Huawei chairman: 5G is 'new electricity'

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping during the annual Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal on November 4, 2019. Photo: Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The rotating chairman of Huawei talked up the transformational potential of 5G on Monday, in a speech that avoided any mention of the controversy surrounding the company’s involvement in the technology.

“5G + X is the new electricity,” Guo Ping said during a keynote speech at the opening of Web Summit in Lisbon on Tuesday. “It will be the key enabler of the smart world.”

The “+X” he referenced referred to other technologies that could be paired with 5G technology, such as AI, virtual reality, and smart city technology.

5G is the next generation of wireless cellular technology being rolled out across the world. It promises to offer faster wireless internet speeds, greater network capacity, lower latency, and more flexibility.

READ MORE: Verizon exec: 5G will be 'transformational' for society, not just economy

While the most obvious application will be faster internet for mobile devices, its power and reliability means it can be used with other technologies not currently suited for wireless internet. Ping gave the example of a junior oil engineer getting instructions from a more senior colleague miles away who can see what the junior engineer sees through a 5G-connected augmented reality headset.

Ping, who previously held the position of rotating Huawei CEO and is current rotating chair, said that while applications of 5G are “still in their infancy,” he believes the technology “will create countless opportunity to entrepreneurs.”

He said Huawei was “focused on two areas — mobile devices and the cloud.” He touted a $1.5bn (£1.16bn) Huawei programme to help developers working with 5G technologies and another $1bn earmarked for developers building apps on Huawei’s mobile operating systems.

“The roll out of 5G commercial networks is occurring more rapidly than expected,” Ping said, highlighting the fact that 40 carriers in over 20 countries are already using the technologies.

“We predict by the end of this year we will see 60 commercial 5G networks.”

The upbeat speech made no reference to the controversy surrounding Huawei’s involvement in 5G networks globally. Huawei is the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker and builds infrastructure used in 5G networks. Intelligence services around the world are concerned that the Chinese state could use its access the company for spying.

Australia and New Zealand have instituted a ban on Huawei’s technology in 5G infrastructure, citing cyber security concerns. The US have also introduced a similar ban, with US Secretary of State saying Huawei’s involvement would be “a national security risk.” The UK has repeatedly delayed a decision on whether to allow Huawei equipment in its 5G network but has faced pressure from the US to ban it.