Is Huawei manufacturing its very own archenemy?
On Wednesday, Yang Chaobin, President of Huawei 5G announced the release of a new white paper at the ITU Telecom World 2019 event in Budapest, Hungary. Titled the "5G Applications Position Paper", the new document from China’s leading technology conglomerate explores application scenarios for 5G technology ranging from enhancing broadband, media and entertainment, to industrial manufacturing and intelligent transportation.
As large scale commercial deployment of 5G ramps up, with 35 operators in 20 countries worldwide releasing some sort of 5G offering, and public services like hospitals are adopting 5G technology across China (for everything from remote diagnostics to surgery), the writing is on the wall: 5G is a revolution, and the revolution is here.
5G will, according to Huawei’s paper, in 2035, 5G will generate $12.3trn of economic output globally. In the less distant future, a ResearchandMakets report claimed, the global 5G market is expected to reach $277bn by 2025 at a CAGR of 111% during 2019-2025.
However, while European telecom companies Ericsson and Nokia, and Korean tech giant Samsung are all making strides towards the front of the pack in the 5G race, so far it’s Huawei that’s firmly out in front, with the largest range of the most advanced 5G products and several key patents (admittedly this is according to Huawei Founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, who we’ll come back to in a moment).
With all the bad blood between the US (and by extension its allies) and Huawei, ranging from the arrest of the company’s CFO Meng Wanzhou in December of last year to its ongoing blacklisted status in the US - although US tech giant Microsoft is currently fighting in Huawei’s corner for the US Government to provide actual evidence of espionage.
Speaking of espionage, the crux of Huawei’s woes may in fact lie in its mastery of 5G technology. If the company were to hold onto its patents and continue trading with the US and Europe freely, there would be Huawei hardware and software in the vast majority of 5G phones hitting the market over the next few years.
Whether the fears expressed over that fact are justified or paranoid is a matter for debate. What is hard to dispute, however, is that being locked out of half the world’s most lucrative markets isn’t good for Huawei, and being unable to use the leading generations of a revolutionary new communications technology isn’t good for the US and Europe (maybe India too).
Huawei may have a solution. In a two hour interview with the Economist on Tuesday, Mr Zhengfei outlined plans (since confirmed by Huawei’s corporate team) for the company to “reenter” polite society with a grand gesture: a gift (of sorts).
This peace offering will, Zhengfei said, take the form of the chance for western buyers to purchase Huawei’s existing 5G patents, licences, code, technical blueprints and production know how “for a one-time fee”, according to the South China Morning Post.
For such an embattled company, facing adversity on so many fronts, the decision for Huawei to sell off one of the biggest jewels in its technological crown may seem odd. The terms of the proposed deal, and its consequences, are - like most things Huawei does - carefully calculated.
According to the Post, companies that acquire HUawei’s 5G bundle would be free to modify the source code, ensuring that any US company using the company’s technology would be sure that neither “Huawei nor the Chinese government would even have hypothetical control of any telecoms infrastructure built using equipment produced by the new company. Huawei would likewise be free to develop its technology in whatever direction it pleases.”
Huawei has played the heel over the past half decade, to governments, tech companies and the public perception. Now, Zhengfei’s goal, he made clear in the interview, is for Huawei to create the sort of opponent that can fight fair: a rival 5G company.
The Post reported that, “this would help level the playing field at a time when many in the West have grown alarmed at the prospect of a Chinese company supplying the gear for most of the world’s new mobile-phone networks.”
“A balanced distribution of interests is conducive to Huawei’s survival,” Zhengfei said.
The advent of 5G has the potential to reshape our relationship with technology in the same way that the mass adoption of smartphones and personal computers have changed our lives over the last ten years. Whether or not Huawei’s plans to create the next Apple-Microsoft rivalry will bear fruit remains to be seen, but Zhengfei’s announcement may go down in history as the tipping point both Huawei and the 5G revolution.
Microsoft: Building a secure foundation to drive NASCAR
Microsoft is a key partner of The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and together they are driving ahead to create an inclusive and immersive new fan experience (FX).
These long-term partners have not only navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365, but are now looking to a future packed with virtual events to enhance the FX, well beyond NASCAR’S famous Daytona racetrack.
“Together, we've created a secure environment that's allowed for collaboration, but the future is all about the fans”, said Melinda Cook, General Manager for Microsoft South USA Commercial Business, who cited a culture of transparency, passion, adaptiveness, and a growth mindset as to why this alignment is so successful.”
“We've partnered to create a fluid, immersive experience for the users that is supported by a secure foundation with Microsoft in the background. We are focused on empowering and enabling customers and businesses, like NASCAR, to reach their full potential. We do this with our cloud platform which provides data insights and security.”
“Our cloud environment allows NASCAR to move forward with their digital transformation journey while we are in the background,” said Cook who highlights that Microsoft is helping NASCAR
- Empower employees productivity and collaboration
- Improve fan engagement and experience
- Improve environment security and IT productivity
- Improve racing operations
Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, enabled employees to work remotely, while staying productive, during the pandemic. “This allowed people to provide the same level of productivity with the use of video conference and instant messaging to collaborate on documents. Increased automation also allows the pit crews, IT, and the business to focus on safety, racing operations, and on the fan experience,” said Cook.
“We have started to innovate to create a more inclusive fanbase, this includes using Xbox to give people the experience of being a virtual racer or even leveraging some of the tools in Microsoft Teams to have a virtual ride along experience.”
“These environments are how we create a more inclusive and immersive experience for the fans. We're working on a virtual fan wall which allows people from new locations to participate in these events,” said Cook, who pointed out Microsoft was also helping bring legacy experiences alive from NASCAR’s archives.
“At Microsoft we can take it one level further by letting fans know what it's like to see the pit crew experience, the data and all the behind-the-scenes action. We will continue to improve automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence, from marketing to IT operations to finance to racing operations,” said Cook.
Christine Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said: “Microsoft is one of our key partners. They have been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment, contribute to our business outcomes, and focus on fan experience.”