I had the pleasure of a personal invitation to an executive pre-briefing from Huawei recently for its 5G announcements for 2020. A large and excited audience were present despite the Corona challenges facing China and the hyped consumer confusion around 5G.
My eyes were opened to the realities of 5G and the strength of Huawei, despite the public domain discussions around security and trust of embedding this vendors tech into our 5G networks.
We enter the 20th year of Huawei operating in the UK and probably the most exciting year it faces from the breadth of announcements it made. This follows a period of strong investment of over $4bn into its 5G hardware development, leading to a firm boast of an impressive 47 European partner signups in comparison to its 27 in Asia. Europe is clearly a strong market for Huawei.
There was strong recognition from the speakers and panels that 5G is not a slam dunk simply because it is, nor due to pure technological advancement, but that much needs to be made of the value of new use cases and the power of the ‘now to be possible’ it brings.
A great quote set the foundation; “To Deliver an emotion needs more bandwith” from Steve Jobs. This resonated with me as a long time Sales Leader utilising multi-channels for customer engagement. Take email, it needs low bandwidth and is tolerant of inconsistency of signal and yet lacks emotion and 2 way understanding of communication, contrasted with voice and at the further end high definition video conferencing where truly emotion can be heard, seen and felt across the medium. Hence 5G’s capabilities of bandwith without latency makes it truly the emotional bandwidth.
For most, 5G discussions have surround a purely technical thought alignment to increased speed and no more. I have heard these flat conversations constantly, where 5G is purely discussed as an increase in speed, the ability to get your movie or football game on the move quicker. Consumer reports are showing that people want more speed, obviously, but that most are not willing to pay a premium of ongoing service costs of around 20% for the gain! This poses a real challenge for the operators, driven by a strong competitive landscape of a ‘build it and they will come’ mantra, but requiring heavy up-front investment before they measure the realities of the revenue driven by the consumer clothing rate. There remains a significant consumer user base that doesn’t recognise the impact and value of new potential use cases of 5G and is aligning it to purely extra speed, but at a cost!
5G will make some lagging use cases a wider reality, for example AR and VR and the obvious gains for the gaming and media/entertainment sector. We need to see however 5G delivering more tangible use case benefits around the likes of education (which will bring benefit across the world due to the lower latency) IOT and wearables which all have the opportunity to accelerate and become mainstream commoditised drivers of 5G adoption. 5G needs to demonstrate not just speed and reliability, but drive capability; the capability to do the new ; innovate and being benefits that will drive the users value aligned to the increased costs.
This is not new. If 20 years ago users had been offered high speed home internet at the prices of today, none would have valued the capability based on the poor content available to bring across it. Today with the likes of streaming Netflix, online game playing and general drive to self-serve through Uber, JustEat, Airbnb and Amazon, bandwidth high value when at a fixed location, we all pay the price! We now need to
transition this value to mobile and new user cases where always on fast and reliable connections outweigh the cost.
Who has not denounced the poor signal quality on the move for the simplest of phone calls, let alone more complex application needs? 5G needs to quickly align itself in the consumer mind with not only speed, but also reliability. We need to witness 5G delivering greater customer experiences, something we all seek as consumers and a metric that now outweighs price and brand as a differentiator in a competitive global landscape. 5G needs the dreamers to wrap their arms around it. It needs investment & risk takers to drive its success into new areas of use. We need to see industry start-up experimenting and moving quickly to unlock new value use cases for 5G.
The capability of 5G to empower new non-physical connections has a powerful story to tell around its greater industrial resilience in light of recent world issues such as weather disruptions such as the UK Flooding. Strong, reliable anywhere bandwidth connections empowering easier flex-working high bandwidth use alleviating the impact of such unpredictable events.
So why Huawei? I was certainly not aware of its level of investment and innovation and had fallen foul of the public press negatives towards the name. The announcements made and the level of innovation will make it hard avoid using Huawei without creating a market disadvantage and competitive edge for your competitors who do!
Their products are faster, smaller, lower power consuming, designed to circumvent deployment and space challenges and to make it hard to not choose them as a 5G technology partner. With claims of the fastest deployment times of any hardware provider by a significant factor, and the fastest 5G speeds with the lowest latency it’s a powerful and compelling story.
A big innovation outcome of the investments Huawei has made is the compact delivery of 5G infrastructure devices to allow deployment into condensed city environments with tolerance for extreme heat and cold, facilitating the build out of industrial 5G across campus environments replacing traditional cabled and cable-less approaches with a far more power efficient, signal reaching solution.
So, 2020 is the year zero of 5G, starting from a consumer perceived ‘me too’ of more of the same, but faster and more reliable. The Industry has to dig deep to afford the refresh to get 5G live and widely available, but to attain the investment payback is going to need it to rapidly drive new use cases that give more value than just greater speed and resilience to justify the increase in cost to most of its target signup clients!
We all need to recognise, educate and understand the wider implications of 5G past a purely faster smartphone experience for us to see a 2023 as the teenager years and for 2025 to get us to the adulthood of 5G’s evolution. Whatever the path, it is certain that 5G will be in the news and in our pockets continually over the coming 2-3 years and that Huawei will be a key component of this exciting development.