With Huawei highlighting the theme ‘Lighting up the Future’ during the Mobile World Congress 2021, Telecom Review had an exclusive interview with Charles Yang, President of Huawei Middle East region. Alongside Huawei’s belief that innovation will light up the future, Mr. Yang emphasized the 5G innovation within the region and how they are building an open and favorable ICT talent ecosystem that thrives on shared success.
How do you view the progress of 5G as a technology globally? What are some of the key developments in your view?
The development of 5G has exceeded everyone's expectations. In a short period of time, more than 160 operators have deployed commercial 5G networks, and the number of 5G users has exceeded 400 million. Currently, 5G networks in the Middle East are deployed at the top of the global level. The number of 5G subscribers in GCC countries exceeds 4.6 million.
From the perspective of 5G terminal development, more than 700 5G terminals have been launched. It is worth noting that 5G phones with a price of less than $150 are now available on the market, which greatly enriches consumer choices and promotes the development of 5G services. For example, in China, 5G handsets accounted for 77% of smartphone shipments in Q1 2021. 5G handsets have become the mainstream of shipments.
We also saw how 5G deployment brings 5G FWA, AR/VR, and cloud gaming to consumers in multiple regions. Driven by 5G, 5G2B in various industries (ports/coal mines/steel manufacturing/police/oil/grid...) is leading to many innovations in business practices, industry, and social values.
Can you tell us about the development and future prospects of 5G in the Middle East?
We believe that GCC countries were the first countries in the Middle East to deploy and adopt 5G technology. Pilot sites were established in early 2018, small-scale deployments began in 2019, and large-scale deployments started in 2020. In 2021, 5G in the Middle East will continue to focus on network quality, user experience, and service innovation. The growth of 5G users is twice as fast as that of the 4G era. The rapid growth of 5G users shows the vitality of 5G.
We believe that there are four key elements of 5G development:
- First, good 5G network coverage is the basis of user experience. Thus, Huawei is helping operators quickly build networks. For example, 5G networks in South Korea have reached more than 95% of the population in 85 cities. Zhejiang Mobile, such as Hangzhou, has over 95% 5G population coverage in core urban areas. While the 5G population coverage in the Middle East has reached 50%, with the average speeds reaching 800 Mbit/s & in some core cities exceeding 90%.
- Second, ‘Rich terminal ecosystem’. 5G handsets should be gradually popularized from high-end to low-end, especially 5G handsets under US$300, so that consumers can choose brands that suit their consumption capabilities and desire, and finally achieve "5G for ALL".
- Third, the dedicated 5G package may be launched to take full advantage of the low single-bit 5G feature and enable consumers to enjoy better services at the same price.
- Finally, accelerate the innovation of new 5G services, such as 5G messaging, video RBT, and AR/VR services. There is a process to generate 5G killer services, which requires the telecom industry and Internet companies to work together to innovate. However, even if there is no 5G killer service, consumers can enjoy more HD videos through the 5G killer experience.
Huawei participated in the MWC in 2021. Please introduce the message Huawei hopes to convey to the industry.
More than telecoms: Innovation in the ICT industry is becoming a key economic driver
The pandemic has created a new normal in which the digital economy is the driving force for the global economy. ICT infrastructure, as the cornerstone of the digital economy, is playing an increasingly important role. The value of ICT now transcends the telecoms industry and has transformative implications for the global economy as a whole. In countries where 5G is developing faster, these countries also tend to have better digital infrastructure overall, as well as faster revenue growth for operators.
More than connectivity: 5G innovation is enabling operators' business success
As ICT infrastructure is the cornerstone of the digital economy in the 5G era, operators are playing a more important role than they used to. Currently, the major goal of operators in 5G is to achieve business success in three key markets – consumers, homes, and industries – through innovation in network deployment, market development, and operation optimization.
More than business: Huawei keeps innovating to drive industry-wide sustainability
5G success first requires a 5G network that provides the best user experience, and this guides how we innovate at Huawei. Huawei has launched the industry's lightest and most powerful Massive MIMO that consumes less energy. It can be carried and installed by just one person, which speeds up network deployment. With Huawei's Optical Cross-Connect (OXC), one sub-rack can replace nine cabinets normally needed. It has four times larger capacity but uses 95% less power. Huawei's 5G Super Uplink solution combines the advantages of 2.1 GHz and 3.5 GHz to provide a peak uplink rate of over 450 Mbit/s.
To support green development models and carbon neutrality, Huawei keeps innovating at three levels: equipment, sites, and networks. With Huawei's innovative solution, 5G equipment working in low and high bands can share a cabinet, and as a result, less energy is used. When it comes to multi-band equipment power saving, Huawei's goal is to make one plus one less than one.
Ongoing innovation is lighting up the future of every industry future
ICT development requires ongoing innovation. In 5G2B, for example, 5G standards need to be coordinated with industry standards at a faster rate, and 5G should be integrated into enterprises' core production processes to help them go digital and intelligent. At the same time, the synergy between 5G, cloud, and computing will further expand the boundaries of operators' business, creating space for new growth. 5G innovation is an ongoing process. Huawei believes that innovation will light up the future.
Huawei has been actively promoting ICT skill development across the region, what is the importance of this?
Emerging technologies — such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) — have become crucial for the ICT industry as well as the global economy and the digital transformation journey. However, the ICT industry’s rapid growth is facing an undeniable challenge: a shortage of high-quality talent.
A collaborative approach to ICT ecosystem development is something that Huawei truly believes in. We feel that promoting the development of local talent is best done in cooperation between the public and private sectors. In the past two decades, for example, we’ve helped cultivate at least 100,000 ICT talents in the Middle East. Huawei shares with partners the technologies, experience, and talent cultivation standards it has gained from years of operations in the ICT industry. We have worked with a huge number of educational authorities, universities, other educational institutions, partners, and other ecosystem players from around the world to set talent standards, build alliances, and demonstrate the value of talent. Together, we are building an open and favorable ICT talent ecosystem that thrives on shared success.
Huawei’s contribution to the Middle East ICT talent has been significant with an approach based on collaboration. We have four projects in the field of talent ecosystem which reflects Huawei’s commitment to nurture local talents and provide the future generation with the necessary tools and skills to effectively participate in their country’s digital transformation journey.
Seeds for the Future: We launched this program in 2016. In 2020, 1,691 students from 10 countries in the Middle East applied, with 281 graduating from the program. We are aiming for 400 students from 10 countries in 2021, which will be conducted virtually.
Huawei ICT Competition: We launched the ICT Competition in 2017. Currently, the ICT Competition has become one of Huawei's most influential competitions. Last year, we collaborated with more than 20 ministries and 442 institutions, with over 15,000 students participating in the competition. This year, we will continue to promote the competition to stimulate students' interest in ICT learning. Additionally, last year saw the launch of the first Innovation Track to guide students in innovation development and provide a platform for developing those capabilities in the Middle East. In addition, the ICT Competition has led to the recognition of Huawei’s brand sustainability from over 20 different ministries and commissions.
ICT Academy: Huawei has partnered with 103 academies across the Middle East and held more than 260 online training sessions while benefiting more than 600,000 people through the ICT Academy.
Laboratory funding: Huawei has funded 53 ICT labs at universities in the Middle East and will continue to support various universities and educational institutions across the region with their ICT requirements.