Huawei stays ahead in the 5G race
By Sharmila Ganapathy September 25, 2019
- China will have 100,000 5G base stations by year end
- Huawei has over 50 commercial 5G deployments worldwide
AT FIRST glance at the dark grey, looming group of buildings forming Huawei’s Chengdu Research Center, one might be forgiven for thinking that the inner workings of this facility are just as drab.
However, inside the clinical-looking exterior of the Chinese telecom giant’s research and development facility is a spacious and brightly-lit and ultra-modern interior that belies the unassuming exterior.
This research facility houses all the latest 5G innovations by Huawei, so naturally we were not allowed to photograph any of the products or labs inside the building. It didn’t take long to realise why.
To provide some context on how China is leading 5G implementation in the Asia Pacific region, according to Chinese news reports, by the end of October, three mobile operators, namely China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, would have set up 100,000 5G base stations throughout China. Equipment providers include Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia.
Chengdu is a leading city in China’s 5G race. It has 1,800 5G base stations to date, of the total 2,500 5G base stations in the Sichuan province. As for 5G use cases in Chengdu, Digital News Asia was informed by a Huawei R&D spokesperson that the Chengdu municipal government is using 5G to monitor road conditions using 5G-equipped vehicles.
In addition, during China’s 2019 Spring Festival Gala held earlier this year, people in 16 venues were connected concurrently via 5G and the event was broadcasted simultaneously on 16 TV channels, the spokesperson said.
According to the spokesperson, who took the Malaysian media on a tour of the Chengdu facility, each 5G cell has a network capacity of 5Gbps. In a stress test of 100 users per cell, each user had access to 50Mbps speeds. This test of 100 smartphone users per cell was done with China Mobile, he said.
To date, Huawei has inked 50 5G commercial contracts and over 200,000 shipments worldwide: 28 in Europe, four in America, six in the Asia Pacific, one in Africa and 11 in the Middle East.
Through research, the company has found that 5G in fact consumes less smartphone power than 4G. The power efficiency of 5G is 25 times that of 4G, where 4G consumes 3.3 watts/Mbps while 5G consumes 0.13 watts/Mbps.
Among the cutting edge 5G equipment Huawei has produced is a 5G digital indoor system with a fully digital architecture that supports 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G. Up to 1,000 users can be simultaneously connected to 5G using this device (it looks like a white Internet modem), where each user can access up to 100Mbps speeds. The device is currently used in more than 500 commercial projects globally.
Another intriguing product Huawei has come up with is Cloud Air, a cloud-based solution that allows different technologies to ride on the same spectrum. So in effect, this allows 2G,3G,4G and 5G to share the same spectrum, thus saving costs for mobile operators.
Globally, Huawei has 120 commercial contracts as of June 2019 for this solution, and expects to have 160 by year end, the spokesperson said.
And that’s not all. Huawei has actually worked with various organisations to push 5G implementation throughout China. Some of the 5G use cases involving Huawei are the Beijing Daxing International Airport, Shanghai Lujiazui L+ Mall and a collaboration with the National Health Commission of China.
Dubbed the world’s largest 5G airport, the Daxing International Airport is wired up with 5G and has enabled China Eastern Airlines (the main airline at the airport) to combine facial recognition technology with 5G, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide services such as “facial pass” for passengers, baggage tracking and recognition with AR glasses.
As for the L+Mall collaboration, the China Real Estate Association, China Mobile and Huawei jointly launched the mall, the world’s first 5G five-star shopping mall, in May this year. Using Huawei’s digital indoor system, among the services the mall offers are shopping assistance, delivery and destination guidance by 5G smart robots.
Other services that are available in 5G-covered shopping areas in the mall include 5G+AI face recognition, 5G+8K HD video, indoor precise navigation, and people flow analysis.
Huawei is also the main vendor under an initiative directed by the National Health Commission of China and led by the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, National Telemedicine and Connected Health Center, National Primary-care Telemedicine Development Center.
Under this initiative, more than 30 hospitals nationwide and the China Association of Medical Equipment are collaborating with China Telecom, China Mobile and Huawei to establish China’s first 5G Hospital Network Standard.
While the US-China trade war rages on, the impression we got is that Huawei seems to progressing nicely on its home ground. It remains to be seen to what extent its business will be affected, however it can’t be denied that its innovations are top-notch and even its R&D spokesperson acknowledged that the vendor is at least three years ahead of everyone else.
It will be interesting to see how China and Huawei fare in the 5G race, with other countries in the region such as Japan, South Korea and Australia also aggressively pushing for 5G commercial implementation.