Huawei: 5G to be defined this year
This year will be a bellwether for 5G in Southeast Asia, as spectrum price, site acquisition, and 5G system improvements will all determine how quickly the technology will be accepted, says James Wu, Huawei Southeast Asia president.
Speaking to the Thai media at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Mr Wu said Southeast Asia has always been an important market for Huawei and the company will help all operators in the region realise their 5G dreams.
"5G should see large-scale commercial use in the region by 2020-21," he said.
Three major challenges in Thailand and the region are spectrum price, site readiness and 5G system improvements, said Mr Wu.
Rolling out 5G services requires sites. But if the rent for the sites is expensive, operators will not be able to handle the rollout, he said.
If related parties can improve site-sharing, this would speed up 5G progress, said Mr Wu.
This year the government and operators should work on spectrum distribution and site preparation, he said.
Huawei established regional headquarters in Thailand and invested US$15 million (469 million baht) to build OpenLab here in 2017.
The company's global cloud service centre was built in the Eastern Economic Corridor last year, where Huawei worked with the government to build a 5G test lab to improve the 5G ecosystem. The company has invested $5 million for the 5G test bed.
The investment will grow this year, although it depends on Thailand's 5G progress too, said Mr Wu.
Over the next three years, Huawei will invest $81 million in building OpenLabs, enabling cloud developers, and cultivating information and communications technology (ICT) talent in the region, with labs in Bangkok and Delhi costing $23 million, the Huawei Cloud Developer Programme $50 million, and ICT Talent Development Invest scheme $8 million, he said.
Mr Wu said the market he covers includes 1.7 billion people, comprising Thailand, India, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
"In most of these countries, our market share is the highest or second-highest. In the future, Huawei's market share will be further consolidated," he said.
Every market in the region has plan to start 5G trials. Hong Kong will be the first, followed by India, Thailand, Vietnam.
"As the digital economy continues to grow in coming years, I believe investment in the country will increase. We will try to be the best digital partner for the country."
In 2018, Huawei local procurement in Thailand topped $180 million.
The president said the US-China dispute has not had any impact on Huawei. The company's operation in Thailand and Southeast Asia is stable.
Over the decades, Huawei has carried out extensive and intensive cooperation with governments and operators, and keeps bringing innovative, leading, secure and reliable products to all countries and help them build the most advanced and secure connection services.
"I'm sure they have clear judgement. As an exemplar emerging market, Southeast Asia needs to cooperate with ICT vendors who truly contribute locally," Mr Wu said.
"The wisest and most pragmatic choice is to create an environment where all vendors can compete fairly with each other. Huawei welcomes competition, because it leads to the most efficient investment in 5G infrastructure, and benefits the general public in all countries. My suggestion is, go digital, not political. And this is a choice that serves the interests of all stakeholders."
For the coming general election, he said no matter how policies change, Thailand's digital and intelligent transformation will remain. Huawei will ensure higher investment in Thailand, and hope Thais realise their dreams.
This year, Huawei will bring more leading chipsets and hardware and software solutions for artificial intelligence to Southeast Asia.
"We will continuously invest in 5G, broadband, cloud, artificial intelligence, and smart devices, to help our customers maximise the benefits of this emerging technology," said Mr Wu.