Huawei's 5G-connected bus. Photo credit: Ben Mack
5G-connected luxury cars favoured by famous fictional British spies. Video games as realistic as real life you can play on your phone but have beamed onto a TV screen with no wires or delay whatsoever. Mobile services being brought to some of the world’s most remote regions. Virtual tours of holy sites so pilgrims who can’t physically be there can still visit. The world’s first live 5G sports broadcast. Those were just some of the exciting, science fiction-sounding, yet real-life technologies on display as Huawei’s 2018 Global MBB Forum wrapped up on Wednesday, November 21.
Taking place at ExCel London in the British capital, the final day of the event began soon after nine in the morning with a presentation by Ryan Ding, executive director of the board and president of Huawei’s Carrier Business Group. Wearing a navy suit and lavender tie, he spoke of how 5G is already driving innovation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As an example, he discussed partnering with Emirati telco Etisalat for 5G in Dubai, as well as no fewer than five separate 5G commercial agreements with Middle East telcos, and 22 5G agreements worldwide. He said: “This is the start of a new era of ICT.”
Ding also discussed the challenges massive increases in data consumption will create for networks. According to Ding, the average person around the world is expected to consume about 30GB of data per month by 2025 – 15 times 2017’s average consumption rate of 2GB per month.
Then there was his discussion about the importance of developing sustainable technologies so less power is consumed and environmental harm reduced. He cited as an example a partnership in Morocco with telco INWI to reduce power consumption by 15-19%.
Ding’s speech was followed by one from Canadian telco Bell’s CTO Stephen Howe. After beginning by speaking in Mandarin (which drew thunderous applause) and thanking Huawei for being able to come to London, he also discussed the importance and challenges of bringing mobile services to people in remote areas; particularly in the form of building cell towers in isolated, far northern Canada, where temperatures are often far below freezing and there are few building materials available (a project Bell has been able to make progress in, Howe said, thanks to help from none other than Swedish furniture company IKEA).
Arnaud Vamparys, senior vice president for radio networks at Orange Group, was a third speaker focusing on the importance of digital inclusion and reaching more people to create a more equal world – in this case, reaching more people in Africa. As with the previous day, the keynote addresses featured slick graphics displayed on an enormous video screen, presented to an audience of hundreds of Huawei partners, potential partners, and media from around the world. Outside the main hall used for the addresses, a variety of partners – including Middle East telcos such as STC – showcased their partnerships and innovations.
STC’s stand was full of particularly interesting innovations – in particular, examples of how it has already been using 5G technology. Some of those examples included VR tours to allow pilgrims to visit the Al-Haram Mosque (Great Mosque) of Mecca and the sacred Kaaba without having to be physically present, remote operation on offshore oil platforms to reduce the need for humans to do dangerous jobs, and “smart helmets” that can let people of low vision “see” by sending real-time updates about obstructions and providing data about what is around them. Company officials also discussed how STC plans to have 50% of all of Saudi Arabia covered by 5G services by 2020.
A 5G-connected Porsche.
But many of the stands and booths also showcased Huawei’s own technologies and services. For instance, as the crowds popped by at a rather steady clip, there was Cloud X, which Huawei staff explained could use 5G to allow for things such as playing very graphically powerful, realistic video games on a phone, with the phone’s screen actually being displayed on a TV – and all without a delay (latency) period or concerns about loading time or having enough free space for data storage generated by the game’s immersive graphics. There was also a 5G-enabled, white-coloured Porsche car, an entire booth dedicated to showing how Huawei 5G services will be used at the new Istanbul Airport in Turkey (which opened in October, and with a planned capacity of about 150 million passengers per year), full-size replicas of antennas being used to provide connectivity in rural areas of countries like Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Nigeria and Somalia, and much, much more.
World-firsts and profound change
Speaking of 5G and automobiles, the vice president and CMO of luxury carmaker Aston Martin (the car brand forever associated with James Bond), Simon Sproule, gave a fascinating keynote address on how 5G is transforming transportation. Beyond simply connected vehicles, Sproule said new technology meant things such as sideview (wing) mirros could be replaced with cameras instead – fundamentally changing car design. He said: “I have never seen such a period of profound change.”
Sproule also said Aston Martin was planning to become the world’s first all-electric luxury vehicle manufacturer – with help from Huawei.
Watching the world's first live 5G sports broadcast.
The Global MBB Forum also featured a world-first: the world’s first live 5G sports broadcast. Carried by BT Sport, the broadcast was beamed in live in front of an audience of several hundred people from London’s Wembley Stadium, and featured a discussion on the role 5G could play in making people feel closer to their favourite sports teams and players than ever before – which could, in turn, provide better entertainment value.
If the live 5G sports broadcast wasn’t enough, there was also a panel discussion on “The 5G City.” Featuring high-ranking executives from five telecommunications operators (Elisa, Telus, Telefonica, BT Technology and Orange Spain) and one analyst, the panel was about how 5G can help with – and currently is – enabling smart cities development all over the world.
Huawei Wireless Solutions president Edward Deng was the event’s final keynote speaker – and nicely summed up what the previous two days were all about – and where things could go next. “Huawei is about innovation.”
Oh, and he also promised the tenth edition of the Global MBB Forum – to be held n 2019 – would be even bigger, and held at an even fancier venue. Seeing as how the 2018 edition went, however, it’ll likely be pretty tough to top.