LIVE FROM HUAWEI ANALYST SUMMIT 2019, SHENZHEN: Huawei predicted 5G will fuel a return to form at its carrier business this year, after annual revenue from the division fell for the first time during 2018.

In a keynote, rotating chairman Ken Hu (pictured), said he expects the business to rack up double-digit growth through 2019, with 5G network deployments the growth driver because operators now see clear business cases for the next-generation technology.

“Since the second half of last year, we’ve started to see a more pragmatic approach to 5G. We no longer need to find or discuss the business cases. People have stronger confidence in the business value”, which he said is the key driver of deployments.

He noted 5G has come much faster than expected, with 100,000 compatible base stations already deployed globally and 40 handset models developed.

So far, the company has signed 40 commercial 5G contracts and shipped 70,000 base stations, compared with the more than 30 contracts and 40,000 base stations it cited at end-February.

Huawei expects 5G to reach 500 million users in the space of three years, compared with five years for 4G and a decade for 3G. By 2025, the vendor forecasts 1.8 billion 5G users, 6.5 million base stations and 58 per cent global population coverage.

Despite bans on its 5G network gear in a few markets, Hu doesn’t expect any change in the geographic breakdown of sales this year from the past, noting it continues to supply 4G equipment to operators in Australia (which has essentially excluded Chinese vendors from 5G rollouts).

Hu turned to the topic of openness and collaboration, urging technology providers, industries and regulators to work together to improve transparancy across industries, noting this will help to build trust.

Because security comprises several elements, the telecoms industry can’t work in isolation or focus on a single vulnerability, he explained: “We need a more systematic, all-industry, full-society approach to build trust, and that includes establishing the standards for cybersecurity for all industries.”

“We believe that trust, or distrust, should be based on fact. And fact should be verifiable. We are glad to the EU has done a great job on this area.”

He said cybersecurity is less a political issue than a technical one, which is why frameworks are required.

Hu also commented on a report Huawei may sell 5G modem technology to Apple, insisting there is no change in its chipset strategy: it has no intention to make its silicon unit an independent business and has not held discussions with Apple over chip supply.