Huawei hypes industrial 5G, intros 5G2B package, opens Industry 4.0 test lab
Huawei has put focus on the role of 5G to stimulate industrial revolution, and go beyond the traditional scope of cellular as a straight communications technology for voice and video, dominated by the stunted consumer market. The China-based vendor has launched a “first batch” of industrial 5G applications, and opened a test facility in Shanghai for industrial 5G terminals.
Speaking at its ‘5G for Good’ summit in Shanghai last week, Huawei made clear incoming industrial 5G capabilities, enabled by the ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) and massive machine-type communications (mMTC) functionality being defined in the new 3GPP releases of the 5G standard, are critical for the global economy. It noted the acceleration of 5G rollout globally, and the closeness of government support in China, in particular.
Yang Chaobin, president of wireless solutions at Huawei, commented: “Bandwidth, latency, and massive-scale connectivity [will] make it possible for industry to achieve digital transformation. 5G will integrate with AI and cloud [technologies] to allocate resources to improve enterprise operations, and make them efficient and intelligent.”
Ritchie Peng, president of Huawei’s 5G product line, said: “5G represents a leap for the telecom industry in terms of innovation…The first opportunity is with connectivity. [But] aAs 5G brings more connectivity, it will also produce opportunities in cloud, computing, and other industries. It will give rise to new opportunities [and] unlock fresh industrial opportunities.”
Chaobin called 5G “the key infrastructure development” for the planet, and noted progress with deployments in China, the US, South Korea, and Europe. Ninety-two commercial 5G networks have already launched, he said. He added: “China has the most abundant spectrum, the most physical sites, and the strongest support from government. Carriers in China have accelerated the cadence of 5G rollout, and more industries have joined.
Peng said 60 percent of smartphones sold in China are being activated on 5G networks; there will be 30 billion 5G connections, globally, by 2025, he said.
Decent information about Huawei’s new industrial 5G applications and industrial 5G test lab is scant. There was nothing about the content of the applications, or where they are directed. In a muddled statement, it said it is targeting five ‘industries’, including four complementary ‘horizontal’ tech sectors (connectivity, analytics, cloud, computing), and a single grouping for ‘vertical’ industry (‘industrial applications’).
China’s busiest sectors – logistics, ports, mining, steel manufacturing, plus healthcare – were variously mentioned, at the summit and in sundry press materials. A statement said: “The scope spans multiple verticals, including communication modules and terminals, 5G antennas, smart manufacturing, smart logistics, smart coal mining, smart healthcare, new media live broadcast, smart city, and smart power grid.”
It has introduced new branding – ‘5GtoB’ (5G2B, surely?) – for both the application bundle and the test centre. The test centre is part of its Shanghai Research Center, opened in 2018 to look at “innovations and collaborations in the field of LTE low latency”. Huawei has also announced a new 5G Open Lab, presumably at the same site (again, the press information is unclear); it opened another 5G Open Lab in Seoul, in South Korea, at the end of 2019 .
Huawei said “around 50” partners have joined its 5G2B ecosystem, including telecoms operators and industrial firms. It made mention of railway companies, ship builders, and machinery makers, and referenced the likes of China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom as part of the summit. It sounded like a China-affair, although partners have not been revealed.
(Enterprise IoT Insights has been in touch with Huawei for clarification, but is yet to receive a response.)
Zhang Jianming, vice director of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization, said at the summit that the new 5G Open Lab will drive “application incubation, function testing, scenario verification, and investment conversion” to drive “in-depth integration of enterprise and cutting-edge technologies”. He said: “We have more than 292 5G applications in smart manufacturing, smart healthcare, and smart education.” He said the city is focused on “the top 10 industries” for industrial 5G, without telling what these were.
Shanghai has installed 25,000 outdoor 5G base stations and 31,000 indoor 5G small cells, said Jianming; the numbers will jump to 30,000 and 50,000, respectively, by the end of 2020. The city has started to deploy 5G at Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, and across 297 subway stations and 10 commercial business districts, including East Nanjing Road, Xujiahui, and Lujiazui.
Jianming commented: “In March, president Xi called for an accelerating infrastructure construction, including 5G and data centres. 5G provides crucial support for data centres, AI, and the industrial internet. It is a new growth engine for industrial upgrade. Shanghai has a… three year plan for 5G industry development, and an action plan for new infrastructure construction to speed up rollout of 5G.”
Shanghai has said it will invest 270 billion yuan ($38.1 billion) in new infrastructure projects in the next three years, including 34,000 5G base stations, 100,000 smart charging piles for electric vehicles, 100 unmanned factories.
Xu Weizhong, wireless network chief strategy officer at Huawei, said: “The era of rapid 5G development has come. 5G is set to realize digital transformation across industries to trigger a new round of high-speed development. With the growing maturity of the 5G industry ecosystem, 5G module shipments have started on a massive scale. A large number of 5G terminals for industrial applications have advanced to the project testing phase.
“Over 100 types of 5G industry terminals are expected to be launched this year. To better support the incubation of the industry ecosystem, Huawei will open up its 5GtoB lab, which will be predominantly used for testing the capabilities of 5G vertical industry terminals. Huawei aims to build a robust platform for developing industrial applications in collaboration with industry organizations, and to promote industry development and application promotion with partners.”
Chinese operators will build 800,000 5G base stations and have more than 200 million 5G subscribers by the end of 2020, said Chaobin, as reported by RCR Wireless. The executive said that 5G subscribers in China would represent 70% of the global subscriber base by end-2020. China now has 400,000 5G base stations and 100 million 5G users, said Yang.