PARTNER CONTENT: Huawei’s 13th annual Global Mobile Broadband Forum 2022 at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre in Bangkok attracted more than 1,500 global attendees for insight into the latest developments across the mobile landscape, under the banner 5G Leads the Stride.

Huawei rotating chairman Ken Hu kicked off the event by hailing the significant gains made in 5G after a decade in development and highlighted the future potential since a large number of users are not yet connected to the most advanced network technology.

“5G is finally in the fast lane but this is only the beginning, we can do more to unleash its value,” he stated.

Hu added for many operators consumer uptake was still below 20 per cent, meaning there was room to “push this up”, though he noted many had made strides to offer differentiated experiences using the technology.

While acknowledging the ongoing potential in the consumer segment, he described the business sector as a “powerful growth engine” moving forward, citing existing advanced deployments including a smart hospital in Bangkok and automated mining in South Africa.

Future digital industry technologies, he indicated, would be served by 5.5G technology, with the industry needing to “come together to define the standards and prepare the schedule,” alongside helping create an ecosystem.

Lara Dewar, CMO at the GSMA (pictured, left), continued the opening day’s keynote session by highlighting the role the mobile industry is playing in bringing about true societal change.

“The mobile industry is an incredibly powerful platform and has a role to play in bringing about true change.”

5G growth
Mobile operators in Thailand are catching up quickly with the early 5G leaders elsewhere, with AIS and True Corp predicting uptake of the service to gain momentum after the prices of compatible handsets recently dropped to below $200.

Lower-priced models from Samsung, Xiaomi and others were launched last month.

Saran Phaloprakarn, head of Mobile and Consumer Products at AIS, explained previously 5G devices were costly in the country as the only model available was the iPhone 12.

He reckons the wider choice of models, together with subsidies from operators, will drive mass adoption of 5G services. From the customers’ perspective, the main value currently is the service is “a faster 4G”.

To maximise the full potential of 5G services, including low latency and network slicing, Saran said it is considering deploying mmWave spectrum next year once compatible handsets are available.

Rival True Corp’s 5G user base doubled to more than 10 million in 2022, with population coverage on track to reaching 85 per cent at year-end.

Tanaphon Manavutiveth, True’s co-group chief commercial officer, added that shipments of 5G devices are accounting for 15 per cent to the total, up from 5 per cent last year.

“The key success factor for us here in Thailand is the ecosystem is ready: cost efficiency, capex, and support from regulations and the government.”

IT transformation
Thomas Hundt, chief strategy and technology officer at Axiata Group, detailed the company’s efforts to reduce operating costs, as it grapples with the challenge of managing rising capex.

Hundt insisted operators can better handle the “capex tsunami” by collaborating and sharing infrastructure and offloading tower assets.

He highlighted the group’s aim to become a platform company which requires building new technical capabilities. “We are very much engaged in transforming our IT.”

As data demand grows exponentially, ARPU has been flattish and even declining, with sub-$2 ARPU in some of its markets.

Yoon Ho Choi, President of XR Business Department at LG Uplus in South Korea, outlined plans to take 5G coverage nationwide by the end of 2024 by network sharing with rival SK Telecom in less population areas.

“Our wireless service revenue went up by 4 per cent in 2021. Our subscriber numbers increased 8 per cent, and 5G handset penetration is 40.5 per cent.”

Vodafone Group’s Nadia Benabdallah gave an update on how new network innovation such as Massive MIMO, network slicing, a 5G core and wide spectrum strategy is helping the company achieve its ‘5G Built Right’ strategy.

She also highlighted the energy saving advantages of getting users onto 5G.

Telecom Argentina CEO Roberto Nobile revealed how mobile broadband is enabling diversified business opportunities for the operator as it ramps up its 5G rollout.

Bernhard van der Merwe, VP of technology at Omantel, noted how it identified 5G as a disruptive technology, using 5G networks to deliver fixed wireless access services.

Smart healthcare
Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok is transforming the health industry with the launch of ASEAN’s first 5G smart hospital, which will be home to a digital health hub.

Dr Asavamongkolkul, dean of the hospital’s faculty of medicine at Mahidol University, explained it is using multi-access edge technology to optimise the 5G network across its entire campus, enabling staff to use remote and AI-assisted diagnostic equipment.

Huawei’s president of global sales James Chen (pictured, left) closed day one’s keynotes by insisting 5G rollouts have been good news for mobile operators across the world, already contributing to an uplift of 20 per cent to 40 per cent in ARPU.

He noted globally 210 5G commercial networks have been deployed with more than 700 million subscribers. In the industry’s effort to make networks more efficient, he said it will be vital to introduce MIMO technology to every spectrum band.

Chen insisted 5G will be a game changer in the B2B market. Huawei estimates IoT connections will jump from just over 2 billion to 100 billion by 2030.

