CommsMEA goes to London
CommsMEA went to Huawei’s 5G-focused Global MBB Forum in London. From interesting use cases to intriguing presentations to world-firsts, it’s pretty clear 5G isn’t just for the future – it’s here.
We visited the British capital to take in Huawei’s Global MBB Forum. Here’s
what we learned.
5 G-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. Held at ExCel London in the British capital, the ninth edition of the annual event brought together Huawei customers, potential customers, and of course media to present a dizzying array of real-world case studies for how 5G is currently being implemented – and discuss how it will soon be implemented on a larger scale around the world, including in the Middle East and Africa.
Things kicked off just after 9 a.m. local time on day one with a keynote speech by Ken Hu, deputy and rotating chairperson of Huawei. Wearing an icy pink-coloured tie and dark navy suit, he spoke to a crowd of hundreds of similarly dressed attendees in front of a massive video screen that appeared to measure about 20 metres across, and upon which slick graphics were displayed to illustrate and emphasise key points.
In his speech, Hu stressed the importance 5G was already playing in shaping the future of not only business, but humanity, adding Huawei has been working on 5G for more than 10 years. “We believe 5G will make a big contribution to our society.”
Hu also said 5G was leading to the integration of previously separate technologies and services not unlike individual pieces of Lego bricks being combined to make something larger – fundamentally changing the definition of what a telco or technology company is. The user experience will be redefined by 5G.”
Hu’s speech was followed by an address from Mats Granryd, Director General of the Global System for Mobile Communications, better known as the GSMA. Like Hu, Granryd also discussed the potential of 5G to drive inclusion, growth and sustainable development, especially in the developing world. He also touched on the impact of “smart” capabilities like artificial intelligence and network capabilities, and how such networks and technologies must be secure to drive the growth not only of smart cities, but all cities. He said intelligent management will be key with “the development of a rich and vibrant digital economy.”
Another speaker was China Telecommunications Corporation (more commonly known as China Telecom) executive vice president Liu Guiqing. For 5G to truly be transformative and improve people’s lives, he said, companies will need to work together and collaborate – even if they’ve traditionally been rivals.
The idea of collaboration and integrations were also focal points of British Telecom (BT) group CTIO Howard Watson’s presentation. He said: “The future is how multiple-access technologies like WiFi and broadband can come together.”
Other keynote speakers included South Africa-based telco MTN group CTIO Babak Fouladi (one standout quote from him: “The greatest social responsibility for us is connecting the unconnected), Swiss telco Sunrise CEO Olaf Swantee, 3UK CEO David Dyson, and David Wang, executive director of the board and chair of the Investment Review Board at Huawei.
Not just talk
There was far more to the event than just polished speeches and slick presentations. Outside the main presentation halls, a number of booths showcased both Huawei technologies and technologies and services from Huawei partners. A “5G bus” drove people around the surrounding Docklands area. The demo drive showed that 5G connections, download speeds and more could all be achieved while physically moving across large distances at a high speed and in poor weather (this being London, it was fittingly rainy, windy and cold). Tents erected outside ExCel London were also stuffed with 5G use case demonstrations.
Then there were the special summits and
roundtables. One summit focused on connecting unconnected populations in Africa, with in-depth analysis and discussion of a case study between Huawei and MTN Ghana and the GSMA on strategies for connecting populations, especially those in rural and/or in impoverished areas (one key challenge discussed: the lack of affordable smartphones).
A media roundtable on “Preparing for a Cloud AR/VR Future” with Huawei Wireless Solution CMO Dr Yuefeng Zhou and GSMA senior director and head of Future Networks Henry Justin Calvert – held the same day as the launch of a Huawei whitepaper on the cloud – covered how cloud technologies could enable AR/VR applications and gaming, while also touching on the challenges of unifying networks and business plans (such as different businesses having different targets for the latency, or delay, period of their connections). And there were many more events on top of those.
Use cases galore
The final day of the event started 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 data consumption rate of about 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
We believe 5G will make a big contribution to our society.”
Ken Hu, deputy and rotating chairperson of Huawei
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.
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 5Genabled, 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) mirrors 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.
The Global MBB Forum also featured a worldfirst: 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.
ExCel London, where Huawei's Global MBBForum took place.
Huawei's 5G-connected bus that drove visitorsaround London.
Watching the world'sfirst live 5G sports broadcast on day two.