This morning, outside the main hall at Huawei Mobile Broadband Forum, attendees were greeted by a phalanx of tiny dancing robots, gyrating in unison. Inside, the party went up a notch with energetically choreographed dancing between men and machines, complete with bright flashing lights and an impressive ceiling hoist. Sadly, this brilliant opening display was somewhat marred by the main keynote having to be pushed back an hour due to serious wi-fi issues.
In its seventh year, and held this time round in Tokyo – in conjunction with GSMA and GTI – today’s keynotes included a wide range of high profile speakers from companies such China Mobile, SoftBank, Sony and CNN. The overall picture set to address the challenges and opportunities associated with delivering super-fast mobile broadband. And the main message was that in the world of robots, the Internet of Things, VR and live video, high speed connectivity is vital but it will require technological investment, business collaboration and new business models.
Ken Hu, the current rotating CEO – there are three who take six monthly turns – said “the immediate opportunities we see ahead of us are all about new applications”. He explained that Huawei’s focus is on tech innovation and building out the ecosystem. And highlighted the company’s focus on video, households and industry verticals.
The big announcement of the day was Huawei’s new X Labs for broadband research. This is to be split across the three core areas and will facilitate collaboration between partners to explore future use cases for mobile applications.
Naturally the event and exhibition floor included lot of bombast about our glorious connected future with a great deal of emphasis on connected objects – from robots to more abstract sensors. In this vein, Keiichiro Shimada, Corporate Executive at Sony offered a very interesting presentation on how advanced image sensors can go far beyond the limitations of the human eye to capture things as unexpected as blood flow and blood sugar. He stressed that when you combine this kind of detailed sensor input with 5G you can begin to deliver some really useful vertical insights.
Yet 5G is already looking to be somewhat tricky. There are a lot of stakeholders involved and 4G is still a problem in many places. While as Fotis Karonis CTO at EE – which was recently purchased by BT – pointed out, it is helpful to build on this 4G foundation to deliver 5G.
However, beyond a lot of seemingly endless hype Huawei has certainly been instrumental in its development to date. This has included a clear roadmap on its delivery as well as the incremental delivery of 4.5G, which has already been launched in various regions.
There is no getting away from the challenges ahead though. During his keynote “On the road to 5G”, Ryan Ding, Executive Director and President of Products and Solutions at Huawei warned that the move to 5G will require two major changes for the telecoms industry. He described these in terms of moving from “network-centric to application-centric” and from “person-centric to thing-centric”. These are two very big changes indeed.
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