Huawei deputy chairman talks up 5G at Davos – but will it be part of the revolution?

By Luke Christou

“I believe that this year could be a big year for technologies because many are reaching tipping point,” Ken Hu, deputy chairman of Chinese tech heavyweight Huawei said. “Of course, in this year, 5G will be the biggest market in technology.”

Speaking at a session on the Strategic Outlook on the Digital Economy at the opening day of the World Economic Forum, Hu described 5G as a technology with the potential to revolutionise business and leisure, and provide answers to some of society’s biggest problems.

“5G is ready, 5G is coming and 5G will bring every one of us great benefits,” Hu said.

“Let’s imagine, with 5G as a consumer, we can watch a football game from the perspective of the players on the field,” he said. “Beyond that, 5G will bring a lot of features that will be a strong enabler for many, many new disruptions in our existing business.”

According to Hu, Huawei has already established itself as a player in the 5G revolution, having deployed next-generation networks in more than 10 countries. And with the GSMA, a trade body representing more than 800 mobile operators globally, expecting 5G to be deployed in more than 110 countries by 2025, Huawei hopes to play a part in revolutionising another 20 of those markets.

“The technology is ready and the business is in the phase of growth,” Hu said. “We will expect to deploy the 5G network in another 20 countries,”

Will lawmakers stop Huawei becoming a leader in 5G?

Hu’s appearance at Davos comes as many governments push back against the Chinese technology firm’s planned movement into global 5G markets over security fears.

Many fear that the company – which is already one of the largest producers of telecommunications equipment – could be used to spy on foreign states or disrupt services if future disputes were to occur. The United States has also cited the background of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, who served as a military technologist in the People’s Liberation Army, as a cause for concern.

The US, Australia and New Zealand have already blocked firms from working with Huawei to develop 5G mobile networks, while the UK and Canada have also expressed concerns.

Germany, the European Union’s most populous country and a influential part of the political union, is also considering ways to block the firm from working on 5G projects in the country.

Hu: Huawei wants to “make lives better”

Responding to the latest reports out of Germany, Huawei issued a statement insisting that it sees “no rational reason why it should be excluded from building 5G infrastructure in Germany, or indeed in any country in the world”.

Hu avoided mentioning the wave of bans issued against the company during the panel session. However, he did insist that the company is focused on innovation that betters the lives of its users by overcoming global issues such as food shortages, helping those with disabilities, or providing access to banking services.

“I do believe that for any of the technological innovation in our business operation, they will only be meaningful when they can help us to make the people’s lives better.”

The World Economic Forum is currently being held in Davos, Switzerland, over the next four days.