How 5G Technology Will Transform the Way You Work, Learn and Live

By Alan Brew

It’s been called the technology of the future. 5G – the fifth-generation technology standard for cellular networks – promises to be truly game-changing, transforming the way we work, learn and live.

Huawei is one of the early pioneers of the technology and also the world’s largest provider of telecom equipment.

In this episode of Expert Opinion, Huawei Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Joy Tan speaks with BrandingBusiness senior strategist, Alan Brew. The two talk about the specifics and impact of 5G technology, network expectations in the short-term, the long- term path to an intelligent network, and the world’s relationship with the technology communications giant.


Topics covered in this podcast episode include:

  • The competitive edge
  • Significance of 5G: speed, latency (responsiveness of the network), and number of connections
  • 5G and the fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Game changing technology for both vertical and traditional industries with examples
  • Truly personalized and enhanced online experiences for consumers
  • Improved remote working experiences with 5G technology
  • 5G deployment around the world, and expectations for the US market
  • Huawei and cybersecurity
  • The future of 5G, networking communications, and the long-term path to an intelligent network


Episode Transcript

Welcome to Expert Opinion, the BrandingBusiness forum where leaders share their views, insights and experiences from the world of B2B branding. And now here’s your host.

Alan Brew: This is Alan Brew of BrandingBusiness. And our guest today is Joy Tan of Huawei. Joy, what is your title?

Joy Tan: I’m the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for Huawei USA.

Alan Brew: Thank you. And you’re based in Texas, is that correct?

Joy Tan: Yes.

Alan Brew: So, Joy, welcome. Thank you for joining us on Expert Opinion, we’re really looking forward to this conversation. For the benefit of people who may not know what Huawei does in its broadest sense, can you give us some, a little background on the company?

Joy Tan: Alan, thank you for having me. I think most people know Huawei. We have been in the news recently. Huawei is a telecommunications equipment provider and we also manufacturer smart devices as well. So, for 2019, Huawei’s global revenue was $123 billion. So, we’re one of the largest ICT companies in the world. Right now, we operate in 170 countries. We have 194,000 employees worldwide. So, it’s a huge company and in the US we’re less known as in other countries. Actually, if you go to Europe, Spain, or actually South America, you’d see Huawei ads everywhere.

Alan Brew: So, you are truly a global company, Joy?

Joy Tan: Yes.

Alan Brew: Moving into an issue that’s very topical, which is 5G technology, which I believe you’re one of the pioneers in and responsible for the commercialization of much of the technology. What is your position on 5G, Joy? Where are you in that?

Joy Tan: Huawei is one of the leaders in 5G solutions. We started investing in 5G research and R & D in 2009. So, in 2019 we had a lot of commercial contracts. Huawei is deploying 5G solutions with most other operators around the world. And I think from a solution perspective, we’re probably 12 to 18 months ahead of our competitors.

Alan Brew: Well, let’s continue on the 5G theme. Given that much of the world is still in the grip of this coronavirus pandemic and many people are working remotely and may continue to do so into the long-term. A reliable network is becoming increasingly critical to global commerce. So, Joy, can you tell us the significance of 5G and what difference it will make?

Joy Tan: Yes, so maybe just a little background on 5G. 5G is the fifth generation of mobile broadband that will eventually replace the 4G LTE connection. So, there are several very important parameters for 5G technology. The first one is the speed. So, based on IMT-2020 Standard, the minimum requirement for 5G download speeds is 20 gigabit per second, for uplink it is 10 gigabit per second. So, this is about a hundred times faster than 4G. So, for example, when you download a two-hour HD movie, it will take only several seconds with 5G technology versus seven minutes under 4G. Of course, you know the actual user’s download speeds will depend on a number of factors, including the location and the network traffic.

Joy Tan: The second important parameter is the latency, which measures the responsiveness of the network. The lower the latency, the better. The latency for 4G network is about 50 milliseconds; 5G will get you one millisecond. So, that’s a 50 times improvement. So, this will enable a lot of high precision industrial applications like remote surgery, autonomous driving. And the last aspect of 5G is the number of connections. So 5G will allow one million connected devices per square kilometer, essentially unlimited, everything can be connected. So those will truly enable IoT.

