Addressing delegates at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona earlier this week, Guo Ping, Huawei's Deputy Chairman and one of its three rotating CEOs, outlined what he believes mobile carriers and telecoms companies have to do to prepare for what he called the impending "digital transformation" of the telecommunications industry.
Guo, during his keynote presentation in a session focussing on 'mobile is connected living', said, “Over the last few years we have talked a lot about 5G at the Mobile World Congress and there is no doubt that this is the future."
5G will massively expand the traffic-handling capability of mobile technology. Ultra-high speed internet, 100 times faster than currently available, will become the norm, allowing for example, virtually instantaneous downloading of movies onto mobile devices such as smartphones.
The sheer variety of new mobile devices on show at MWC reflects the opportunities that the sector predicts for a much more digitally connected world. These come from an explosion of new business applications that not only connect individual users but also connect items such as wearable technology, smart homes, remote medical monitoring and driverless vehicles.
“Huawei is investing heavily in this area and will continue to do so," said Guo. He added, however, that; "even for the most innovative carriers, 5G will not be ready before 2020 and it will take even longer to launch 5G on a larger scale.”
'Connectivity' and the expansion of the Internet of Things are at the core of 5G development. It came as no surprise to delegates when Guo suggested that the first aim of the mobile technology industry should be to increase connectivity.
Huawei estimates that by 2025, there will be around 100 billion connections globally. Around 55 per cent of them will stem from business applications, with the remainder in consumer-driven areas such as smart homes, the internet of vehicles and wearable technology.
"The seven billion people connected on earth will only account for ten per cent of these connections," said Guo, "the other 90 per cent will be connectivity between things."
He noted that currently, "99 percent of equipment is still unconnected. So, the first step that must happen is to increase connectivity".
And 'vital' to achieving this much-needed increase in connectivity, according to Guo, is the broad take up of "Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology".
NB-IoT is a narrowband radio technology that has been specifically designed to support the development of the Internet of Things. Its key characteristics are lower power consumption and longer battery life, wider coverage, lower cost and the ability to be used by a large number of devices.
"This will make static things smart and interactive, enabling communication between many objects and turning our physical world into a smart, digital one. Connection is the oxygen of the digital society," said Guo.
"Before 5G arrives, we need to get started. We need to increase connectivity, create new business models and new business value. This is necessary to support the integration of verticals and enable the digitization of traditional industries, thus driving forward the digital revolution."