Successful 5G applications must create differentiated value

On May 12, Cui Li, Chief Development Officer of ZTE Corporation, attended the WISE2021 Leaders Conference, and shared her views on the topic “Accelerating 5G Expansion, Exploring Innovative Applications for Industries” with experts and business leaders from various sectors.

At the panel discussion, Ms. Cui shared her opinions:

5G is still in the fledgling stage, and will go through a transformation from “technology” to “experience” and then to “value.”

5G has been put into commercial use for more than one year, and some people are voicing concerns over the value of 5G. The reasons are as follows:

5G network construction and coverage need continual improvement. By the end of 2020, the number of 4G base stations in China had reached 5.75 million, while that of 5G base stations is only about 800,000 currently. 5G is still in the fledgling stage, in terms of network coverage, business innovation, ecosystem development, and multi-technology integration. This arises concerns about its usefulness. In fact, any technology needs a transformation process from “technology” to “experience” and then to “value”, and 5G is no exception.

At present, some 5G applications, such as ultra-high definition, 8K machine vision, and replacement of manpower in harsh work environments, have become increasingly successful. In the future, successful 5G applications must create differentiated value, such as ultra-large bandwidth video, ultra-low latency control, and high coordination between network and computing power.

The healthy development of 5G technology needs to resolve the contradiction between the industry’s fragmented applications and economies of scale.

From the perspective of benefiting industries, 5G applications of the highest economic value can be divided into two categories.

In the short term:

The first category consists of applications that assist or replace manpower so as to reduce costs, improve efficiency and quality, and better guarantee production safety. For example, 8K machine vision for quality inspection and metallurgy, remote control of unmanned excavators and underground mining, as well as V2X communication in autonomous driving.

The second category consists of applications providing fully immersive experience via eMBB and URLLC, so that the scarce resources can be at your fingertips and be fully shared, which is of great social significance. For example, Ultra HD/AR/VR for education, expert guidance, live broadcasting, tourism, new media, telemedicine.

In the medium to long term: 

Digital transformation is to make enterprises or industries human-like through 5G connectivity. A 5G network is similar to a ubiquitous neural network, which can be used for both perception and control. With the massive data, an enterprise or industry can build an intelligent system, thereby realizing optimal management and truly agile and flexible data-driven operations.

The sound and healthy development of 5G also needs to resolve the contradiction between the industry’s fragmented applications and economies of scale. Through long-term exploration and practice, ZTE has built a library of modular components for common business needs such as video, security, and IoT, to open the underlying capabilities to all partners, thus lowering technology barriers and achieving win-win success.

Successful 5G To-C applications should provide differential user experience, while successful To-B applications must deal with rigid demands. 

There are many overlapping fields between To-B and To-C applications, such as UHD video, AR, and VR. A successful To-C application must create differentiated value, and make a difference for consumers.

In the short term, a successful To-B application needs to solve problems,  especially in some scenarios with rigid demands. Taking an application in the power grid industry as an example. To hit peak CO2 emissions and reach carbon neutrality, clean energy is of vital importance. However, whether it is photovoltaic or wind power, the biggest disadvantage is instability. To solve this problem, the intelligent management and control of the entire smart grid is the key, which however poses high requirements for high-precision timing and ultra-low latency. 5G can meet those requirements very well. It also features cost-effectiveness and fast deployment. In my opinion, applications that solve the industry’s pain points will gain more popularity in To-B markets.

Technologies require ingenuity and investments need long-term plans.

We hope that the capital market can provide more medium- and long-term strategic support for and investment in 5G. Although 5G is still in the fledgling stage, it is also in a critical window of opportunity for rollout. Higher technological requirements need more input of resources and bring greater returns. As can be seen from the constant changes in the Internet industry, what is achieved easily may ultimately end in failure. We believe technologies require ingenuity, and investments need long-term plans to secure greater return. 5G is destined for a brighter future.

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