17 Feb 2014   |   News

Huawei to invest $600 million in 5G wireless networks

Ultra high-speed fifth-generation networks will roll out in 2020 and connect 100 billion devices, scientist says.

MUNICH - The world’s fifth-generation wireless network – dubbed 5G – will be far more than a speedier version of today’s state-of-the-art mobile technologies. “It will revolutionize many industries and incubate new ones,” says Wen Tong, chief technology officer and vice president of wireless research at Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.

Huawei is investing heavily in the field: $600 million in 5G technology between 2014 and 2018. “Our clear strategy is to become the leader of 5G technology and to drive the 5G market,” Tong said.  

Tong, speaking in the margins of a Huawei conference here on 5G, said the new network technology will deliver 1,000 times the capacity of current mobile networks, reaching peak data rates of over 10 gigabits per second. It will enable “massive connectivity,” linking some 100 billion machines and other devices.  5G’s ultra high speed and capacity will allow wireless communications to replace fiber and will make visual communication mainstream, he added.

Rollout by 2020?

Despite the many technological challenges to delivering the increased spectrum needed for 5G, Tong said widespread rollout should be possible by 2020. “We do need breakthrough technologies. But we did it with 3G and 4G. I’m optimistic on this one,” he said. Huawei is a partner in a €700 million public-private partnership on 5G research and development launched recently by the European Commission.

The big difference between 5G and previous wireless networks will be the huge growth opportunity for industry, Tong noted. By connecting machines such as autos, industry equipment or shipping logistics, new business models will emerge. “In the long term, 5G will impact every industry, Tong said.

“We’ve already finished the early waves of the digital society. Now networking will bring us beyond big data – to automation and all this intelligence built on top of a connected platform. That will change many, many things.”

R&D essential

Over the past ten years, the company has ploughed $19 billion into research and development, averaging 10 per cent of annual revenues. In 2012, the total shot up to 14 per cent of revenues, or $4.8 billion.

Tong pioneered many of the technologies that underpin the first four generations of wireless networks, from 1G to 4G, including advanced CDMA technology. He holds 90 US patents and has made more than 200 patent filings. Before joining Huawei in 2009, he was Nortel Fellow and head of the Network Technology Labs at Nortel, where he was honored as the company’s most prolific inventor.

Tong, based in Ottawa, said European R&D will be critical to the development and success of a global 5G network. Huawei has regional R&D headquarters in Germany and Sweden and employs 7,700 workers in Europe, including 850 researchers. And over the next three years the company plans to double its European R&D staff.

“We think Europe will play an important role driving the 5G standard – as a region it is more willing to make compromises – it understands the role of standards,” Tong said.  “No single company can drive 5G forward.  It has to be a global solution.  The creation of 5G has to come from collaboration. It has to be built on the back of 3G and 4G,” said Tong.

Science|Business was media partner for the 5G Europe Summit 2014, organised by Huawei.

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