5G use cases picking up speed as tech evolves
The number of use cases of 5G technology across both the consumer and enterprise space has been steadily growing, as the technology evolves to touch various verticals across industries, experts said at Huawei’s 12th annual Global Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF) in Dubai.
The company’s rotating chairman, Ken Hu, said that in just five years of commercial deployment, 5G has provided a “considerable upgrade” in mobile experience for consumers, and that it has already started to empower different industries around the globe.
“Progress was much faster than we expected, especially in terms of the subscriber base, network coverage, and the sheer number of 5G terminals on the market,” he said.
According to Huawei’s research, there are currently 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 360º broadcasting. In the enterprise space, there are already 10,000 projects exploring B2B applications of 5G (5GtoB). 5G applications in industries like manufacturing, mining, and ports have already passed trial and are being replicated at scale.
While progress has been steady, Hu noted that 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.”
Experts have noted that a strong network is 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. Towards this end, Huawei is developing autonomous networks that bring intelligence to all aspects of 5G networks, from planning and construction to maintenance and optimisation.
Huawei’s executive director of the board and chairman of ICT Infrastructure Managing Board, David Wang, explained that, by 2030, the digital and physical worlds will become deeply integrated, creating a near-real-life experience. The digital economy will also become a primary driver of the real economy, and the industry will shift focus from device efficiency to decision-making efficiency. However, he said that these advances will also need us to achieve intrinsic network security and to improve energy efficiency to protect the environment through green growth.
According to the World Economic Forum, by 2030, digital technology can help reduce global carbon emissions by at least 15 per cent.
“On one hand, we have a great opportunity to help all industries cut emissions and improve power efficiency with digital technology,” said Hu. “On the other hand, we have to recognise that our industry has a growing carbon footprint, and we have to take steps to improve that. Right now Huawei is using new materials and algorithms to lower the power consumption of our products, and we're remodeling sites, and optimising power management in our data centers for greater efficiency.”
“We have seen so many changes in the past two years – with the pandemic, technology, business and the economy,” Hu revealed. “Moving forward, as the world begins to recover, we need to recognise the opportunities in front of us and get ready for them. Get our technology ready, get our businesses ready, and get our capabilities ready.”
Yang Chaobin, president of Wireless Solution at Huawei, also spoke about the need to focus on how 5G technology has evolved beyond what it was envisioned as. “So far, we have seen 5G be used in around 20 different industries and there are more than 10,000 5G B2B cases that are already put into large-scale commercial use. These cases are scaling up quite significantly, and we are seeing that the 5G specification needs to continue to evolve in order to improve its capabilities.”
For B2C services, what is important, he said, is that the network has to be able to handle a lot of traffic to the terminals. “Then there is also the matter of locating capability, which means that the network should be able to locate the device. Also, you need ultra-low latency and high reliability sensing – all of which are new capabilities envisioned for 5G. This is why, last year, we proposed that 5G should evolve to 5.5G because the capabilities of 5G continue to be enriched to satisfy more needs and requirements for different scenarios.”
He added that in terms of the 5.5G vision, vendors and operators around the world have been discussing it for quite some time now, and “we all have the consensus that 5G indeed needs to evolve to 5.5G, but that the official name for 5.5G is 5G Advanced.”
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