Huawei, the world’s largest network equipment maker, is expecting growth of at least 10 per cent for its carrier business this year as operators and businesses alike prepare for commercialisation of 5G in 2020, after two consecutive years of flat sales. The forecast for “double digit growth” comes after Huawei’s carrier business declined 1.3 per cent in 2018, according to its latest annual report, with growth of just 2.5 per cent in 2017 at the same business unit. “For the industry, 5G will be the new driver for investment,” said Ken Hu, Huawei’s rotating chairman at the Huawei Analyst Summit in Shenzhen on Tuesday. “5G investments this year will not be hot topic-driven, but business-value driven, and these kinds of investments are more reliable and solid.” Hu also said that the company had secured 40 contracts for 5G commercial networks around the world as of the end of March, up from 30 contracts that the company announced in January. A company presentation detailed that over half of these contracts come from Europe. Fifth-generation wireless networks, which can be up to 100 times faster than 4G networks, are expected to revolutionise everything from the internet of things to autonomous driving and virtual reality, bringing billions of dollars in economic benefit to countries that can keep up with the technology. Huawei is currently the world’s largest telecommunications gear supplier and at the forefront of 5G innovation, with the most number of standard essential patents, according to German intellectual property analytics firm IPlytics. Huawei sale of 5G chips to Apple unlikely in current political climate Huawei’s carrier business has come under pressure in recent years as the US drummed up its campaign against the company with accusations that Huawei’s equipment could be used to aid Chinese intelligence activities and as the 4G market matured. The US has applied pressure on its allies in Europe such as Germany and UK to exclude Huawei from upcoming 5G network roll-outs although both countries are still in the process of deciding on how to assess security standards. Hu said that political issues and changes in international trade relations are all matters that Huawei needs to pay attention to but warned that discussions around cybersecurity issues should not be politicised as that would cause bigger challenges for the industry as a whole. “If [cybersecurity] is politicised, then the discussion moves away from facts … and will be based on feelings,” Hu said. “This kind of approach means technology could be at risk of fragmented development, which will impede innovation and increase the cost, that will be a burden for the entire society.” 5G is also expected to be adopted much quicker than previous generations of wireless networks. According to Huawei, it took a decade to reach 500 million users in the 3G era, and five years to reach the same number for 4G. For 5G, Huawei estimates that it will take just three years to reach 500 million users. By the end of 2025, 6.5 million base stations will be deployed with almost 60 per cent coverage around the world, reaching 2.8 billion users, according to Huawei. Here’s why US doesn’t have a 5G telecoms giant like Huawei “5G is a real revolution,” said Hu. “With 5G, connectivity will be a platform … there will be no bottleneck, with low latency and high speeds to make it possible to get everything online, all the time.” The company also plans to invest US$300 million a year to partner with universities to conduct more basic research, and will issue grants to academics to help facilitate this and break out of the “bottlenecks on theoretical innovation and basic research”. “Patents generated are only valuable if these patents can be commercialised or made into products to serve people, otherwise patents are just pieces of paper,” said William Xu, president of Huawei’s Institute of Strategic Research. “Partnerships should be open between corporations and universities to share their competencies and capabilities … for inclusive growth.” At the summit, Huawei said that India is a very important market, and that its large, youthful population presents many attractive opportunities for digital services. However, executives warned that there is a lack of spectrum currently allocated to telecoms operators and fragmented distribution for spectrum resources in the country, as well as “overheated” competition in the operator market itself. If India does not manage the issues well, it could result in weaker development of 5G, the company said.