In an interview with Charles Yang, President Huawei Middle East, he explains how digital technologies are driving the commercial propositions and innovations in wireless technology and the digital ecosystem as a whole.
The digital world is transforming at a faster rate than we ever expected. Every day, it seems, a new service emerges. This is changing our understanding and estimations for network and traffic growth. The new stream YouTube Unplugged, Facebook, AR and live channel video streaming are shaping the new future of a service-oriented network.
In what became the phenomenon of Pokémon go, players went to every conceivable location, hotspot or otherwise, to capture their elusive targets. Likewise, consumer demand for video sharing dictates that the enabling infrastructure should be available anytime anywhere.
It does not stop there. With the burgeoning growth of cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT), so does the need to make the wireless technology ecosystem robust to an extent we have not yet experienced.
Mobile network operators
The challenges of mobile network operators (MNOs) have become more diverse than ever - not least commercially. These include how to:
*Maintain revenue growth while the average rate per user (ARPU) is slowing
*Meet the network demands created by the high traffic the new services are generating
*Match quality of service with customer requirements of higher definition video
*Manage competition price wars, while developing a new mobile broadband (MBB) subscriber model (MBB penetration is reaching 100% in some markets)
While 2016 has been the most challenging year yet, the trend promises to continue into 2017. MNOs continue to search for the delicate balance between cost, revenue, efficiency and user satisfaction. In developing a model for MNOs in the Middle East, we found numerous characteristics in the LTE (long-term evolution) of wireless communications. Our findings highlight the fact that different challenges and needs dictate a different strategic approach. As a result, we have developed our '4 MORE' approach, designed to help MNOs achieve revenue growth within the emerging market scenarios they find themselves in:
Demographic dividend market: This is when the population coverage is less than 40% and the data revenue ratio is less than 20%, MBB coverage and capacity are not good enough and smartphone penetration is still low. In this case, the GSM network generates most of the voice revenue. The key is how to develop more MBB users.
Traffic Dividend Market: Here, the population coverage is between 40-80% and the data revenue ratio between 20-40%. Despite having attractive MBB service quality, highly controlled tariffs and good fiber infrastructure, the MBB network is lightly loaded. This is the case in markets such as the UAE and Qatar. The key here is how to stimulate more traffic on the MBB network.
Data Dividend Market: In this case, the LTE coverage is more than 80% of the population and the data revenue ratio is higher than 40%, as is the case in Kuwait. This reflects the need for a new business model to increase revenue. Traffic is high yet ARPU is getting lower, which highlights the challenge of how to monetize user traffic and move from being dummy data pipe to a smart one.
More Users: Here, low MBB penetration is directly related to smartphone ratio and tariff plans. Subsidizing smartphones is always a fast way to cultivate MBB user behavior. Nationwide, MBB coverage improvement is needed to assure service quality and user satisfaction. As Huawei did in Pakistan, our U900 low-cost solution improves MBB coverage, attracts more users to migrate to a MBB network, and familiarizes them to mobile internet.
More Traffic: This is where the network load is not balanced and hot spots have suppressed traffic which needs to be unleashed. In this case, applications include capability enhancement technologies such as CA, 4T4T, Massive-MIMO, as well as multi-sector and agile sites. After migrating users from 2G/3G to LTE, UAE traffic increased by 60%, Huawei ensured the LTE network was capable of handling that increase.
More Value: From data volume to content and experience, we should be considering how to increase the network value. By increasing the ARPU, operators should be considering how they will provide exclusive video content and design tariff packages in order to monetize it. This is key. Some operators have no experience or ownership of a video platform and cooperate with us on hosting video. A key example is the content creation and operation of the Huawei MuchTV aggregate, which contains more than 15,000 hours for local content in the Middle East and heralds a new era of carrier video service.