Joy Tan: So why is this so important? Because consumers will have all this great speed and the number of connections and you will get a much better mobile experience. You’ll be able to stream Disney or Netflix shows seamlessly on your device whenever and wherever you want to. So 5G will make AR, VR, 3D holograms more widely available and 5G will transform all industries as well. So that’s why we often say that 5G will usher in the fourth industrial revolution and change the entire economy. We’re estimating by 2035, 5G will enable about $12.3 trillion of global economic output and support more than 20 million jobs worldwide. So that’s why 5G is a very important technology.

Alan Brew: Wow. That’s quite a profound transformation and in terms of its implications. So, it’s not just a faster bandwidth, it actually has some transformational implications for business and the way people work. You mentioned remote surgery and autonomous driving, Joy. How will it impact other businesses? How will it change them? Can you give us some more examples?

Joy Tan: Yes, sure. So, for the business world, 5G is a real game changer. It will help all vertical industries to improve efficiencies, lower costs, and create a better experience. For example, the ultra-reliable, low latency component of 5G will fundamentally change healthcare. You expect to see improvements in telemedicine, physical therapy via AR, precision surgery and even remote surgery. So, let me give you some examples. In the recent fight against COVID-19 in China, 5G helped save many lives. The doctors can actually read the X-rays remotely. So, you can do remote diagnosis and remote treatment. And these doctors don’t have to be in the epicenter to make treatment. And also, 5G allowed a temperature monitoring system to be quickly set up in China, especially in airports and train stations. So, when people started to return to work, this was very important because 5G has the capacity to connect many different devices at high definition. So, this solution is available. 4G will not be able to provide that.

Joy Tan: And I want to give you another example in a traditional industry. Huawei has been working with a mining company in inner Mongolia, in China. We all know the mining industry has been traditionally facing challenges in safety, efficiency and cost for many, many years. Because of the dangerous working environment, trucks in and out of this mine can only drive about six miles an hour. So, we worked with China Mobile to develop or deploy driverless truck solutions using 5G. So now the trucks can drive up to 22 miles an hour. So, three times, almost four times the improvement on efficiency. And more importantly, people are no longer exposed to the dangerous working environment. These are just very impressive use cases and we’ll see the expansion of by 5G solutions in essentially every industry, and we’re just at the beginning.

Alan Brew: Well that is impressive statistics, Joy. You know, people tend to think of 5G as just another version of this oh, a faster speed for downloading things on their phones, etc. But this is transformational, what you’ve just talked about. It means business will change; it will mean advances in certain areas that are quite profound for the way people live. Thinking about an individual’s life, remote workers for example; we’re all now on Zoom, participating in conference calls and meetings. How would it change? What’s its impact on that kind of situation?

Joy Tan: Yeah, I think Huawei getting to the 5G solutions, individual’s experience will be so much better than what we have under 4G. So 5G will give users immersive online experiences in gaming, entertainment, and other interactive applications. Let me give you some examples. Because 5G has verified speed and you can really do things that you couldn’t do before under 4G. We launched the commercial network in Switzerland. Now the speeds can be up to one gigabit per second. So, you know many Europeans like to spend their holidays skiing in Switzerland, and I love to ski there, too. Now when you’re skiing you can actually livestream high definition video of the ski slope in front of you to your friends and family and show them the best slopes in the world, crystal clear. These are all real-time and high definition. That’s just absolutely amazing.

Joy Tan: And then because of all these 5G parameters, you can enable many new applications. For example, in South Korea, LG U+ launched a 5G network very early on, and they were able to provide 5G high definition broadcasting to the consumers. So, consumers can watch live sports games on their 5G smartphone and they can watch it from any angle, like 360 degrees. And you can also use your phone camera to follow a particular, your favorite player, throughout the entire game. So, all these experiences are now truly personalized.

Joy Tan: And you can also do 5G-powered VR. They signed up 5G VR users in less than half a year. So, they signed up almost a million users in six months. Because usually Korea is pretty advanced in terms of their new applications and fast speed, LG U+ were able to increase their premium plan for 5G usage, like 60% in just several months. Those are tremendous improvements for the operators and also for the end consumers. These are just examples of new applications and new speeds that end users can experience. And of course, with us working all from home, there’s a lot of requirements for connectivity, for speed. And I think with 5G we’ll see better experiences for all of us.

