcase these innovative products.
Like 5G, AR/VR and mixed reality experiences have been around for a few good years. The immersive technology allows users to explore unique settings to simulate experiences with only a handheld device and a pair of glasses.
At Innovation City, visitors could experience a NASA mission to Mars.
In four minutes, the experience included touching the moon’s surface.
— Huawei Technologies (@Huawei) February 28, 2018
By far one of the coolest displays at the Innovation City, was eHANG’s taxi drone.
— Huawei Technologies (@Huawei) March 2, 2018
This flying drone can fit one passenger and will be launched in Dubai’s airport enabling passengers to travel from the airport to numerous higher end hotels.
How is a flying drone taxi part of 5G?
With innovation comes policy, standards and new initiatives. Today’s consumers are familiar with connectivity that is limited up to a certain height. With the pending rollout, Huawei recently launched the Digital Sky Initiative, to spur development of drone applications and enable the low airspace digitized economy via enhanced low airspace network coverage.
Tech Not Infrastructure
While the tech potential of 5G was obvious, what was missing was the practical demos of the infrastructure in cities to make all of this impressive tech actual work.
As Elise Quevedo, influencer and fellow Huawei Key Opinion Leader said: “Is the world ready for 5G? Not yet, a lot of infrastructure needs to be put into place first, but it’s exciting to know that the technology is ready now, is being implemented in some markets and the results are incredible. Now it is up to the decision makers to get that infrastructure ready to implement 5G.
Granted, MWC wasn’t a showcase of the full 5G experience, but rather a sneak peek into its potential and endless possibilities. By now, it seems clear that 5G is no longer term of futuristic hype. As the mobile world transitions from testing and vision, to practical realities, we’re now waiting to see how 5G is rolled out in real scenarios across global networks. With 5G standards in place, it’s pretty clear that the next two MWC’s will focus on the practical implications, infrastructure and implementations of 5G.
While predictions of tech trends are often futile, in the case of 5G, I think 2018 will serve as the year that the technology disrupts and revolutionizes the future of mobile communication.
The countdown has begun for a global large-scale 5G commercial launch. It seems that Huawei is making the most comprehensive preparations.