5G has grown faster than expected. However, to scale some of the newly developed applications, operators will have to build robust networks and innovate by leveraging technology

The year 2020 was easily the most challenging year for businesses across the world. It shattered business models that existed for decades, threw popular business acumen out of the window, and ushered in a new wave that had to be supported by ICT technologies. 

Many technology vendors extended their arms to support those in need, including millions of small and large businesses worldwide who were struggling to keep up with the transition towards a fully digital world. 

One such vendor is Huawei, which supported stable operations over 300 networks across more than 170 countries. “During this crisis, we helped service providers provide online services to users, minimizing the impact on their business. In Indonesia, for example, users order network services online and activate the services themselves. There is no need to send engineers out to do the installations,” said Ryan Ding, Executive Director of the Board, President of Carrier BG, at Huawei. 

In 2020, Huawei helped operators attract 22 million new home broadband users.

Rapid growth in 5G deployments

In 2020, 5G developed faster than we had expected. The whole 5G industry achieved impressive growth. More than 140 commercial 5G networks have been deployed in 59 countries, with Huawei having built over 50% of these. 

The mobile phone ecosystem is also maturing rapidly. In China, for example, more than 68% of smartphones shipped are now 5G smartphones. Eleven months ago, these figures were at just 1%. 

In addition, more than 200 5G modules and industrial devices are available supporting wide 5G applications. 

“5G is developing especially faster in several countries. In South Korea, 5G has covered 90% of the population. In China, there are 700,000 5G base stations, serving more than 200 million users. In the Middle-East, one Saudi Arabia operator attracted more than 110,000 5G users in the first year. These services alone accounted for more than 6% of their total revenue,” Ding said. 

Innovation to surpass all challenges
As businesses move online, there’s been unprecedented pressure on the network. Operators across the world are therefore looking at innovative ways to get the most out of their 5G deployments and still provide the best customer experience. 
In South Korea, for example, LG U+ deployed Huawei 64T64R AAU, increasing the spectrum efficiency significantly. Despite less spectrum, LG U+ still ranks no. 1 in user experience. Its network experience is 25% better than other operators. 
In Switzerland, site acquisition is complicated and is slowing 5G deployments. The country’s leading operator Sunrise has solved this problem with Huawei’s 5G Blade AAU. “Huawei 5G Blade AAU supports both sub 3G bands and the C-band. No additional antennas are needed to deploy 5G. Sunrise shortened site acquisition time from 24 months to 6 months, and was the only operator with 5 straight outstanding ratings in Switzerland.”
Old wine in new flavor 
5G has redefined traditional telecom services. SMS or Short message, for instance, is upgrading to 5G message. It not only supports traditional text messaging but also acts as a portal where an end-user can enjoy OTT services such as hotel bookings.
“We estimate that by 2025, China will have 900 million 5G message users. The potential market for the operators will be worth more than $10 billion,” Ding said. 
The next big innovation in traditional services is voice services evolving into enriched calling. “Enriched calling supports video ringback tones, multimedia menus. For example, when you call customer service, a multimedia menu will appear on your screen. You can then easily choose the service you need without having to listen to long prerecorded instructions. Enriched calling service now has more than 120 million users in China. About 4.5 billion calls are made with video ringback tones every month,” Ding explained. 
On the other hand, services such as augmented reality have so far been in the ambit of a few early adopters. 5G AR, however, is no longer about early adopters. “5G AR has become part of our daily lives in education, entertainment, fitness and travel. In South Korea, 5G AR services are very popular and bring in real business value. Let’s take LG U+ AR as an example. They use AR to show books of well-known publishers and offer children immersive experience. This service attracted more than 110,000 users in the first three months alone. By now, LG U+ has released more than 3000 pieces of AR content,” Ding said.  
Another area where 5G is taking AR to the next level is the free view videos, which are gaining rapid adoption in China. With free view videos, users can experience AR without the glasses and can view their favorite characters or the entertainment scene from any perspective. Operators in China have deployed free view in more than 20 stadiums for entertainment and the technology is now attracting more people to 5G. 
5G for industrial use
B2B services have a massive potential in 5G, and industries worldwide are already leveraging 5G to improve their processes. Today, 5G is being used in more than 20 industries and more than 50 countries. 5G has become a part of the core production process of many companies. It makes production safer, more intelligent and more efficient. 
“5GtoB creates huge value. But scaling up 5G industrial applications is still a huge challenge. Operators will need new capabilities in network planning, construction, maintenance, optimization and operations in order to achieve 0 to 1 and replicate the success to 1 to many,” Ding explained.  
What does this mean? First, a complex environment that works in an industrial setup and strict SLAs. This is where building a robust network becomes of utmost importance to meet these requirements. 
Second, operators need to build service and ecosystem enablement platforms, provide standard products and services and create a healthy business model.
Third, operators need to clearly define their capabilities boundary. They must improve their capabilities to offer integrated solutions for verticals. 
“5G is lighting up the future. We will keep innovating to have our customers build the best 5G network and achieve great business success,” Ding concluded.