Following a string of recent conferences and the release of its 2020 Annual Report, Telecom Review catches up with Charles Yang, President of Huawei Middle East, on plans for the region.
As a key driver of digital transformation and larger socio-economic development, what are Huawei's current plans for the development of 5G in the region?
What we see is that the combination of 5G, cloud, and AI has become a significant development trend and a new engine for the expansion of the digital economy.
From the perspective of 5G, the Middle East has experienced the first wave of 5G construction thanks to the joint efforts of governments and operators. Huawei is one of the most important 5G solution providers in the region. We will continue to support operators in 5G construction, build the best networks, and provide users with the best customer experiences. In addition, we will work with operators and partners to explore 5G commercial use cases. For example, in Saudi Arabia, we work with stc and Aramco to use 5G technologies to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Now we have just signed a 5G port in Oman. In the UAE, we cooperate with ADNOC in oil and gas, as well as Abu Dhabi Airports, to develop 5G use cases.
Through all this, we provide the best technologies and services to our customers, in turn promoting the development of the digital economy.
With 5G on the fast track, what do you think is the main obstacle to the growth and profitability of telecom operators today?
The situation of operators in the Middle East, especially in the GCC region, is relatively good. Traffic across the Middle East increased approximately 40% last year due to the pandemic, because almost all activities are online now, such as online meetings, online education, and online shopping. Last year's pandemic has affected many industries, raised more demands on the ICT communications industry, and brought more opportunities as well.
But as you said, there are factors that affect operators' growth and profitability. I think it's mainly from two sides. Many countries’ entire economy declined to a certain extent due to the impact of the pandemic, which may affect the profitability of operators. Second, due to the impact of the pandemic, international flows between countries are restricted, and some expatriates working in the region left. I think this has brought some impact on the revenue of operators.
We have heard a lot of news about Huawei's contribution to the automotive business. Can you clarify the company’s plans in this regard?
Electric cars and smart cars are certainly a trend for the future. In the meantime, core technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G, and cloud services will play a big role.
To confirm, Huawei is not building its own vehicles. Instead, we focus on using our ICT solutions as a component supplier for smart vehicles, helping traditional manufacturers build better vehicles. We provide smart components to our customers, including cloud services for smart cars, smart cockpits, smart networking, and smart electrics.
Huawei's smart vehicle solutions have unique advantages. For example, we have mature full-stack ICT development capabilities in the to-business market, as well as an understanding of experience design in the consumer market. Overall, our solid understanding of consumers can be reflected in the innovation of smart car parts to make consumers more comfortable. Second, our consumer-facing design capabilities are very strong, especially process design. Therefore, we hope to make smart cars more competitive through joint efforts between Huawei and traditional auto manufacturers.
With so many projects in hand, what do you see as Huawei's contribution to enhancing network cybersecurity in the Middle East?
First, Huawei has 30 years of practice in cybersecurity. We have an end-to-end process, from procurement to R&D to production to final operations. Huawei Middle East often invites global cybersecurity experts to communicate with governments of countries to share their experience in cybersecurity governance, to help build cybersecurity processes, and to improve the cybersecurity capabilities of countries overall.
In the past 30 years, Huawei has deployed 1,500 networks worldwide, serving 3 billion people in more than 170 countries and regions. So far, no major incident related to cybersecurity privacy protection has occurred.
Huawei recently joined OIC-CERT, a leading international cybersecurity platform. This is the first time Huawei has joined the cybersecurity platform of the Islamic world, and Huawei is the organization's first leading ICT member. OIC-CERT is committed to providing expertise in cyber crisis management and continuously protecting cybersecurity through global cooperation. As a member of this organization, we will work with all cybersecurity stakeholders on an open and transparent platform to ensure end-to-end cybersecurity.
That said, I believe that cybersecurity is not the responsibility of only one enterprise, nor can it be achieved by one enterprise alone. Cybersecurity needs to be built by the whole society. I have always stressed that Huawei is willing to sign cybersecurity agreements with any country in the region.
Can you share with us your expectations for Huawei's business growth in the Middle East in 2021?
In general, we are very confident in the Middle East business this year. This is because we have gained the trust and support from governments, operators, and enterprise partners in the Middle East over more than 20 years. I think operators’ businesses are stable, and I think the enterprise network market will grow rapidly.
As for the impact of US sanctions on Huawei, the US has had no impact on our ICT infrastructure business locally. First, we have inventory. Second, our supply chain is diversified. Therefore, we are confident that the ICT infrastructure of telecom operators and enterprise businesses will not be affected.
We know that countries around the world have different plans to overcome the impact of the pandemic. In this regard, what is Huawei's plan to support economic recovery in the Middle East?
Ultimately, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. During the pandemic, global network traffic has increased by approximately 50%. Cloud migration has become the first choice for enterprises, and 85% of enterprises have chosen cloud services. At the same time, demand for home broadband has increased by more than 20% in the last year. All these changes indicate that ICT will become a new engine of digital economic growth in the post-pandemic era.
The pandemic has also made us realize the importance of globalization and diversification for the future. To face the challenges posed by the pandemic, we must work together to build a solid foundation to ensure the sustainable development of the digital economy.