The world's biggest vendors had enterprise on their mind as Mobile World Congress returned Tuesday after a year's hiatus.
A slimmed-down version of the flagship industry event, suspended because of COVID-19 in 2020, is underway in Shanghai this week. In separate presentations, the chiefs of Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei agreed on a couple of things: the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and 5G is a game-changer for business.
Nokia CEO Pekka Lundmark said the Finnish company believed enterprise private network spending on 5G "will outpace that of traditional public 5G in the next decade." A company survey of IT decision-makers found that 45% said they had brought forward their digital transformation programs as a result of COVID-19. "There is a huge appetite for change and improvement," he said. Ericsson chief Börje Ekholm said enterprise applications would capture most of the value in 5G, just as consumer apps had done in 4G.
"With 4G we saw five to ten times the value created in the applications to run on the top of the network compared to the network investments itself. We believe a similar dynamic will play out in 5G." The early adopters of 5G would lead the race to develop the enterprise apps of the future, he said. "5G will allow enterprises to fully digitalize, using wireless technology as the primary access technology." Nokia and Huawei also rolled out a string of use cases with some impressive numbers.
Lundmark cited three verticals:
- Factories that had deployed smart video sensors had recorded a 30% fall in breakdowns and production line defects;
- Logistics firms had halved the cost of machine monitoring through use of AR;
- Remote-controlled cranes had doubled port productivity and reduced staff injuries by 100%.
“We knew from an early stage that the results would be good but we didn't quite know how good, said Lundmark. These initial applications had baredly scratched the surface, he said. Ken Hu, Huawei's current rotating chairman, said the company had deployed 5G on its own factory floor, generating a threefold improvement in efficiency that allowed it to cut staff numbers by 80%.
It was also using AI quality checks for handsets, cutting inspection time from two or three hours to eight seconds.
In another example, he said patients in rural China could take advantage of 5G to undergo a remote ultrasound with specialists hundreds of miles away, completing the consultation in 20 minutes. He said Huawei had worked on more than 1,000 5G projects with China operators in the last few years. Lundmark said 5G was a game-changer because it enabled customizable wireless networks with carrier-grade reliability.
"The future is big-small tech – a future in which all industries, all businesses, all communities have access to connectivity that is unique to them."
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading