MWC 2019: Huawei claims massive lead on 5G readiness

At a pre-Mobile World Congress event in London, Huawei’s Ryan Ding shared details of the firm’s rapidly expanding 5G mobile portfolio, and laid into his competitors

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At a pre-Mobile World Congress (MWC) kick-off in London, Chinese networking supplier Huawei doubled down on the strength of its huge R&D operation in the face of growing criticism in the West for its alleged links to the Chinese intelligence services, and brushed off its competitors’ claims about their 5G readiness.

In response to remarks made by Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm earlier this week, when he said Ericsson was essentially ready to deploy 5G for its customers at scale today, Ryan Ding, Huawei’s carrier business group president, said: “If you are asking about how big our 5G lead is – you can ask our customers. I think our customers will be able to say that for 5G, Huawei is very far ahead of our competition.

“I firmly believe that all our competitors now have usable 5G base stations. However, usable is different from good.

“I strongly encourage you to compare our products to the competition in terms of power consumption, performance, weight, size, deliverability and maintainability.”

Huawei claims to have won more than 30 commercial 5G contracts already – compared with just over 10 for Ericsson – and to have shipped more than 40,000 5G-ready base stations so far.

Ding said Huawei was massively stepping up its R&D spend in areas such as fixed access transmission, wireless and core networking. He also noted that the ongoing row over Huawei’s alleged complicity with the Chinese intelligence services was actually helping the firm because it was now ploughing even more money into 5G research to improve its competitiveness.

“Because of the security pressure from the industry, Huawei is ever more motivated to make improvements on the performance and quality of our products, and also on our engineering practice,” said Ding.

“If we can continue to provide best products and services, and continue to be open and transparent to the markets, I believe this pressure will turn into more momentum and opportunities.

“Huawei has become a very popular topic, so we are known by more customers and known better by the public, so, to some degree, this is a free advertisement.”

Read more about the race to 5G

At its annual pre-MWC event, Huawei showcased some of the innovations that will be on display in Barcelona at the end of the month, and also made what it claimed was the world’s first multi-operator 5G video call, linking up Ding with BT, Three and Vodafone for a four-way conversation.

Among other things, the company showed off new 5G chipsets and modems; a new 5G active array unit (AAU) that weighs just 32kg, which it said would make installation a breeze; a 5G-enabled drone for emergency communications; and a new rural mobile broadband solution targeting cheaper deployments in remote areas.

Huawei will also introduce new technology to support autonomous driving, which it said would deliver a better service experience and faster operation for driverless cars by automating network workflows.

Meanwhile, the firm’s Enterprise Business Group will showcase a number of new products, including ultrafast flash storage, a datacentre switch backed by artificial intelligence (AI), a Wi-Fi 6 access point, and AI-powered software-defined cameras, all delivering “ubiquitous connections and pervasive intelligence”.

With AI baked into many of Huawei’s new products, the firm is forging ahead with its wider strategy around AI, which is based on five core priorities: investing in AI research to develop fundamental capabilities; building a full-stack AI portfolio; developing an open ecosystem and talent; strengthening its existing technology portfolio; and driving operational efficiency within its own business.

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