Alan Brew: That’s so interesting. So, it’s not just again, a question of doing things faster. It’s actually changing the way we interact with technology and the way we think about work and also leisure. Joy, you mentioned Korea, South Korea, which is an advanced country in terms of technology uptake. When can we expect 5G here in the United States? We see the ads from the providers making these promises, but I don’t think many people are quite clear about when it will actually be available.

Joy Tan: Well, let me talk a little bit about the status of 5G deployment around the world and then I will get into the US So, Verizon and LG U+ in South Korea launched 5G at the end of 2018. There were actually, there were debates who launched first, either Verizon or LG U+ but they launched around the same time towards October, at the end of 2018. And then by the end of 2019, more than 60 operators around the world have launched 5G solutions. And so, by the end of last year, we already had 10 million individual users. And as of today, more than 73 operators in 41 countries have launched 5G. And we’re estimating by the end of this year there will be 250 million individual 5G users in many countries, and offered by about 130 of different operators around the world.

Joy Tan: And so, from a data usage perspective, it is very interesting. Just some of the statistics we saw from South Korea, because people are using AR, VR, and these are very data-consuming applications. So, 10 minutes of VR will consume about four gigabits of data. That’s almost like a whole month of my data package with T-Mobile. And so, there’s tremendous increase on data usage and we’re estimating when people start using 5G in all these applications, VR, AR for gaming, for education, for social, you would probably use 100 gigabits per person per month ongoing. That’s a huge increase from what we have right now. And we’re seeing a lot of new 5G devices as well. So that’s a very key element for the fast growth of any technology.

Joy Tan: In the previous generation 3G, 4G, the devices, even the networks, were ready but the devices were kind of lagging behind. But now for 5G, last year we saw so many new devices launching in the market. Last year actually we had about 200 5G terminals and modules that includes TPE and smart devices, and this year we’ll see about 500 different types of terminals and devices in the market. So that will really help the deployment of 5G. And from the user number perspective, we’ll see 5G reach 500 million users in three years. It took about six years for 4G to reach 500 million users. It took nine years for 3G to reach 500 million users. So that’s why we see the tremendous fast growth rate under the 5G situation. It is absolutely amazing.

Alan Brew: It is amazing from what you said there, Joy. I’m wondering how we in the US can come to expect its arrival. When will it be widespread in terms of usage in the US? Have you any idea?

Joy Tan: Yeah. Well, the US is one of the early countries to deploy 5G. I think currently there are about nine countries in the world that have launched 5G fully, meaning all the operators in the country have launched 5G. Even the coverage is not nationwide yet. So, these nine countries are China, UK, South Korea, US, UAE, etc.  The US started very early in 2018 and right now all the US carriers are seriously working towards nationwide deployment. And let’s take a look at Verizon. So, they started in October 2018. They started with the fixed 5G service in parts of Houston, LA and Sacramento in California, and then they started rolling out the mobile 5G offering. So now they have dozens of cities around the country, including New York, LA, and more.

Joy Tan: And AT&T, they were a couple of months behind of Verizon. They started in December 2018, but they started service for business customers, but now they’re changing. They’re expanding 5G to consumers. They have a range of cities like LA, San Jose and other cities. Sprint is currently in nine cities and they’re working all under an unlimited plan. And T-Mobile was a little bit behind. They started in December last year, but they’re adding more locations to the 5G coverage. So, all the operators are moving very fast. And one thing I want to point out is, actually, Huawei is not included in the 5G presentation in the US So that means from a vendor perspective, you have less competition, which will increase the cost for the operators and then eventually the cost for end consumers. So that’s one thing for the US market.

Alan Brew: Yeah, I was going to come on to that, Joy. People have obviously read the issues, the political issues around Huawei and the various claims about security. What is your position on that?

Joy Tan: Well, Huawei has been in the telecom business for 30 years and we offer it in 170 countries. We support about one third of the world’s population, and we never had a single incident that is related to cybersecurity. All our operators trust Huawei. If you go to Europe, Latin America, we’ve been in these networks for quite a long time. In the US, we serve the rural operators like Montana, East Oregon. We served these operator teams maybe 10, 15 years ago. And we never had any cybersecurity incident with these operators either. So, this is really not about a cybersecurity issue. We hope that the government will have a comprehensive cybersecurity resolution for strategy. If they want to test our equipment, we’re very open, we’re very open to have this kind of third-party testing. We did that in the UK, in Canada and in Germany. So, a third party will come in to test our equipment before they go into the operator’s network. We welcome that solution as well.

