Highlights of 2023 Mobile World Congress Shanghai, China

Mobile World Congress Shanghai (from June 28-30, 2023) showcased the impact of 5G networks on global businesses in Asia. This fourth anniversary of commercial 5G adoption offered a chance for network operators and vendors alike to reflect on the benefits of the latest network technology and what’s needed for broader 5G adoption.

According to Robert Clark of Light Reading, “Industry leaders returned after a four-year hiatus with little to say and even less to announce.”  That’s nothing new.   Shira Ovide, writing for the Washington Post in June 2023, called claims about 5G’s benefits for retail customers “mostly hot air.”

China Mobile talked up its prospects in two new 5G consumer services:

  1.  Cloud phones, which could be tailored to meet the needs of different user segments – general-purpose use, gaming, streaming and so on.  The apps, OS and processing of cloud phone voice and data are all running in the cloud, according to Li Bin, vice president of subsidiary China Mobile Internet Co.
  2.  5G new calling – an enhancement to VoNR that is meant to transform the voice call experience. It enables integration of other apps into a phone call, like real-time translation, or multi-party video or remote guidance.

Source: Grid Scheduler on Flickr (public domain)


Meng Wanzhou Deputy Chairwoman, Rotating Chairwoman, CFO, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei:

“5-point-5G is the next step forward for 5G. 5-point-5G will feature 10-gigabit downlink speeds, gigabit uplink speeds, the ability to support 100-billion connections, and native AI.”  With much higher speeds, it’s believed 5-point-5G will offer greater levels of targeted support for industrial needs, in domains like IoT, sensing and advanced manufacturing.

A partnership between Huawei and Shaanxi Coal Industry Co. mines installed sensors that can deliver real-time data about dangerous gas levels and instability in mine tunnels, to alert control centers above ground as needed to ensure worker safety.

5G network technology in Tianjin, China, leverages Huawei’s 5GtoB solutions for remote operators. Higher network speeds allow for more efficient operations that yield meaningful results for port operator’s bottom lines, while consumers benefit by receiving goods faster.

In the manufacturing sector, companies are seeing a significant transformation in operations, as digitalization increases production capacity. A factory in Jingzhou, China, operated by Midea Group, became the world’s first fully 5G-connected electrical appliance factory. Powered by advanced mobile solutions from China Mobile and Huawei, production line capacity significantly increased — reducing inventory needs and delivering savings which can be passed on to consumers. As data volume requirements for operating modern businesses rise, 5G networks’ efficiency can be both more cost-efficient and require less energy.

Huawei made a bold claim that it would provide all the necessary components for running a 5.5G network by next year. However, no-one can define what 5.5G even is.

Yang Chaobin, the director and president of ICT Products & Solutions at Huawei, announced the company’s ambitious plans, stating that the launch would signify the beginning of the 5.5G era for the industry.

However, the term “5.5G” is currently not recognized by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the organisation responsible for defining 5G and related standards.

The 3GPP is currently focused on evolving 5G through its work on Release 18, known as “5G-Advanced,” which includes significant enhancements like 10Gbps connections and the utilization of mmWave frequencies.

Huawei’s use of the term 5.5G seems to be an attempt to position Release 18 as the next iteration of 5G. Despite the lack of formal recognition, Huawei is confident in its ability to deliver advanced technologies, including AI-native capabilities, to enhance network performance and availability.

“With a clearly defined standardization schedule, the 5.5G Era is already poised for technological and commercial verification. In 2024, Huawei will launch a complete set of commercial 5.5G network equipment to be prepared for the commercial deployment of 5.5G,” Yang said.  He claims that Huawei’s approach will enable the deployment of AI capabilities throughout the network.

Huawei’s involvement in 5G infrastructure has raised concerns among many governments due to security risks associated with the company. Several countries have even banned or restricted the use of Huawei’s 5G and 4G equipment. Consequently, it is unlikely that a significant number of global buyers will consider Huawei’s 5.5G offerings.

However, Huawei’s announcement could still garner positive attention domestically. Developing nations may also be attracted by Huawei’s competitively-priced communication equipment.

While Huawei’s claim to offer comprehensive solutions for a 5.5G network is ambitious, the term itself lacks formal recognition from standardization bodies. The company’s emphasis on AI capabilities and network enhancements may resonate with certain markets, but the geopolitical challenges it faces could limit its global reach.




Huawei says it will launch ‘5.5G’ equipment in 2024

One thought on “Highlights of 2023 Mobile World Congress Shanghai, China

  1. Huawei’s ability to produce high-quality 5G equipment looks seriously compromised. The big issue remains a lack of alternatives to the chipmakers that can no longer serve Huawei or other Chinese companies after a tightening of US government rules.

    In summary, these prevent companies reliant on US technology from selling to Huawei or other Chinese entities. Their most notable effect was to cut Huawei off from TSMC and Samsung, the world’s two most advanced chip foundries. Huawei’s revenue collapse happened partly because it could not acquire the high-end chips needed to keep producing competitive smartphones. This gadget unit has not recovered from the initial shock when its sales halved for 2021. Revenues fell another 12% last year.
    But many European operators have continued to buy Huawei’s 5G equipment, seemingly oblivious to warnings issued by the European Union. A loss of competitiveness by Huawei could feasibly hurt operators that still intend to deploy more Chinese 5G equipment, especially if AI forms a part of their plans.

    Besides cutting Huawei off from TSMC, US sanctions also now forbid the sale by American firms to China of the chips used to support the most advanced AI applications. Known as graphical processing units (having begun life in the gaming industry), they are supplied mainly by California’s Nvidia, which had a market share in data-center GPUs of 88% in 2021, according to Khaveen Investments, a hedge fund.

    Nvidia’s importance to China’s AI ambitions can be seen in the company’s most recent filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2021, Nvidia’s sales to China came to more than $7.1 billion, about 26% of the company total. After a tightening of rules, they fell to less than $5.8 billion in 2022 and shrank year-over-year by 24%, to $1.59 billion, for the first quarter of this year.
    Restrictions mean Huawei would struggle to imitate Japan’s Fujitsu and incorporate Nvidia’s GPU technology into some of its 5G products. Using these, operators would be able to run their distributed unit (DU) RAN functions as well as AI applications on the same GPU, according to Ronnie Vasishta, Nvidia’s senior vice president of telecom.

    “Most RAN infrastructure runs at an average of around 25% capacity today and so is very inefficient and operators spend billions of dollars a year on it,” he told Light Reading. “In this case, what happens is that if you are at low utilization of the RAN you can ramp up the AI piece. These types of GPU are capable of running inference of large language models at the edge as well as video analytics and robotics.”

    What’s in doubt is whether there will be much demand for GPUs at the network edge. Experts point out that chips of this nature are extremely power-hungry, which could limit the telco appetite for them. “Are operators going to put everything at the edge, including AI inferencing?” said Geetha Ram, the head of telco compute for HPE, a server maker. “Yes, AI is critical in terms of performance and latency, but is it as critical as the DU performance and latency and what if one affects the other? Is that acceptable?”


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