Huawei and the 5G revolution: Will crackdown hit 5G roll-out?

5G will soon be launched in Singapore, elsewhere in Asia and beyond.
5G will soon be launched in Singapore, elsewhere in Asia and beyond.PHOTO: AFP

5G will soon be launched in Singapore, elsewhere in Asia and beyond, promising a revolution in connectivity speeds, new entertainment options and new applications, such as driverless cars. But the technology has proven controversial over fears of data security. The Straits Times looks deeper into where things stand with 5G and which technology vendors could be the winners.


Huawei and the 5G revolution: Diversity is the name of the game in Singapore

Singapore Polytechnic students showcasing their SP Driverless and Electrifying Car project at last month's launch of 5G Garage - a facility set up at the polytechnic by Singtel and Ericsson to test and develop 5G projects.
Singapore Polytechnic students showcasing their SP Driverless and Electrifying Car project at last month's launch of 5G Garage - a facility set up at the polytechnic by Singtel and Ericsson to test and develop 5G projects. PHOTO: SINGTEL

The pushback against Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei will have little impact on Singapore telcos, analysts say.

The three major telcos here - Singtel, StarHub and M1 - also said that they work with multiple vendors and not just Huawei in building their 5G networks.

Telcos are encouraged to "ensure vendor diversity to mitigate risks (including cyber-security risks) from dependency on any one vendor", a spokesman for the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) told The Straits Times.

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Race for 5G domination in China

A woman using a mobile phone in Tokyo's Asakusa district. Japan's three telcos are conducting 5G mobile communications trials. A 5G service robot serving bottles of water to travellers at a Hangzhou railway station during the Spring Festival travel r
Engineers from South Korean telco KT Corporation setting up a base station for an ultra-fast 5G network on the island of Dokdo, which is also claimed by Japan. PHOTO: KT CORPORATION

Despite its industry champions' legal woes in the West, China has exploded off the starting blocks in the race to be the world leader in next-generation 5G technology.

Last December, Beijing approved 5G test frequency licences for its three major telcos, setting the stage for large-scale 5G tests nationwide this year.

And last Tuesday, state planners said Beijing will increase support for TV stations to push out ultra-high-definition (UHD) content, while subsidising virtual reality and augmented reality devices - areas that will drive 5G adoption.

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South Korean telcos make early strides


A 5G-equipped bus belonging to KT Corporation going around Seoul city to promote what 5G is capable of, like showing VR seamlessly. PHOTO: KT CORPORATION

Last December, South Korea's three major telcos - SK Telecom, KT Corporation and LG Uplus - started offering what they claimed to be the world's first commercialised 5G service in Seoul and six other major cities, including Busan and Daejeon.

But 5G - offering 20 times faster data transmission speed than the current 4G LTE network and better support for artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality - does not benefit the public yet, as there are currently no 5G-enabled consumer devices available in the market.

Samsung will release its first 5G phone only next month. It is expected to be a 5G version of the Galaxy S10, which is slated for launch on Feb 20, likely to be named S10 X and comes with a 6.7-inch screen - bigger than the S10's 6.1 inch.

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No fears in Thailand, Philippines but Malaysia studying the risks


Malaysia is putting its 5G network plans on hold until the government determines whether Huawei would be allowed to build the country's high-speed broadband network infrastructure. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Fears of espionage over the use of 5G technology from Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE have not gripped major South-east Asian economies as hard as it has in the West.

In Thailand, Asean's second-largest economy, Huawei is a key partner in the government's ambition to turn an area east of Bangkok into a hub of digital innovation.

In 2017, Huawei launched Open Lab Bangkok, which provides info-communications support for start-ups and enterprises. This is its biggest laboratory outside of China.

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Huawei's grand ambitions for US dashed


Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg delivers a keynote address at CES 2019 at The Venetian Las Vegas, on Jan 8, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

America's 5G roll-out has so far been limited to home Internet and hot spots, but fully fledged 5G mobile service and 5G-enabled mobile phones will be available to millions of people this year.

However, Chinese technology giant Huawei, which once had grand ambitions for the American market, has been effectively locked out of this 5G drive.

With the next-generation technology, carriers are aiming to deliver mobile speeds of more than 1GB per second to their customers, which would enable them to download a Blu-ray movie in seconds.

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Japanese telcos to roll out 5G services, but without Chinese tech


Of the three operators, only Softbank is using Chinese technology in the 4G network. PHOTO: REUTERS

Japan's three mobile carriers are promising to launch limited 5G commercial services this year and a full-scale roll-out by the time Tokyo hosts the Olympics in July next year.

NTT Docomo, KDDI and Softbank are conducting 5G mobile communications trials, as is upcoming telco Rakuten Mobile, which will begin a 4G service in October and 5G roll-out next year.

All four have said that they will shun Chinese equipment in their 5G networks following a move by the Japanese government in December last year to block Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE from public procurement due to security concerns.

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India gears up for widespread use amid security concerns


Huawei Technologies, together with Bharti Airtel conducted what was described as the country's first 5G trial in February last year. PHOTO: REUTERS

India might have missed the Industrial Revolution, but it has been a furious adopter of the digital one.

The Indian government set for itself a "5G Vision" as early as in December 2017. It calls for India to embrace the technology's "potential for ushering in a major societal transformation".

5G technologies are scheduled to enter commercial use next year and advance to a full range of services by 2024. The government expects to auction spectrum for these services in the second half of this year. The cumulative economic impact of 5G on India, according to a government steering committee report, can exceed US$1 trillion (S$1.35 trillion) by 2035.

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