More business: MNOs must consider vertical business. In the Middle East, 40% of homes still do not have broadband service. This provides MNOs the unique chance to introduce MBB using the innovative B2H (business-to-home) broadband solution for households. Using Mission Critical Push to Video over LiTRA LTE integrated Trunked Radio networks will also allow MNOs to utilize their MBB network to support government public safety requirements (B2G), and provide the ultimate experience for smart cities and transportation. Both the UAE and Oman have developed their smart household WTTX service, Kuwait has launched its LiTRA system and KSA its tech city trial.
At Huawei, we believe that with the way video traffic and services are booming, big data applications will continue to be the emerging trend and opportunity for the ICT industry. Our aim is to provide better solutions, from 4.5G currently in development to the anticipated 5G.
Whether it is our Blade Server which allows for the convergence of computing, storage, networking and management, single radio access network (SingleRAN) technology which allows mobile telecommunications operators to support multiple mobile communications standards and wireless telephone services on a single network, or our 'CloudEdge' EPC application, our end aim is to face tomorrow's challenges. To innovate new and flexible operation models so we can address the ever-changing requirements of consumers and businesses.
We have recently established X-Lab to accelerate the collaboration between related vertical partners. This is so we can develop the needed platforms, networks, terminals and end-to-end ecosystem which can focus on the multiple aspects of spectrum harmonization, innovation, regulatory policies and standardization - all based around assuring the success of the digital transformation we have described above.
Together with other operators, Huawei can harness its best practices and experience to create a more efficient and integrated ICT ecosystem that connects people, things and ideas freely. By doing so, we can also fulfill our vision of building a better-connected world.
All said, our vision and hope for 2017 is to enable the carrier network to connect more people, things, homes and enterprises, developing video as a basic service and helping carriers to achieve business success. To this end, Huawei works closely with providers to ensure a satisfactory user experience through what we call “ROADS”; Real-time, On-demand, All-online, DIY and Social.
By 2025, the world will have four billion new internet users, 27 cities with a population of more than 10 million, eight billion smartphones in use and 100 billion connections. Everyone will consume 1.7 GB of data every day and mobile payment will total $3 trillion. The world will be fully connected. Every person, organization and industry in the world will be profoundly affected.
Central to the fully-connected age is the concept of data-based intelligence, all-connected devices and zero distance, which remove the limitations of time and space. The user experience is transiting from independent applications to the interaction and integration of the digital and physical world. To achieve this, carriers must adopt a consumer mindset, and pay close attention to user perceptions and interests. Let us break down the ROADS concept further:
Real time: Real-time, zero-distance, one-click capabilities allow users to enjoy a new service in just seconds, including ordering, payment and configuring. In the past, the same process might have taken hours, days or even weeks.
On-demand: On-demand capabilities allow users to customize services based on their actual needs. Current telecom service packages are limited, and customers want free package customization in terms of bandwidth, capacity, time, and quality of service.
DIY: DIY (do it yourself) allows users themselves to participate in service development and optimization. This accelerates innovation and makes users feel more connected to the services they use.
All online: While users are accustomed to online services and entertainment, cloud technologies bring them even more services. These include telecoms services which they can access online, improving efficiency and reducing costs.
Social: Social networking platforms allow users to share experiences, insights, and views about online services. These platforms help create fan bases, enhance user loyalty and give users a sense of belonging.
In essence, ROADS is the external goal of a carrier's user-centric operations in the information age. To live up to its requirements, carriers must consider changing their business, marketing model, research and development, services, and operational model, as well as restructuring their telecoms networks.
ROADS evolution to all cloud platforms
Our belief is that the information society will become an 'intelligent' society, with connections and cloud as its cornerstones.
There is an interesting juxtaposition here. On the one hand, the cloud is shaping everything to which all industries are accelerating their transformation. On the other, everything is shaping the cloud. That is to say that key businesses of various industries are challenging cloud technologies, platforms, solutions and ecosystems, and continuously driving the development of the cloud, as much as the cloud is transforming the ICT infrastructure of the businesses that are adopting it.
Over the past decade, companies that were 'born in the cloud' leveraged its technology and architecture to share resources more effectively, with the end goal of mitigating their own costs of building hefty onsite ICT infrastructures. They also leveraged mobile Internet technology to connect their customers better, enabling them to create disruptive business models.
