Huawei dampens 5G expectations

Huawei has issued a sobering warning to those caught up in the 5G hypewagon by claiming that most consumers won’t notice the difference when next generation networks go live.

Equipment manufacturers, handset makers and mobile operators have been talking up 5G for several years, claiming it will power new applications such as connected cars, the Internet of Things (IoT) and enhanced mobile broadband.

It was the talk of Mobile World Congress (MWC) and the subject of several high profile announcements in Barcelona, but according to the FT, Huawei’s rotating CEO Eric Xu told the company’s analyst summit that although 5G would make mobile networks better, it would be a struggle for operators to make money.

Huawei 5G plans

He pointed out that existing 4G technologies can support many of the new applications already, which slightly deflates the optimism that 5G networks will open up new revenue streams and reduce operating costs.

However he said that Huawei, which is one of the most influential firms with regards to 5G, will continue to work hard on development and on products for its customers because it is in the best interests of its business. Indeed, Huawei’s first 5G-compatible smartphone could arrive in the second half of 2019.

The comments come weeks after the US government blocked Broadcom’s proposed takeover of Qualcomm because of concerns it would hand Huawei, and therefore China, an advantage in 5G development.

Indeed, a recent report suggested that government support and industry momentum had given China the lead in the global 5G race. The US is keen to maintain the leadership it won with 4G because of the impact it can have on GDP and a country’s domestic wireless industry.

It is expected that the first commercial 5G services will launch in 2019, and there could be as many as 2.3 billion 5G connections by 2026.

Want to find out more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G hub   

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.