Beyond ushering in an era of increased connectivity, 5G opens up new use cases that will shape the future of the Middle East—and indeed our world. Looking ahead to 2020, 5G represents a golden opportunity for all segments of our society, especially when combined with other technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and virtual and augmented reality.
At Huawei, we call this the ‘5G+X’ era. As the deployment of 5G ramps up across the region, the new 5G+X approach will create countless opportunities for entrepreneurs, industries, and governments.
The combination of 5G and AI has already brought the ICT sector to exciting frontiers in 2019. Just as electricity changed our world forever in the 19th century, these technologies will be key enablers of industrial development, bringing the internet of things (IoT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution into full force.
This is happening more quickly than predicted. The roll-out of 5G networks has happened faster than expected in 2019. Commercial 5G is now available in the Middle East today, as well as in more than 20 countries worldwide. The new experiences delivered by 5G have been warmly welcomed by consumers, with early networks demonstrating that 5G users consume three times as much data as a 4G user.
With the ability to achieve speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second, latency as low as one millisecond, and the capacity to support one million connections per square kilometer, 5G ensures a superior experience for IoT. 5G also reduces the distance between devices and the cloud, putting the enormous computing power of the cloud right in your pocket.
Ultimately, people and machines have been able to communicate better, in real-time, over 5G networks. One demonstration saw musicians sitting 20km apart able to keep perfect time with one another thanks to the ultra-high bandwidth and ultra-low latency of 5G. There have also been use cases when 5G, AR, and AI are combined to improve the safety of oil refinery workers and increase operational efficiency.
The opportunities to be had in a 5G+X world are truly limitless. While 5G alone is an upgrade to our communications infrastructure, AI provides us with more powerful computing engines. Together they represent two strong technologies, and it is the applications built on these platforms that will truly change the way we work and live.
The development of applications and software that take full advantage of 5G+X will not only drive industries forward, but will create tangible value for the creators, too – whether they belong to the public or private sector.
It is with this in mind that Huawei’s Developer Program aims to advance ICT infrastructure to provide more opportunities. We have established 21 OpenLabs around the world in the last five years, and already have more than 1.3 million developers. The first OpenLab in the Middle East will open shortly in Dubai.
Over the coming five years, we will invest $1.5bn to expand this programme to five million developers. This will provide opportunities for more universities, institutes, individuals, and start-ups to leverage the full potential of the 5G+X age.
It is encouraging to see that Middle East countries are already in the first wave of 5G commercial launches, standing at the global forefront. Many operators have already deployed or announced their plans to deploy large-scale networks. As a result, the adoption of AI and cloud-enabled applications — powered by 5G — are supporting a wide range of smart city, transport, education, and healthcare services. These collectively contribute to the national development visions being championed by the public sector.
By empowering local communities to take advantage of 5G’s golden opportunity, we can prompt more collaborative development of the Middle East’s ICT ecosystem going into 2020. The region’s economic value will definitely be bolstered by the 5G-X era, bringing digital to more people, homes, and organisations than ever before.
Charles Yang is the president of Huawei Middle East