Joy Tan: So you know, as I mentioned earlier, Huawei is a global leader in the 5G field in the entire telecom field, and we’re willing to work with the US government to find solutions so that we can provide the best technology for the US market to benefit the consumers in the US

Alan Brew: Thank you for that clarification, Joy. Just moving onto a few final questions. The future of 5G, Huawei’s leadership position, what is the vision for the future in terms of networking communications? Where is Huawei moving to? What does it see in the future?

Joy Tan: That’s a very good question because we’re experiencing a fast deployment in the telecom in the ICT industry. It’s just amazing how fast we see different technologies coming up, and especially with cloud and artificial intelligence. And with 5G, we estimate in five years there will be 6.5 million 5G base stations around the world serving 2.8 billion users. That’s about one third of the world’s population. So, we think in five years, one third of the world will be covered by 5G. And right now, most of the concerns of the operators are focusing on how to generate revenue with 5G in the next several years. So 5G is a new technology. They have to invest a lot to have the infrastructure. When they have the infrastructure, how do they have business models and revenue streams, new revenue streams? So that’s what we have been working on is really to help operators to deploy large-scale 5G solutions and help them generate new revenue from different applications.

Joy Tan: Regarding the telecom network, we think the future network will be an intelligent network. So, this intelligent network will be very quick to deploy and they will operate with very high efficiency and with high performance. We envisioned them to become autonomous in 10 to 15 years’ timeframe. We call it ADN, autonomous driving network. So, this is similar to the autonomous driving cars. We actually use the same kind of classification for different levels. You know for autonomous car you have the level one which is assisted hands; level two is hands-free; level three, eyes-free; and level four, mind-free; and level five, people or person-free. So, we think the network, the telecom network, will be a similar progression with this.

Joy Tan: Before 2019, the carrier operators were at the level one stage. They had to use tools to process simple repeated action, and next year the telecom networks will get you to level two, which is part of the maintenance work can be done by software without people making any decisions. And fast forward to 2030, 10 years from now, we think that the network will go from level two to level three. So, the software with massive AI usage in the network can finish full tasks even under different and changing environments. And after that the network will go to level four or level five which is highly autonomous or full autonomous. So artificial intelligence software will do most of the work, anticipating the changes and adjust the traffic and provide on-demand service applications to the users. So that’s how we see the telecommunication evolving. And of course, that’s a very long-term target, long-term vision, but we think the industry is actually working towards that direction.

Alan Brew: And it’s such an exciting vision and you truly know your stuff in this subject, Joy. Thank you for being so informative.

Joy Tan: Thank you.

Alan Brew: What a future we can look forward to.

Joy Tan: It’s very exciting.

Alan Brew: Final question, Joy, the company is based in Shenzhen, China. How was it affected by the coronavirus? Did you manage to get through it or what happened?

Joy Tan: Yeah, I think the coronavirus started in Wuhan. Our Wuhan R & D center was closed down for almost two months. Shenzhen was less impacted because when Wuhan shut down, many other cities, because it was a Chinese holiday too, were just basically locked down as well. And I think our employees there were just working from home and now they’re finally getting back to offices, but they’re all keeping their distance as well in the offices. So, they don’t usually go to the cafeteria. They will bring their lunch back to their cubicle to eat. And I think in many other parts of China, our employees are, many of them, working from home. And in other parts of the world you know, Europe and US, are being hit very heavily right now. And our employees are mostly working from home and they do, sometimes they have to support a network and they will take extra precautions to make sure the networks are up and running. And if there are any work needs to be done, they will be supporting that.

Joy Tan: And of course, we’re helping with the local communities as well, sending masks, medical equipment and all of those. So just like any other large global company, we’re dealing with the situation to make sure our customers and their networks are running, and our employees are protected. So, it’s a challenge but we’re going through it.

Alan Brew: And everybody is going through the same challenge, Joy, we’re behind China and talking about coming out of this situation as soon as possible. But what you’ve said is a very good indication of how we should be thinking about what will happen. So, congratulations on that. Joy, this is such a fascinating conversation on the subject. We could go on for the next hour, I’m sure, but we’re out of time for now, and I just want to thank you so much for joining us today and giving us such a fascinating insight into what is a truly transformational future. Thank you very much, Joy.

Joy Tan: Thank you, Alan.