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Can 5G technology inspire new value, accelerate Industry 4.0 in Asia?

The pursuit for high-speed Internet is endless. Globally, consumers have their lives connected in the digital space for work, communication, social networking and entertainment purposes. Supporting this demand are Internet service providers and telcos that are growing their Wi-Fi 6 and 5G networks for greater speed and coverage. In the case of 5G, it has the potential to unleash new opportunities as it allows more devices to be connected and share information in real time, thus transforming industries and elevating consumer experiences. 

Phone makers like Apple, Huawei and Samsung have been rolling out more 5G-capable smartphones in recent years. A Strategy Analytics report pointed out that global 5G smartphone shipments soared by 458% year-on-year from 24 million units in Q1 2020 to a record 133.9 million in Q1 2021. 

One of the earliest adopters of 5G is South Korea. Another report, by Opensignal, reveals that South Korea has about 11.8 million 5G subscriptions at the end of 2020 out of a population of 52 million people. The country’s three operators have deployed 166,250 5G base stations, which is approximately 19% of the country’s 870,000 4G base stations. 

And in China, China Mobile ended March with a total of 188.76 million 5G subscribers. Another Chinese telco, China Unicom, added 7.3 million 5G subscribers in the same month, making a total of 91.85 million 5G subscribers. ABI Research even forecast that the 5G subscriptions in the Chinese market are expected to reach 739 million by 2025, which will account for nearly 40% of the world market share. 

Hou Jiancao, 5G and mobile network infrastructure Senior Analyst, ABI Research, explained, “Unlike other early adopters, such as South Korea, the US, Finland, Japan, and many others, mobile network operators (MNOs) in China are owned by the government, which allows them to receive extensive support for developing the 5G networks, especially in the consumer market.

“From a spectrum perspective, the MNOs received 5G spectrum licenses for tests and trials in 2018, giving them the opportunity to plan the best network deployment strategies and be ready for the 5G commercial launch in the following year.” 

China Unicom has also entered a joint 5G Capital Initiative with Huawei and unveiled a 5G indoor Gigabit network in the country’s National Stadium. Combining the 5G LampSite digital indoor network products that support an ultra-wide bandwidth of 300MHz and the distributed Massive MIMO technology, the network delivers a perceived data rate of above 1Gbps in 90% of the grandstand area. 

Yang Peng, Deputy General Manager of China Unicom Beijing’s network division, commented, “By jointly initiating the 5G Capital Initiative with Huawei, we aim to build ubiquitous high-quality 5G networks.

“With the deployment of the 300MHz LampSite PicoRRUs (pRRUs) and distributed Massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) in the National Stadium, China Unicom Beijing can now provide the ultra-large network capacity required to provide the audience with immersive experience while preparing networks for smart applications such as augmented reality with Gigabit connections.” 

At the recently-concluded Asia-Pacific 5G Industry Forum (5GIF), technology partners and industry business owners shared and explored on how a sustainable 5G partner ecosystem could be developed to create higher contribution and business in the Asia-Pacific region. With the theme 5G Inspiring New Value, Accelerate Industry 4.0, the forum, which was co-hosted by Huawei Technologies, registered more than 800 participants from over 30 countries. 

Commenting on how 5G would revolutionise the global economy and shape business growth and commercial and digital service acceleration, Dennis Xiao, President of Huawei Technologies Asia-Pacific, emphasised that 5G requires not only innovators, but also “brave practitioners” to drive the development.

He cited the example of Thailand’s Siriraj Hospital, which has transformed traditional processes with the adoption of 5G services for remote patient monitoring, connected ambulances, and unmanned medicine vehicles to provide higher quality of medication services to their patients.

Pertaining to the media industry, the Chinese tech giant has also worked with China Telecom Xiamen to provide an 8K virtual reality (VR) broadcast of Xiamen University’s 100th anniversary celebration to the alumni who were unable to attend due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

By scanning QR codes provided by the VR platform of China Telecom’s e-Cloud service, the viewers were able to catch the 8K VR broadcast of the art performance, light shows, and the opening ceremony of Bamin Garden dedicated to mark the centenary anniversary of the university. 

During the broadcast, 8K VR panoramic robots were used to capture and send 360-degree view videos to showcase the campuses. By touching the screen of, or turning, their mobile phones, the alumni were able to freely change the viewing angles to their campuses, interact online, and share their thoughts all in real time. 

The online immersive experience was made possible by 5G. All 8K HD images require 5G to provide huge bandwidth for uplink transmission. Mobile panoramic shooting further raises the requirements on uplink bandwidth. 5G Super Uplink, a technology jointly developed by China Telecom and Huawei, was able to improve uplink capability by providing a single-user uplink peak rate of over 450Mbps and an average uplink rate of over 250Mbps.

During the celebration, this 5G network fulfilled the needs of more than 10,000 viewers on site as well as more than 10,000 online viewers. 

Moving forward, Huawei will continue to support China Telecom Xiamen to build the 5G digital networks needed to promote the digital economy and develop new infrastructures in Xiamen.

Indeed, 5G will proliferate beyond China to other parts of Asia within the next 18 or 24 months as MNOs, gearing up their network deployment strategies for their own 5G commercial launches,  will also help to set up a sustainable ecosystem that could create new value and accelerate businesses in the region. As more countries in Asia-Pacific are adopting a whole-of-nation approach to promote 5G technology, remote working and better use of telepresence-type of video conferencing will prevail as long as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on.

And with the world facing a possible 5th wave of a more infectious Covid-19 variant, it’s better to stay safe, stay put … and continue to work from home, leveraging on 5G services wherever and whenever possible. 

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