Digital transformation can deliver a golden future for the UK

Posted On: 
25th April 2019

Those who work with Huawei can become the most competitive in the 5G era, delivering huge benefits for the next wave of growth in the digital economy, writes Huawei's Victor Zhang.

The technological world is on the cusp of a transformation. The arrival of 5G networks, a huge step up from 4G connectivity, will bring dramatic economic and social benefits. Not only will downloads be faster, smoother and easier – but this new standard will power a whole swathe of digitisation that will change the way we work, create and play.

The delivery of advanced 5G services could add as much as US$565bn to global GDP between 2020 and 2034 according to the GSMA, a global telecoms trade body. One number-crunching body, IHS Markit, has suggested that the 5G value chain could support 600,000 jobs in the UK within 15 years.

The increased reliability and resilience of 5G mobile connectivity will also contribute significantly to UK society, and more businesses will have access to previously unparalleled connectivity, boosting overall productivity. 

So what, exactly, are these benefits? They’re not always easy to grasp, but autonomous vehicles, connected homes and digitalisation of workplaces all depend on the very latest in connectivity.

To understand the principles, take, for example, a farm tractor – a useful everyday piece of technology, used to till the soil, plant seeds and harvest crops. Invaluable, but if you add in some electronic circuitry, you get a self-driving smart tractor which monitors its own performance, making maintenance easier and prolonging its life.

The next step would be to add some sensors, connecting the tractor to the internet and remote devices – such as the farmer’s smartphone, allowing for communication and co-ordination. This system would allow one individual to keep track of all machinery operating on the farm.

5G networks - the latest wave of innovation - create what we might call a “system of systems”. By gathering data from farm equipment and combining it with weather forecasts, soil conditions, irrigation schedules and food prices to create a business that can respond immediately and ‘intelligently’ to improve performance and yields.

Knowledge is power – and big data can boost the farmer’s productivity, income and living standards.

Huawei recognises the UK’s commitment to building a world-class digital infrastructure. Along with the Government, we appreciate the importance of the Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR), which highlights the UK’s ambition to become a world leader in digital connectivity.

We believe 5G is the vehicle for realizing UK technological leadership. Building a world-class telecoms infrastructure will depend on successfully integrating 5G solutions into industry to increase competitiveness and boost productivity.

All of this, of course, needs to be done with care and with a close eye on protecting the rights of citizens. Huawei regards network security and privacy protection as its highest priority – without the trust of customers, the public and Governments, no ICT company can flourish.

We are proud of record. Over the past 30 years, in more than 170 countries, our customers have never experienced a major cyber-security breach. The Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre, jointly established by Huawei, the UK government, and network operators in 2010, manages network security risk through an open and transparent cooperation mechanism. This is the toughest and most rigorous oversight regime anywhere in the world.

The centre’s oversight board has identified shortcomings in Huawei’s software development processes and the company has embarked on a five-year, US$2bn upgrade of its software engineering capabilities and practices. The result of this investment will be to make the UK’s future telecoms networks more robust, more reliable and more resilient.

Security is a common goal across the telecoms sector, and is in everybody’s interests. All actors in the market have a role to play: operators, suppliers, the UK Government and the independent regulator.

The UK Government’s Telecom Supply Chain review due to be published in the coming weeks is the right way to reassess the whole industry. Clear and more exacting standards agreed by all parties, and guidance for operators and vendors on how to manage cyber security, will help to set a level playing field and clear objectives to the industry.

Alongside security runs sustainability and efficient use of resources. Huawei is committed to 5G solutions which feature the most environmentally sensitive outcomes.

For example, this year we launched the world’s first 7nm 5G Blade base station core chip. Size matters in our industry – because this tiny piece of kit means that the scale of a 5G base station can be reduced by 50%, with the weight reduced by 23%, the power consumption reduced by 21%, and the installation time halved compared with a standard 4G base station.

250 years ago, British steam engines opened the door to the Industrial Revolution. Since that point, we have seen further revolutions in mass production and automation.

5G is an example of technologies that have brought us to the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution. This new era of industry will be driven by smart technologies that work together, and the UK must seize these opportunities to encourage increased economic prosperity.

We are confident that those who work with Huawei can become the most competitive in the 5G era, delivering huge benefits for the next wave of growth in the digital economy. The next industrial revolution will flourish in the home of the first.

Victor Zhang, President of Global Government Affairs, Huawei Technologies