All of this added huge competitive and economic value to the businesses that harnessed it, for sure. But over the next decade, we will enter into the new era of Cloud 2.0. It will be huge. We estimate that by 2025, every industry and company will employ cloud technology and cloud models, and more than 85% of enterprise applications will be deployed on the cloud. All companies will integrate their core businesses with the cloud, and will be on the look-out for the cloud solutions that suit them best.
As for Huawei's own cloud strategy, we will continue to stay customer-centric, focus on ICT infrastructure and provide innovative cloud technology. Through this process, we will strive to become a preferred partner that enables digital and cloud transformation, while actively contributing to the cloud ecosystem through openness, collaboration and shared success.
The characteristics of a cloud ecosystem
In the cloud era, ICT has grown from a vertical industry into something that enables the digital transformation of all industries. Vertical integration across the value chain has already become an action of the past, and the time is ripe for the ICT industry to establish a new, cohesive ecosystem that is open and diverse, and built on symbiotic relationships. In this ecosystem, value creation must be exogenous and resources need to be integrated.
As for Huawei's role within the cloud ecosystem, we will continue to be an active player in its development. Our vision includes three core concepts:
First is to grow the industry and enlarge the market. These two aspects are far more important to us than fighting for our own larger share. We very much believe that growing the market is the only way forward and this will surely establish ecological advantages in the future. At Huawei, we are leveraging our core businesses. These are competitive. But along with our large user base, our aim is also to grow our industry. This will enable us to form a symbiotic, interdependent and regenerative community of common interests. In this ecosystem, we are not set on owning every single resource. Instead, our goal is to establish more lasting connections with the outside world and leverage external resources to support us in our business efforts. In this way, we believe we will foster an ecosystem that will benefit everyone in the future.
Second is to cultivate a healthy cloud ecosystem. We strongly maintain that managing cooperation is more important than managing competition. In a more-specific business scenario, we strive to play a 'soil and energy' nurturing role in the ecosystem. We continue to adhere to our pipe strategy and do not compete with our partners for profit.
Our third concept for shaping the cloud ecosystem is expansive benefit sharing with our customers, partners and stakeholders. We hope to bring together the best global talent, capabilities and resources - either internally or outsourced from the very best-in-class expertise.
Shape the cloud and open ROADS to digital transformation
To successfully go digital, enterprises need to transform their IT systems from purely internal facing to externally-oriented; a platform which connects with its customers and partners to deliver a ROADS experience. We call it 'All Cloud', where networks, operations systems and services operate on the cloud platform - the most effective technical enabler currently available to bring the digital transformation of companies into reality. The three core features are the pooling of all hardware resources, fully distributed software architecture and full automation.
As for Huawei's goals, we aim to become an advocate, driver and ultimately leader of All Cloud through our products and solutions, and to enable our carrier and enterprise customers to achieve digital transformation and digital operations. Our strategy is to deliver a ROADS experience and accelerate the cloud transformation of all carrier products and solutions.
In the enterprise segment, our strategy is to leverage cloud computing, SDN (software-defined networking), big data, IoT and other technologies to build innovative infrastructure platforms that support digitization. We aim to work with partners that help enterprise customers navigate the digital transition with agility and intelligence. In the consumer business, brand, quality, user experience and the ecosystem matter most. We will leverage our decades of technical expertise to build a global premium brand. In addition, we will win consumer recognition through quality of service, build a consumer experience-centered ecosystem to increase consumer loyalty and ultimately strengthen Huawei's own promise as a brand that consumers value and trust.
Putting it all together
Huawei will embrace these historic opportunities facing all challenges head on and work with partners along the industry chain. By keeping up with the industry trends and fully understanding customer needs, we will continuously innovate, better facilitate the digital transformation and continue to create value for customers' business success.
ICT industry will become the key foundation to boost this great transformation. Opportunities are immense. There are also uncertainties as well. Today we are at the beginning of our own journey. Let's shape the bright future together!