Using 5G to supercharge business for a post-Covid economy recovery

The pandemic we have endured for the last 18 months has been a destructive force for large parts of the UK economy.

Guest author

October 11, 2021

4 Min Read
5G in City periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Victor Zhang, Global Vice-President of Huawei, makes the case for a 5G-driven rebound from the Covid slump.

The pandemic we have endured for the last 18 months has been a destructive force for large parts of the UK economy.

For small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), a bleak picture has emerged as we consider how to get our economy back on track and create the jobs we have lost.

According to McKinsey, two-thirds of global employment and half of the global GDP is accounted for by SMEs. In the UK, they account for 99.9% of the business population and for around half of turnover in the British private sector.

This is the lifeblood of our economy yet SMEs are the least resilient to the kind of economic shocks created by COVID-19.

Largely, the existing pandemic support has been focused on helping businesses survive, not thrive. To “build back better”, we need to shift the focus towards enabling innovation and competitiveness in the long term.

The potential of communications technology as an engine for recovery and growth remains largely untapped according to recent analysis. It is predicted that the 5G roll-out could bring a £43 billion boost to the UK’s GDP by enabling the application of new technologies.

But – despite the widespread recognition of its benefits – we have yet to deliver on the potential of 5G.

For Huawei, these gains are not just theoretical. We see with our own eyes the advances that are possible with high-speed connectivity. We have been working with our partners Cambridge Wireless, setting up a 5G private testbed at their tech hub to help participating SMEs develop their technology.

Over the last few months, we have seen rapid progress in machine-to-machine deployments, real-time control of equipment of robotic arms and remote monitoring, promising productivity gains previously thought impossible.

The 5G testbed has translated into a real, viable impact for the competitiveness of the companies involved. Not only has it allowed some to reduce their costs, it has also accelerated their ability to conduct critical R&D and deploy 5G-based business solutions ahead of their competitors, which constitutes a significant ‘first-mover’ advantage.

Take Ubisense as an example. This Cambridge-based software company has developed a high-precision positioning solution which is now being widely deployed in car manufacturers’ production lines to help streamline operations. The testbed project has proved that 5G can reduce costs by around 60%.

This next-level connectivity also demonstrates its value in driving efficiencies in factory operations.

In a two-kilometre car manufacturing line, over 600 sensors are deployed to simultaneously track more than 1,000 cars and 250 tools. Through the new technology, all of these devices can be connected and workers can receive real-time instructions to prevent costly slow-downs and malfunctions.

With such a striking demonstration of 5G technology and the competitive advantage it can bring, it’s important that this technology is rolled out in sectors critical to the British economy.

We believe 5G connectivity is a “silver bullet” which can unlock greater economic prosperity, and allow us to push the boundaries of what is possible in manufacturing, transportation and sustainability.

The opportunity is there, and we are determined to help the UK grasp it in our shared ambition to build our economy back better.



Victor Zhang currently serves as Vice President, in charge of Huawei’s public Affairs & communication strategy and relationship building with clients, partners and key stakeholders in UK.Over the past 20 years, he held different positions within Huawei, both in China and in Europe. He has worked at Huawei Brussels Office as the President of European Public Affairs and Communication, responsible for building strategic relationships with the EU institutions and the ICT and other key industries in Europe, as well as participating in EU ICT programmes and contributing to industry policy making.

Also as CEO of Huawei UK and Ireland, he helped build the long-term strategy for growing Huawei’s business in the UK and to establish a trust-based relationship with the UK government, key customers, and the public. As Director of Marketing, Solutions and Strategy at Huawei UK, he led the Huawei team towards a strategic partnership with key customer British Telecom (BT).

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