Huawei forecast there will be 60 live commercial 4.5G networks using its equipment worldwide by the end of 2016. At a pre-Mobile World Congress analyst and press briefing in London, the information and communications technology solutions provider said there are already pre-commercial 4.5G networks up and running in nine markets, including China, Canada, UAE, Hong Kong, Norway, Germany and Singapore. An evolution of 4G, 4.5G is based on the LTE-Advanced Pro technology, which was standardised by 3GPP towards the end of 2015.
Huawei regards 4.5G as an important interim step to meet demand for connectivity over the next five years, while 5G technologies are under development.
“We believe there will be a 4.5G big bang in 2016,” Qiu Heng, president of wireless marketing operations at Huawei, told the journalists and analysts at the London event. “A lot of operators are very interested in 4.5G and have started conversations about deployment.” He added that Huawei’s new GigaRadio product will make the deployment of 4.5G networks much easier for mobile operators, claiming it is 20 per cent smaller and 50 per cent faster than its competitors. “Huawei is too modest to say the GigaRadio is one year ahead of the industry,” Mr. Qiu said. “We are far more than one year ahead. That is my feeling.”
Huawei said that 4.5G networks will deliver peak throughput rates eight times faster than 4G networks, while average rates will be ten times quicker and capacity will rise sixfold. On a five-point scale, 4.5G will improve consumers’ experience of voice and video services to more than 4 compared with a global average of 3.3 for voice and 3.1 for video today, the company claimed. Huawei sees 4.5G networks delivering speeds of up to 1Gb/s, enabling support for demanding applications, such as virtual reality games. Beyond 2020, 5G networks will deliver speeds of more than 4Gb/s, the company predicts, enabling users to experience holograms.
Scaling up the Internet of Things
At the London event, Huawei predicted that the first Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) networks, which are also based on 4G (LTE) technology, will go live in the third quarter of 2016. The equipment vendor is currently running pre-commercial networks in China, UAE and Germany together with operators. This technology is designed to support a range of IoT applications, such as smart metering, smart cities, fleet management and animal tracking. Mr. Qiu said that NB-IoT networks will support 100,000 connections per cell, deliver far, far better coverage than GSM and have very low power requirements, enabling connected devices to have battery lives of ten years. Huawei expects more than 100 billion things to be digitally connected by 2025.
In London, Huawei gave analysts and journalists a taste of the IoT products it will be unveiling at the Mobile World Congress next week. San-qi Li, CTO of P&S marketing and solutions, said Huawei will launch an “Agile Access Router” for industrial IoT applications, such as smart metering, together with a “Smart ONT” gateway to enable smart home services for consumers. With an industrial-grade design, the Agile Access Router supports a range of wireless access technologies, IoT protocols and has built-in computing power, he added.
Five Big Initiatives
The pursuit of ubiquitous connectivity is one of five “Big Initiatives” Huawei discussed at the London event. William Xu, executive director of the board and chief strategy marketing officer, said these initiatives – spanning video, IT, operations, architecture and connectivity – will help telecoms operators to transform themselves and grow. “Digital transformation is a new engine for telecom industry growth, and it will empower the innovation of other industries,” he added. “Huawei will continue to open up platform capabilities to help carriers to build an open, collaborative, and win-win ecosystem to accelerate digital transformation.” Huawei called the five initiatives: “Big Video – Everywhere, Big IT – Enabling, Big Operation – Agile, Big Architecture – Elastic, and Big Pipe – Ubiquitous.”
The company also highlighted the importance of open platforms to enable collaboration and “shared success.” To that end, Huawei and its partners are setting up open labs in which companies from across the ICT ecosystem can collaborate. More than 10 such labs are operating in China, Europe and other regions bringing together 600 partners, including software companies, telecoms operators and service providers, Huawei said. To support developers, Huawei has built a software development kit (a SDK) and launched a five-year $1 billion developer enablement programme.
Video to expand in entertainment and enterprises
As part of its drive to encourage collaboration and innovation, Huawei has developed open platform solutions to support the delivery of ultra high definition video. San-qi Li described how Huawei has worked with China Telecom to make video a “basic service”, developing a dedicated network infrastructure and platform to deliver ultra high definition images over both fixed-line and 4G mobile networks. He noted that China Telecom now has more than five million fibre-to-the-home subscribers and 6.9 million IPTV video subscribers.
Huawei believes telecoms operators worldwide could in aggregate earn $100 billion in revenues from video services, while carriers and enterprises could generate $1 trillion from cloud services. Around 50 per cent of the traffic on telecoms networks is now video, Paul Michael Scanlan, president of business and network consulting at Huawei, told the London event. In some markets, such as South Korea, that figure can rise as high as 70 per cent. Huawei sees video becoming integral to communications, entertainment and numerous enterprise applications, such as urban security, education and healthcare.
Huawei believes a combination of connected video and cloud services can add value in many different industry sectors. At the London event, Joe So, CTO industry solutions, EBG marketing & solution sales, described how Huawei’s safe city solutions, which employ connected video cameras and GPS location tracking, have helped to reduce crime by 46 per cent in parts of Kenya since 2014. He added that the company’s safe city solutions have been deployed in more than 100 cities in over 30 countries.
Huawei plans to make further announcements at the Mobile World Congress next week, where it will host six open industry summits, more than 10 industry joint innovations and launch more than 20 “superstar” products.