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Huawei: Europe’s digitisation depends on support for broadband

At Huawei’s annual European Innovation Day, rotating CEO Ken Hu called for more support for broadband deployment

Huawei rotating CEO Ken Hu has called for governments across Europe to offer more financial and policy backing for broadband infrastructure development and deployment to support the wider digital transformation taking place across the business, industry and consumer spheres.

Hu said Europe had several unique strengths that would help fuel its wider digitisation, such as a comprehensive and strong industry base, a history of innovation, research and development (R&D) around networking standards, and emerging technologies such as the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).

But there were some practical challenges too, he said. For example, superfast 30Mbps broadband covers just 76% of Europe’s population, whereas in South Korea, ultrafast 100Mbps broadband has reached 99% of people.

Hu also pointed to a major funding gap – Europe needs €500bn to meet its 2025 connectivity goals, but there is currently a shortfall of €155bn.

“So the question is, how can we encourage more private investment into broadband development in Europe?” said Hu.

“The future broadband network must be 100 times faster and 50 times more responsive than today’s. More political support will help encourage more long-term investment from the private sector.”

Former UK science minister David Willetts, who now heads up the Resolution Foundation think-tank and sits in the House of Lords, said: “We have been set a really important challenge of speeding up digital transformation in Europe, and if you look at access to superfast broadband in Japan and Korea, it’s a reminder to us of what we need to do across Europe to ensure we remain at the forefront of innovation.”

Willetts said the UK still understood the importance of remaining an active member in European Union (EU) research projects, contributing to Horizon 2020 and participating in the digital regimes being established across Europe, and he hoped the government’s negotiators would take this on board during the imminent Brexit talks.

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This week, Huawei and UK innovation partner Openreach demonstrated a 100Gbps, or hyperfast, broadband connection at BT’s Adastral Park R&D centre.

The demonstration used a standard domestic fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) connection with souped-up transmission technology to boost the broadband signal to provide enough capacity to stream 4,000 ultra-high-definition (UHD) movies at once.

“It demonstrates a massive hike in speed – the highest we’ve see worldwide,” said Openreach CIO Mark Lam. “In fact, it’s so fast that it’s actually very hard to transmit anything over it that can properly illustrate the capacity.”

However, as bandwidth requirements are currently increasing at a rate of about 40% year on year, and operational 5G networks are now roughly three years away, it was important to show that FTTP broadband can continue to add capacity, even if there is little immediate use in doing so, said Lam.

The next stage of the joint project will see Huawei and Openreach start to evolve global passive optical network (GPON) standards and push towards field trials of the technology.

“Online services such as video and gaming are growing at an exponential rate,” said Jeff Wang, president of Huawei access networks. “Add in new technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality, along with the ‘connected world’ where everything in the home, from toasters to washing machines, heating, lights, security and even your pet, is becoming connected, and it is not difficult to imagine a world where these bandwidth demands are heading into the multi-Gigabits per second per home era.”

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