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“It does not matter which markets will deploy the 5G test and it does not matter what speed test you have, what really matters is how far you will go to harness the capability of 5G and to benefit your future.”

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Telecom Review Asia sat down for an exclusive interview with Dr. Mohamed Madkour, VP of Wireless Networks Marketing and Solutions at Huawei Technologies to talk about the company’s unique strategy for 5G deployment in the APAC region, its position on 4G/LTE and why unity amongst key players is the main ingredient for 5G’s success.

What is unique about Huawei’s approach to 5G deployment, especially in the APAC region?

Huawei takes a serious approach when it comes to deploying 5G and conceptually, we try to protect the current operators’ investments especially for LTE. We make it as evolutionary as it can be from the network’s perspective and we also deploy 5G based on services’ need and carriers’ market demand as well, so that’s from a very high strategic level. However, when it comes to getting into the 5G approach in terms of the network itself as an infrastructure, there are three pillars that it is based on.

Firstly, we make 5G as powerful as it can be, we make it as simple as it can be, and we also make it intelligent and green. For the powerful aspect, we need 5G to have the richest experience that can convince the consumer and protect carriers’ brands. For example, we use technology like massive MIMO and the highest bandwidth, so those things guarantee that you will have the best experience.

Secondly, we try to follow the simple approach with the equipment in terms of infrastructure and deployment strategies. It is simple not because 5G is complex, 5G comes with a whole network which includes 3G and 4G but having simple equipment will encourage the operator and help facilitate new challenges. We always say we make the equipment boxes like we are building toy blocks, so that’s another approach.

Thirdly with intelligence, we believe that AI and 5G strengthen each other. AI pushes the capabilities of 5G, whilst 5G brings a lot of applications to AI.

For the green aspect, it is all about having sustainable 5G future, and everyone is talking about high energy and power consumption for 5G and that would be the reality if we do not do it right. For us, we pay attention to telecom energy innovation and we do it by enhancing the efficiency of the equipment on different levels such as the chip level, box level and network level. So, we synergise the telecom resources and the power resources together to have a very efficient 5G and at the same time, we try to use renewable energy for that. This is our approach from the network perspective.

From a business or service perspective, we make the experience adaptable to different services. We help operators adopt different services and we do collaborative approaches. So we do not only have infrastructure or business models, but also collaborative approaches to push the ecosystem forward.  

What can traditional telcos that already have a fixed business mandate do to seamlessly migrate into the 5G sphere?

First of all, when we talk about operator business, we should put the “Gs” aside, like 4G and 5G. This is the time that carriers need to do their digital transformation, so how they transform their businesses to make it better for them economically and to enhance their performance KPIs.

We all know that with transformation, we need to have a balance short term and long term KPI, so I would say infrastructure, modernisation and the adoption of different services will aid with transformation and when you do that, the transformative technologies we have now will be at the heart of this digital revolution. We suggest that operators continue their current businesses, but these technologies will enhance that business.

For one of our carriers in the Philippines, they have fixed wireless access as home broadband, and then with 5G, it allows them to enhance their current business and build up their brand. So 5G will not change the business models immediately, but operators need to look forward and think about future business approaches.

We all know that 5G comes with different experience attributes and allows it to serve different industries and market segments using the same network. It’s all about business continuity, enhancing business economics and adopting new business capabilities.

There is a lot of hype surrounding 5G, but where do you think 4G and LTE stand in terms of Huawei’s journey towards a fully integrated 5G infrastructure?

We love LTE a lot, not because we have a lot of market share but because LTE is the foundation for the 5G business and network. Every investment in LTE is supposed to count as an investment in 5G because when you invest in LTE the right way, you can organise your spectrum assets, and when you do that you enhance the fall-back experience layer and at the same time you have the space for 5G.

I believe that LTE will be around for a long time. I expect in the next 10 years, you will only have LTE ubiquitously carrying this beautiful experience and you will have islands of 5G where it will generate the best revenue. You should not look at 5G as a replacement for 4G because these two work hand in hand as gears to support operators’ businesses. In addition to keeping LTE, carriers also need to think about installing cloud infrastructure and AI capabilities because that is what will make it happen.

Remember, LTE or 5G by itself will not transform things on their own, they are pipes with powerful experiences, but we need to enrich this with other transformative technologies to help in adopting different business cases.

In your opinion, which markets in Asia would be the first to adopt 5G?

We have seen a lot of deployment overall. Currently, we have about more than 50 contracts - about two thirds of the current life network which is around 36 life networks now.

However, for Asia, specifically the Middle Eastern GCC countries, we are powering many life networks now and we have shipped more than 1000 sites here in the Gulf countries. In Southeast Asia, we started organising a lot of activities. We just signed a contract with Maxis in Malaysia for example.

It does not matter which markets will deploy the 5G test and it does not matter what speed test you have, what really matters is how far you will go to harness the capability of 5G and to benefit your future. We need to know what it is we are fighting for, and we are fighting for a future that will not depend on who will deploy the first base station or who will have the highest speed test now. What matters is the vision, strategy and the collaborative efforts from the government, carriers, vendors and other entities.

We need to forget about all the distraction in the ecosystem and move towards the same vision and in that way, we can go far.

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