Mobile broadband forum goes global


The 2015 Global MBB Forum, held this week at Hong Kong's Asia World Expo facility, is designed "to encourage thoughtful discussions focusing on the vision, connectivity and innovation of MBB [mobile broadband]" according to the organizer: Huawei.

Showcased: 5G innovation, the Narrow Band Internet of Things (NB-IOT), MBB network evolution and 4.5G applications – the latter included local telco HKT and Huawei demonstrating 1Gbps 4.5G technology. About 800 attendees –mostly vertical industry partners – were expected.

The drive to 2020

Huawei rotates its CEO position among three senior executives, with Ken Hu at the helm for the conference. At a group interview, Hu outlined a few details of his firm's strategy as they forge ahead during the next five years.

"In terms of connectivity," said Hu, "we must enhance the user experience, support HD voice and HD video, and look into the IoT – a huge growth area which is still in its early stages."

Hu added that open collaboration is a cornerstone of Huawei's strategy. We would like to build our collaboration platform," he said. "Recently, at our Shenzhen headquarters, we hosted a developers conference with 2,000 developers from specific industries." The CEO added that they'd achieved progress with car-makers like Mercedes and Audi because "the IoT has penetrated the automobile industry."

Hu said that joint efforts with operators and governments are needed in developing countries – "we need richer apps based on the capabilities of existing networks to help solve problems." But he added that even developed countries have areas with low connectivity, citing his firm's work with Deutsche Telekom (DT) as an example. "We love to see operators involved in these efforts, and that includes WTTx (wireless to the x – announced by Huawei at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year). We hope that governments will support these efforts whether countries are developed or non-developed."

IoT standards

"Over the next five years, we'll see enhanced connectivity, improvements in the customer experience, and large-scale deployment of IoT," said Hu. He said he looked forward to the 3GPPP's planned discuss of IoT standards in March 2016, as "the technology is ready and we cannot wait any longer."

Hu said that Vodafone and DT are taking the lead in this space, and that the NBIoT is a significant development. We [need] cross-industry collaboration on the IoT platform," he said. "How well it's developed depends on apps, so operators should understand this."

Onstage panel discussion

Rajeev Chand, MD and head of research for Rutberg & Company, led a panel discussion on the main stage with a host of industry luminaries and an electronic "vox populi" - questions with multiple-choice answers appeared on the big screen with the audience answering via iPads placed at all seats.

This lively bit of interaction allowed panelists to respond not only to Chand, but to comment on audience reaction.

"IoT costs must go down, said Alex Sinclair, acting director general & CTO for the GSMA. "SDN/NFV will be the key technology [to make this happen]."

"There are network business opportunities but we need new enablers," said Hiroshi Nakamura, SVP of NTT DoCoMo.

Christian Tarragona, SVP of R&D and head of R&D product development at KUKA Roboter GmbH, described latency as a problem in his business. "We need sub-millisecond access," he declared.

A pointed question for the audience: when will there be 100 million 5G subscribers - 2020, 2025, or even 2030?

Nakamura had what he called a "tricky answer": "By 2020, partly because Japan is advanced in telecoms, but also because marketing people will 'spin' whatever is actually available by 2020 as a '5G' experience."

Sinclair simply said: "2025 is the safe answer."

Another query concerned the most important future development from a laundry list including robotics, virtual reality (VR), driverless cars, etc.

"VR and AI because we are focusing on the user experience,” said Zhang Wenlin, president of Corporate Strategy Department at Huawei. "We want to fuse our human feeling with digital intelligence about the world."

Nakamura had his own answer: "automatic digital translation," he said, saying Japan wants this feature for their international guests during the 2020 Olympics.

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