PARTNER FEATURE: Tech experts in a recent Mobile World Live webinar revealed how our industry can really make the most of 5G’s potential.

In a wide-ranging special virtual event, senior management from Huawei, and author, adviser, storyteller and Top 50 Women in Tech Influencer 2021 Elise Quevedo discussed market progress so far; the new use cases and value of 5G including cloud gaming; the social benefits of 5G; and the team had one eye on the near future as they examined the opportunity for new 5.5G technology.

Market progress
More than 160 operators worldwide have launched commercial 5G networks with total connections forecast to reach 638 million by the end of 2021, or 8 per cent of the total global connections.

GSMA Intelligence predicts 2.2 billion mobile 5G connections by 2025, almost a quarter of the total mobile connection base. In just four years, more than two in five people around the world will live within reach of a 5G network.

The introduction of standalone (SA) 5G technology, which uses a core 5G network not an existing LTE core, is going to also provide widespread benefits, including very low latency, support for massive numbers of devices, network slicing capacities and the introduction of Voice over New Radio services.

At the end of June, 14 mobile operators across 11 countries had launched SA 5G services, with Germany and China each having deployed more than one commercial SA service.

Over the last 20 months, China and South Korea emerged as the two leading 5G markets globally. Based on the H1 financial reports released by operators, the two countries have a 5G user penetration rate of 33.2 per cent and 26.5 per cent respectively.

“This means the two countries have crossed the business development milestone of 20 per cent user penetration rate, and advancing towards 5G business success,” observed Wilson Yang, Head of 5G Marketing for Huawei’s Carrier Business Group.

Different paths
During the event, Yang emphasised 5G is becoming a new growth engine for operators, although the business development modes vary within regions.

One Chinese operator which pushed for a rapid rollout and quick migration off LTE, achieved 13.8 per cent revenue growth and 6 per cent net profit growth in H1, while one South Korean operator, mainly focused on innovative services, saw revenue increase by 3.1 per cent and net profit 37.4 per cent.

He outlined what Huawei sees as the three key factors for 5G business success.

The first is to have a strong 5G network foundation to deliver a superior user experience to raise consumer awareness. “We understand that building 5G networks takes time and constant effort. We would do that step-by-step. In phase 1, we would focus on 5G branding and high-end user migration to cover high-value regions.”

The second factor is that 5G user development acts as an accelerator for commercial growth. He pointed out there is no doubt that a faster-developing and more mature 5G device ecosystem greatly increases 5G user adoption and promotes 5G business development.

The 5G device ecosystem has developed much faster than that of 4G. In the second year after 5G was commercially launched, the first $150 5G handset was released. It took three years for a $150 4G model to hit the market.

Yang cited data estimating 5G smartphone shipments will exceed 4G shipments by 2022.

The third factor is 5G service innovation as a growth engine.

The technology is ten-times faster than LTE and its latency is within milliseconds, providing a superior user experience than 4G, Yang noted. “5G technologies are inspiring more innovative services.”

He gave the example of South Korean operators making great strides to develop new 5G services, such as AR/VR and cloud gaming, and establishing XR industry alliances. Currently, about 40 per cent of 5G subscribers in the country use AR/VR services.

Consumer demand
Elise Quevedo, author, adviser and storyteller, noted that consumers in Europe want what consumers in other countries such as China and South Korea already have access to, which is better, faster and more reliable mobile internet services. “What we want as consumers is seamless connectivity to become a reality.”

She cited a survey conducted in 2020 on what features are most important to consumers when purchasing their next mobile device, with 5G connectivity ranking fourth, after battery life, durability and camera quality.

Quevedo expressed concern delays in commercial launches and rollout of 5G coverage in Europe seem to have impacted consumer intention to upgrade handsets compared with the excitement they had back in 2019 before the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

In terms of specific services, she is excited about the prospects of cloud gaming because companies such as Microsoft, Sony, Google, Amazon and even Apple are all launching the services for a better user experience.

She reckons 5G fixed wireless access has been launched in more than 50 per cent of markets in the western part of the European Union and is possibly accelerating cord-cutting with the growing adoption of OTT TV.

Social impact
Kevin Xu, VP of Huawei’s Carrier Marketing Demand Program Department, highlighted 5G can not only bring huge commercial value, it also has the potential to create social benefits by making society more inclusive and improving working conditions in several industries.

He said AR, for example, is being used in schools to make lessons more engaging.

“We all know that rural areas do not have access to the same healthcare resources that the big cities have. 5G can help solve this. It also is making business safer and smarter by turning difficult and dangerous jobs into more comfortable and safer jobs,” he explained.

Quevedo agreed, noting the European Commission quantified the potential socio-economic benefits of the introduction of 5G collaboration at €113 billion per year by 2025, making “5G the world’s next technological breakthrough”.

She also highlighted the ways in which 5G is helping make the world greener by driving improved energy conservation, better water management, more efficient traffic management and smarter buildings.

The technology “is paving the way for more effective solutions to our problems, and climate change is one of the biggest”.

Beyond 5G
Turning to the next phase of 5G, Yang noted Huawei in 2020 proposed the vision for 5.5G, with the focus on three major pillars: uplink centric broadband communication (UCBC); real-time broadband communication (RTBC); and harmonised communication and sensing (HCS).

He acknowledged 5G in its current form can’t meet the expanding needs of certain industry digitalisation use cases that require ten-times faster uplink speed and uplink-centric networks or fully immersive applications such as holography and XR, dependent on high-speed real-time experiences.

The evolution of 5G will support new commercial opportunities such as the internet of vehicles, he said. “We see 5.5G representing a higher stage of 5G and will take us from the internet of everything to the intelligent internet of everything.”

Yang concluded: “The new scenarios enabled by 5.5G will create new value for social development and industry upgrades.”

Watch the full webinar (no registration required) here.