LIVE FROM GLOBAL MBB FORUM, DUBAI: Huawei rotating chair Ken Hu (pictured) underscored the significant gains made since 5G services first debuted in 2019, but emphasised the industry is still at the very beginning of a journey to ensure the technology reaches its full potential.

In his keynote, Hu said globally mobile operators have deployed about 260 5G networks, covering nearly half of the world’s population. The adoption of 5G has been much faster than 4G, with some 1.5 billion connections worldwide in just over four years, he stated, noting ARPU has been raised by 10 per cent to 25 per cent in some markets. 

“In the past couple years, we have achieved a lot of progress with 5G. Clearly it is a new growth engine for mobile operators.” 

Hu added the biggest difference with 5G is on the B2B side, giving operators the capabilities to target industry verticals with custom offerings.

Looking forward, the executive said the industry has much more work to enhance the capabilities of the technology to create better user experiences, scale and maximise its substantial investment.

“I think our industry has a great opportunity to build new capabilities,” because the B2B sector gives operators a chance to play a role in industrial digitalisation, Hu said. “For that, we need to go beyond connectivity, and we need to think about how we can build our capabilities for the cloud, AI and systems integration.”

GSMA director general Mats Granryd agreed on the speed of uptake, noting it took 12 years for 4G to reach 1 billion connections, compared to just three years for 5G to hit that milestone.

“We also see the willingness of consumers to pay slightly more, 10 per cent to 15 per cent more, which is encouraging for operators” he said during the keynote Q&A session with Hu.

Echoing Hu’s point on the non-consumer segment, Granryd believes the potential for 5G is stronger on the B2B side with the emergence of use case across almost all sectors.

He cited GSMA figures forecasting 5G connections to hit 5.2 billion by 2035. “We are very bullish on the future.”