Away from the keynote conference, the forum featured a large exhibition hall, giving visitors a glimpse of 5.5G metaverse innovations, while more than ten tier-one operators shared case studies and showcased 5G network construction models.

The 2,000 square metre exhibition hall also showcased Huawei’s leadership in wireless RAN technology. Under the focus “all bands to 5G”, Huawei displayed how it supports all 5G spectrum bands, from legacy bands through to C-Band and very high band mmWave spectrum. All of this is powered by Huawei’s innovative MetaAAU technology, which takes the traditional Active Antenna Unit found in Massive MIMO onto another level.

Huawei has already shipped more than 100,000 5G MetaAAU modules globally.

The opening day also hosted the CTO Roundtable and the Business Executives Roundtable, special invitation-only sessions taking deep dives into how to accelerate global scaled rollouts of 5G, as well as the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Roundtable on Digital Infrastructure.

The 5G Business Success Summit pulled together industry leaders to share commercial applications for 5G technologies, including 5GtoC, 5GtoB, and 5GtoH business models. The IntelligentRAN Industry Summit offered a opportunity to reimagine the possibilities offered by a fully connected, intelligent world, while the 5G Antenna Evolution Summit provided a platform for in-depth exchange and discussion.

These three summits were part of the Wireless Industry Talks agenda, covering seven key themes over three days. Running on day 2 were the Sub-3GHz Network Evolution Summit, the Microwave Industry Summit and the GTI Spectrum and Technology Workshop.

Day 2: 5.5G progress
David Wang, executive director of the board at Huawei (pictured, left), opened day two’s keynotes by giving a technical look at the benefits of the next iteration of mobile networks, 5.5G.

He argued the connected intelligent world is fast approaching, with 5.5G making huge progress over the past two years. The keys steps to getting there are continuing to work to finalise the standards, encouraging governments to release more spectrum and developing the end-to-end ecosystem.

In addition to delivering 10Gb/s experiences, Huawei believes 5.5G will be ready to support all IoT connections using NB-IoT.

Wang suggested the higher speeds and enhanced capabilities of 5.5G will transform the way we communication.

Thailand 4.0
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon welcomed attendees to Bangkok and underlined the importance of telecommunications networks to support the country’s digital ambitions.

“Digital infrastructure will be the engine to drive the country’s economy and Thailand 4.0,” with the goal to connect all industries using 5G, cloud and AI technologies. The aim is to open opportunities for all industries and develop the talent to support digital economy, Prawit said.

Emmanuel Chautard, SVP of Operations and Networks Economics at Orange Group, outlined measures it is taking to fight global warming and emphasised the importance of increasing the lifecycle of smartphones.

He citing data showing devices have the biggest environment impact when considering the end-to-end value chain, with three-quarters of the carbon footprint generated in the manufacturing phase.

Chautard also detailed efforts to transform towards a software-based organisation by automating network operations, moving to a network-as-a-service model and giving software training to network engineers.

XL Axiata CTO I Gede Darmayusa said 5G in Indonesia is in the earlier stage due to a lack of spectrum, with key bands used by other sectors, including broadcast.

With compatible handsets still expensive, 5G penetration is less than 2 per cent. He expects adoption to increase in 2025 after the government releases spectrum in the 700MHz band.

The operator looks forward to building out its 5G network to keep up with growing data demand. He noted video already accounts for more than 70 per cent of traffic.

Dream city
During a panel discussion moderated by the GSMA’s Sihan Bo Chen on how 5G can empower a dream city, China Unicom Beijing SVP Yang Lifan gave an overview of its progress improving connectivity in the city through 5G, including innovations made as part of supporting advanced technology at this year’s winter Olympics.

Zain KSA CTO delegate Mohammed Abdulaziz Al Nujaidi highlighted the impact of Fixed Wireless Access among its customers in Saudi Arabia and a vision of enabling future urban technologies with its network.

HKT CTO Sheldon Yau said Hong Kong faced many challenges in deploying infrastructure but was positive on the progress of 5G and had some big dreams for future city connectivity requirements.

Du UAE SVP of technology Planning Hasan Al Shemeili cited its forthcoming standalone network as being able to support a range of new use cases.

Counterpoint Research VP of research Neil Shah added when you look at different cities and different use cases, “I would say what 5G brings to the table is more about society transformation and the different technology which it brings”.

New innovative products
Huawei president of Wireless Solution Yang Chaobin (pictured, left) used the final keynote to launch the company’s latest suite of innovative wireless products and solutions.

Its latest equipment presented is designed to ensure operators can optimise use of their varying spectrum assets to provide extensive coverage of 5G while continuing to improve efficiency of older technologies.

Products included the ELAA MetaAAU for TDD unpaired spectrum bands and the Eltra-brand antenna for FDD bands as well as new IntelligentRAN products and mmWave support for indoor coverage.

He closed by stating: “5G is entering a new era. Let’s continue 5G innovation with the goal of fulfilling the vision of reshaping the world with 5G, and stride towards the intelligent world.”