Huawei Exec: 5G's True Potential Lies in Enabling Secondary Innovation

The true potential of 5G technology lies in the secondary innovations they enable, rather than in raw speed increases or technical enhancements, a senior Huawei executive said on Thursday.

Jay Ian Birbeck

July 1, 2024

3 Min Read

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Shanghai, James Chen, president of Carrier Business at Huawei, argued that the real value of these advanced mobile networks must be realized by developing new applications and business models that leverage their capabilities.

"Secondary innovation in the 5G era will accelerate business success by refining and applying existing technologies to create new opportunities," Chen said in his keynote speech.

He illustrated how secondary developments have historically driven substantial business advancements, drawing a parallel to the steam engine. While the primary innovation was the steam engine itself, it was the secondary innovations that followed, such as the development of steam-powered locomotives and steamships, which truly drove growth.

"Just as the steam engine paved the way for the creation of railways and steamships, which revolutionized transportation and trade, 5G technology will serve as a foundation for a wide range of secondary innovations that will transform various industries," Chen explained.

Chen identified several areas where secondary 5G innovation is expected to have a major impact, such as improving user experiences and creating new business opportunities through applications designed for specific scenarios, including livestreaming and autonomous driving.

Chen highlighted an example from Kaifeng, east China's Henan Province, where a popular blind date show often draws large crowds and thousands of livestreamers. "Many livestreamers use multiple mobile phones connected to different platforms, and network stability is crucial for them to avoid losing followers," Chen explained.

In response, Chinese operators now offer tailored live broadcast packages that ensure high-definition, uninterrupted streams. These packages allocate dedicated network resources to specific applications, guaranteeing optimal performance and quality of service for live broadcasts.

"These live broadcast packages open the door to upstream network monetization," Chen stated, adding that such innovations have already helped operators generate new revenue streams.

Chen also highlighted China's growing unmanned delivery vehicle sector as another area where 5G is enabling new opportunities. The sector's success relies heavily on the efficiency of 5G networks, allowing operators to offer specialized packages to delivery vehicle companies.

Chen predicted massive growth in this area: "In the next five years, 100 million new online vehicles will be added worldwide every year."

Looking ahead to 5G-Advanced, Chen said the technology will unlock even more business opportunities, with advancements in IoT, AI, and smart cities.

He estimated that smart cities alone will require the addition of 60 million wireless cameras worldwide every year. These cameras, along with other IoT devices, require low-cost, low-power connectivity to function effectively. Operators who can support RedCap devices, a new feature that provides exactly this kind of connectivity, will be in a strong position to capitalize on this opportunity.

The main reason for upgrading to 5G-A, especially for operators whose existing 5G networks are not yet at capacity, has been largely focused on new revenue-generating business scenarios and secondary innovations. Chen's examples demonstrate that this is indeed the case and will hopefully inspire operators to find innovative ways to utilize their network capabilities.

"Huawei is willing to work with operators and ecosystem partners to promote secondary 5G innovation and jointly usher in a new stage of 5G business success," Chen said, emphasizing the company's commitment to helping businesses capitalize on the potential of 5G.

Huawei is currently collaborating with 30 global operators to roll out 5G-A across various specialized use cases.

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