Extended Reality (XR) services, the B2B market, and low-carbon development will drive the next stage of 5G growth, Huawei's Rotating Chairman Ken Hu said at the company's 12th annual Global Mobile Broadband Forum in Dubai Wednesday.
There are now 176 commercial 5G networks around the globe, serving more than 500 million subscribers. In the consumer space, average 5G download speeds are roughly 10 times greater than 4G, which has fueled broader adoption of applications like VR and 360-degree broadcasting.
In the enterprise space, there are already 10,000 projects exploring B2B applications of 5G (5GtoB) around the world. 5G applications in industries like manufacturing, mining, and ports have already passed the trial and are being replicated at scale.
While progress has been steady, there are still some areas for improvement. "Right now, more than half of these 10,000 5GtoB projects are in China. We have a huge number of use cases already, but we need to build more sustainable business cases," Ken said.
He went on to speak of broader changes that will have a long-term impact on the ICT industry, including accelerated digital transformation caused by the pandemic, how cloud and AI have become must-haves for all organisations, and how the world is taking climate change more seriously. "These trends provide many opportunities for our industry," he said. "But they also create some challenges. There are a few things we can do to get ready."
First, the industry needs to get networks, devices, and content ready for explosive growth in XR. To support a smooth cloud-based XR experience, networks need to provide download speeds faster than 4.6 Gbit/s with latency no greater than 10 milliseconds.
On the device side, lowering barriers to headset adoption is critical to reaching a tipping point in virtual reality, one of the key technologies in the XR repertoire of AR, VR, and MR. "To reach [this tipping point], we have to make improvements to both headsets and content. For headsets, people want devices that are smaller, lighter, and more affordable," Hu said.
Second, telecom operators need to enhance their networks and develop new capabilities to get ready for 5GtoB. A strong network is a key to 5G applications for industrial use, so operators need to keep making improvements to network capabilities such as uplink, positioning, and sensing. As industrial scenarios are much more complex than consumer scenarios, O&M can be a real challenge.
So, Huawei is developing autonomous networks that bring intelligence to all aspects of 5G networks, from planning and construction to maintenance and optimisation, according to a media statement.
In addition to providing connectivity, operators can also serve as cloud service providers, systems integrators, and more and develop the requisite capabilities. To drive broader adoption of 5G in industries, developing industry-specific telecoms standards is also important.