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By Charles Yang, president of Huawei Middle East

The arrival of 5G will accelerate digital transformation on a global scale – this we’ve known for years. But on a local level, the technology will ignite a competitive battleground that has the potential to define the status and prosperity of entire cities. Those cities wishing to remain competitive, at the forefront of globalization, and to facilitate AI will be compelled to integrate the next generation of cellular communication across business, tech, medical and transport sectors to unlock new venues of growth and innovation for organizations.

If Middle Eastern cities and countries are to compete on the global stage for smart city dominance, increased cooperation between the telecom industry and government is crucial. Collaborative efforts will ensure policies and procedures are followed in order to rollout and integrate services seamlessly. By creating a suitable environment for new technologies to flourish through policies such as flexible taxation, fair spectrum pricing and facilitating access to licenses, the government has the power to accelerate the arrival of 5G and thereby offer new venues of growth for operators and organizations in their nations.

On a larger scale, global collaboration is also vital to success. In our high-tech world, no company – or country – is an island. We are in a world of information. In an information society, interdependence between one another is unavoidable. And it is these interdependencies that drive human society to advance. Technological progress calls for the concerted efforts of thousands or even tens of thousands of companies working in tandem.

With 5G deployment on the horizon, Huawei is laying the foundations for people and organizations to reap the fruits of these new networks by nurturing a global ICT ecosystem. In the region, we are strengthening our partnerships with operators to plan for tailor-made basestations and sites built to the specific requirements of a locality. We are providing the customized infrastructure a city needs to wield 5G in its own way, as per its strategic roadmap.

5G is ON

As the 5G world dawns, we can begin to imagine the possibilities it presents. 5G will ultimately transform the way devices connect to the internet, and more importantly, to one another. While 4G was a massive upgrade from 3G, 5G is catalyzing the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ - a level of mobile connectivity that will power state-of-the-art technology such as AI, autonomous transport, cloud computing and smart home appliances. In a real-life scenario, a network of self-driving cars would all be connected via 5G, transmitting data between each other, communicating with traffic lights and road sensors which could bring an end to road accidents and even banish the bane of cities: traffic. These benefits extend beyond the tech sphere to the environment, reducing pollution and potentially reversing the effects of years of environmental damage. In healthcare, robotic devices could carry out surgeries remotely and simultaneously with the assistance of expert surgeons on the opposite side of the globe. As for connectivity, 5G will allow for a more personalized web experience called web slicing, which is a way of creating separate wireless networks that allow users to create their own bespoke network.

These examples provide just a small glimpse at the potential for 5G to enrich our everyday lives, but in ways that add up to influence a citizen or business’s decision over whether to settle in a location. By laying a sound foundation for 5G, governments will immeasurably improve the social and economic environment of cities. 

AI enabling the intelligent operations

In 2016, we announced our vision for the future intelligent world, where all things are connected, all things are sensing and all things are intelligent. We have been working hard to realize this vision. Last year, we announced our full-stack artificial intelligence solution for all scenarios. We doubled the computing power of AI chipsets. Moving forward, our efforts will focus on making AI easy to use and more accessible.

An area where we have made recent breakthroughs involves using AI at 5G basestations to conduct site surveys. Where site surveys and data collation were previously performed manually, the introduction of AI has allowed engineers to generate 3D site graphs and complete site surveys with only a few site photos required. Information entry and collation are completed on the cloud where survey reports are automatically generated. AI makes the site survey process much more efficient, accurate and faster, and this example illustrates one of the many ways we are providing a competitive edge: by providing a 360-degree answer.

We are leading the industry in other regards: there are only several companies in the world working on 5G infrastructure equipment, and not many companies are engaged in microwave technology. Huawei is the only company in the world that can integrate 5G basestations with the most advanced microwave technology. With that capability, Huawei’s 5G basestations do not require fiber connections. Instead, they can use superfast microwave to support ultra-wide bandwidth backhauls. This is a compelling solution that makes a lot of economic sense for regions around the globe, and no other competitor offers it.

Our industry leadership is a direct result of our unparalleled investment in and dedication to R&D; over the past decade or so, we have invested 12%–15% of our annual revenue in R&D, adding up to a total of over USD 58bn. This investment has put us at least one year ahead of the industry in terms of technology, commercial use and industry influence, and we now rank first in the industry as the choice for global operators deploying 5G networks. We were the first to unveil 5G-compatible devices in preparation for large-scale deployment at MWC last year. Providing end-to-end 5G solutions, we have to date signed 30 commercial 5G contracts worldwide, including nine in the Middle East, and shipped over 25,000 5G basestations. Globally, this positions us as trusted and experienced architects for setting up 5G on behalf of operators.

Innovation inspiring new growth

Our investment in 5G is a product of our commitment to support the national visions of the governments in the markets in which we operate; we firmly believe that 5G will accelerate digital transformation and enable Middle East countries to reach their goal of becoming diversified, knowledge-based economies. We want to spark the age of smart cities and empower them with the tools they need to compete on the global stage.

Bringing digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world is the Huawei vision. The launch of commercial 5G services in the GCC will be crucial to fully embracing AI while boosting the revenue of telecom services that have been in decline. In the UAE, AI is embedded within the UAE Vision 2031, a strategy that’s spearheading the nation’s ‘smart government’. The next generation AI-enabled government will reduce costs by 50% and boast 90% resistance to financial crises, placing it in a far stronger position to create a prosperous environment for residents and businesses. Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, we want to align with the country’s Vision 2030 goal of a nation-wide digital infrastructure.

By 2025, the number of 5G connections across the MENA region will reach 50 million, according to projections by GSM association. We are steadfast in our plans to deploy 5G across the GCC to address business needs, create new revenue streams, and bolster economic growth, ultimately powering the smart 5G cities of the future. By collaborating with our customers and partners here in the Middle East, we will ensure that the region leads the race to the age of smart cities.

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