Still too early to talk about 6G instead of 5G - head of UN's ITU Houlin Zhao at SAMENA Leaders' Summit in Dubai

Also discussed potential of 5G to improve equality worldwide.
ITU, ICT, UN, 5G, United Nations, Houlin Zhao, SAMENA, SAMENA Leaders' Summit, 6G, Tech, Business, Technology, Cooperation, Equality, Women's rights, Society


ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

We’re still a few years away before we can have serious conversations about 6G technology, says the Secretary-General of the United Nations agency known as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Houlin Zhao, visiting Dubai for the first time since the ITU’s 20th Plenipotentiary Conference (known as PP-18) took place at the Dubai World Trade Centre last October (a multi-week event that brought together more than 2,500 delegates from every UN member state, and even the Prime Minister of Vanuatu), was in the city to participate in the SAMENA Telecommunications Council’s annual Leaders’ Summit.

Zhao said it typically takes a few years for another “G” to be developed and implemented on a mass scale – and that most of us “probably won’t be alive to see 10G.”

Speaking on the sidelines at the day-long summit, Zhao said a key for developing “G” technologies is operators, suppliers, vendors, government regulatory authorities and more al “going with the herd” for mutual cooperation and development.

Zhao also said he felt there was a “misconception” that ICT and the telecommunications industry is purely about making a profit. “This is not correct,” he said.

“Our mission is to connect the world, to connect people. ICT can be a very powerful tool.”

With 5G as the theme of this year’s Leaders’ Summit, much of Zhao’s discussion focused on the potential of 5G for improving society, and how to “successfully” roll out 5G services so the greatest number of people can benefit.

“[5G] will create a lot of jobs,” he said.

“There are a lot of opportunities.”

5G technology can also help create a more equal world and improve women’s rights, according to Zhao. One way that can be the case, he argued, is that 5G connections can give women more agency, by making it possible for them to send and receive mobile payments – thus controlling their own money. Not only that, but it can help women discover new opportunities and network – things that, Zhao added, could be especially helpful in rural areas of the developing world, such as in parts of Africa.

The need for more jobs as 5G is developed and rolled out also means more employment opportunities for women, according to Zhao. Because of this, he said it’s more critical than ever that more women and girls go into ICT and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.

“We need to encourage more girls and women. This is very important.”

This year’s edition of the SAMENA Leaders’ Summit – as with most years – was held at Atlantis, The Palm, at the top of the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. With Huawei as the main sponsor for the sixth consecutive year, this year’s theme was 5G. The event brought together CEOs from major Middle East and African operators, as well as suppliers, vendors and more – including top executives from companies across the telecommunications ecosystem from around the world. Also participating were several government ministers, from both the UAE and abroad.

As an integral part of the SAMENA Leaders’ Summit, to accelerate the large-scale deployment of 5G, Huawei hosted the  “5G is ON” Forum, which served as an occasion for 5G industry partners to discuss how emerging 5G-enabled intelligent services and innovations may help telecommunications operators to identify new business opportunities, thereby enhancing prospects for achieving growth.

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