Ignoring the controversies surrounding deployment of its technology in the UK and the US, Huawei has boldly reaffirmed its commitment and potential contribution to Europe’s digital sovereignty.
Opening the Huawei Innovation Day and Huawei eco-Connect Europe in Paris, William Xu (pictured above), board director and president of the institute of strategic research at Huawei, reminded delegates of the company’s 20-year presence in Europe, and asserted that the idea of being “in Europe, for Europe” has always guided the company as it has striven to integrate into, and contribute to, Europe.
“We want to use our ability to innovate to create more value for our European customers and partners,” said Xu.
To emphasise the scale of Huawei’s stake in Europe’s tech industry and its overall economic impact regionally, Oxford Economics has released data showing that Huawei Europe made a total contribution to Europe’s GDP of €12.98bn in 2018, of which €2.5bn was from a direct impact, and €5.4bn on an indirect basis. The company was said to have supported 169,700 jobs by the end of 2018, 13,300 on a direct basis, contributing €5.6bn in tax revenues.
Given the company’s presence in Europe, Xu said it was especially poignant to be at the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild in Paris because it was there in 2016 that Huawei established its second mathematics research centre, and that with mathematic algorithms, it had made breakthroughs in many fields of basic science.
Yet even more technological breakthroughs were essential to remain relevant in a future world that would be governed by three pillars – all things sensing, all things connected and all things intelligent, said Xu. ICT infrastructure such as 5G, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) will be the foundation of the intelligent world, but Xu warned that after 70 years of engineering innovation, the information industry is bottlenecking, which is made more starkly apparent by the emergence of 5G technologies.
“We have witnessed many technological innovations in the 21st century and seen amazing high-speed growth in the information industry for the past 40 years,” he said. “However, this industry is now facing many bottlenecks. Today’s innovations are mainly about technological and engineering innovations to address market needs. The underlying theories behind today’s innovations were created decades ago.
William Xu, Huawei
“For example, Shannon’s Limit was proposed 70 years ago in 1948. Now, in this 5G era, we are approaching this theoretical limit. Moore’s Law has driven the rapid development of ICT over the past few decades. During that time, we saw CPU performance improve by a factor of 1.5 every year. Now the pace has slowed, and the CPU performance improves by a factor of only 1.1 every year.”
Addressing how Huawei would tackle these bottlenecks, Xu said success would rely on innovations driven by customer needs and “intensive” investment for technological breakthroughs. “We invest heavily in making technological breakthroughs,” he said. “Our technical and solution innovations rely on this ongoing investment. We invest significantly in not only existing technologies, but also in future-proof technologies.
“Huawei is moving from Innovation 1.0 to Innovation 2.0. In Innovation 1.0, we have focused on innovation in technology, engineering, products and solutions to meet customer needs. In Innovation 2.0, we will focus on theoretical breakthroughs and technological inventions driven by our shared visions for the future.
“Based on our forecasts about, and visions for, the intelligent world we are entering, we will aim to overcome the bottlenecks in theories and basic technologies that have hindered the development of ICT.”
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Collaboration would also be vital, said Xu. “Theoretical breakthroughs and inventions involve a great amount of uncertainty, so a closed approach to innovation will not work,” he added.
Central to Huawei’s ambition is to be in harmony with the EU’s Horizon Europe R&D project, said Xu, which is why it is launching a new Digital Europe programme. “We are very happy to see that the EU has proposed requirements for digital sovereignty in terms of strategy, policy, operations and industry engagement,” he said.
“This proposal is a very wise decision and sets a benchmark for the development of the digital world. We used to emphasise physical boundaries because of geopolitical factors. Now, when information travels around the world, digital sovereignty is becoming increasingly necessary to support national development. We will resolutely support this concept.
“With a full stack of leading technologies and capabilities, Huawei can play a key role in enabling digitisation in European industry and driving digital adoption on this continent. We have what it takes to help European businesses stay ahead of the curve as they embrace digital and AI, and to help Europe build its own digital infrastructure.”
However, Xu recognised what he called “external pressures” on Huawei, but he said such things would not deflect from the company’s ultimate mission. “I know many have been concerned about Huawei in recent months, but have still stood by our side,” he said.
“Despite the huge pressure we face, we have not been, and will not be, crushed. The challenges will only make us stronger, so that we can provide more competitive products and services to our customers.”