Shanghai: For China to realise the full potential of 5G, it needs to create a more supportive policy environment that empowers mobile operators to work with other sectors to innovate and launch new 5G services faster, according to a new report released by the GSMA today in partnership with GTI. The report, ‘5G in China: The Enterprise Story’, draws on interviews with China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom and explores three vertical sectors where 5G will play a key role: automotive, drones, and manufacturing.
Shanghai: Asia Pacific is on track to become the world’s largest 5G region by 2025, led by pioneering 5G markets such as Australia, China, Japan and South Korea, according to the latest edition of the GSMA’s Mobile Economy report. Launches of commercial 5G networks in these markets beginning next year will see the Asia region reach 675 million 5G connections by 2025, more than half of the global 5G total expected by that point. Asia’s move to state-of-the-art mobile broadband networks reflects the mobile ecosystem’s growing value to the region’s economy. According to the report, Asia’s mobile industry added $1.5 trillion in economic value last year, equivalent to 5.4 per cent of regional GDP.
In 2017, with the inaugural Mobile World Congress (MWC) Americas on the horizon, I penned a column on the topic of what it would take for the new event to be a success. What would be considered success?
Given the stakes (a reboot of the CTIA’s flagging annual show), it was a natural question to ask. After all, we all knew that when the dust settled, lots of people would be asking whether or not it had been successful and what that would mean for future iterations.
The stakes are not nearly the same for MWC Shanghai: it is no longer a new show. But newness shouldn’t be the only trigger for thinking about how we’ll look at the concept of a successful show. If nothing else, it’s a good launch pad for asking what we want to see. So, with MWC Shanghai just a week away, let’s do just that. Let’s ask what success will look like. What needs to happen and what do we need to learn?
IoT: Coming to a manhole or Yak near you
In the somewhat trumped-up war between Cat-M and NB-IoT, China has largely been a faithful NB-IoT lieutenant. Along with that has come a focus on driving IoT into new markets and new use cases and new applications. This traction is important for more than any one country or operator alone. Putting the use cases on display is important for showing operators and enterprises what is possible with IoT. It’s important to remember, however, that innovative use case demonstrations are just that – demos. They need to be followed-up with proof of a business case behind them. MWC Shanghai will doubtless execute on the first part: it will put the use cases on display. It will also need to execute on the second part of showing how to make money from them.
5G verticals: Take Your Pick (just maybe not today)
Where US operators have gained a lot of attention for their moves around fixed wireless access 5G, Asian operators have been putting their focus on mobile 5G. There’s a consumer component to that, but there’s also an enterprise component. As with China’s focus on NB-IoT, there is a real interest in tying 5G to success in the enterprise. But that’s not news, is it? Tackling vertical markets is a core part of the 5G story for operators everywhere. For MWC Shanghai to add to this narrative, it will need to do more than just talk up the opportunity for 5G in vertical markets. It will need to give evidence of how operators can execute (are executing?) on it.
AI Insights: Skynet versus Alexa versus NUGU
Even if you’re a casual follower of artificial intelligence (AI) trends and only read the mainstream media, you know that AI is a big deal in China. Headlines including Why China will win the race for complete AI) dominance?; How China is trying to become the world’s leader in AI?; How Chinese tech giants like Alibaba are bringing AI to neighbourhood corner stores show it is a national agenda.
You’ll also know there are myriad AI use cases, ranging from the apocalyptic to the mundane. Carriers can slot themselves into most of these. Take, for example, smart speaker offerings from SKT or Telefonica. Whether they should, and how they can, benefit from the work going on in China is another story MWC Shanghai will hopefully shed light on.
Consumer insights: more than phones and drones
One draw of holding a mobile-focused event in Asia is first-hand exposure to innovative consumer business models, services and devices. That means the phone you’re possibly reading this on, sure. But it also means the wacky stuff you won’t see at home: services and devices that might seem experimental today but commonplace tomorrow. That’s why there will be consumer technology tours. That’s why there will be an augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) expo. And that’s why there will be a Chinese Skateboarding League demo.
Yet, where so many consumer demands and trends have come and gone without operators figuring out their role, seeing a clear link between this consumer technology and service provider business models (connectivity or otherwise) will be important for making this more than just fun to watch.
This might all seem like a lot to ask. Or, it might not seem like much at all: personally, I’ve got no doubt that Shanghai will deliver on all of this in some form. It really depends on how much you listen, who you talk with, and what you make an effort to actively learn about. Between the sessions, and workshops, and meetings, there will be a lot going on in Shanghai next week. That’s because there’s a lot going on in the industry and a lot of the industry’s innovation is rooted in Asia.
No matter how you define success, it should be a fun week.
– Peter Jarich, head of GSMA Intelligence
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.