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Brand-building takes time, especially when done globally

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Teletimes: As a thought leader, you have contributed new insights on the developments taking place within the ICT sector. What developments or trends within the industry do you feel have been the biggest drivers of business growth?

Joy Tan: ICT growth is being driven by several forces, all of which will be familiar to readers of Teletimes International. They are Cloud computing, online video, the Internet of Things (IoT), and digital transformation.

Cloud computing creates opportunities for companies to create new products, services, and business models. Large companies have already embraced the Cloud, and small and mid-sized enterprises are beginning to follow suit. In fact, the big trend that Huawei sees in Cloud computing is what might be called the Industry Cloud. It’s actually not a single cloud at all, but thousands of distinct, separate clouds spanning different industry verticals. Huawei projects that by 2025, 85% of enterprise applications will be deployed in the Cloud, and that every company will integrate its core business with the Cloud.

Online video is putting huge pressure on data networks. Gaming, streaming video, virtual and augmented reality, not to mention video captured by sensors in the Internet of Things – all will increase this pressure over time and deepen society’s reliance on the network. More data means more opportunities to apply analytics that produce business insights and, in many cases, social benefits. Of course, many people watch video on their phones, creating demand for our smartphones, tablets, and other devices.

The IoT will create estimated 100b connections within the next 10 years, a significant driver of business for Huawei.  This means companies will operate in a web of digital connections – a digital ecosystem. Industries that never had to work together before will have to start collaborating.  Much of that collaboration will happen through the Cloud.

The IoT will create estimated 100b connections within the next 10 years, a significant driver of business for Huawei.

The Cloud is also central to the fourth big trend, Digital Transformation – the process whereby companies become digital enterprises. To become digital, companies have to integrate the Cloud into their production processes. This will give them access to advanced technologies like data analytics, mobile broadband, and the Internet of Things. With these new resources, companies will be able to deliver products and services at scale, in a way that is flexible, customized, and innovative.

Again, all of these trends – video, cloud, IoT, and digital transformation – are going to increase society’s reliance on the network. That means that sound ICT regulatory policy and secure, stable networks will be essential requirements for prosperity and growth.

TT: How has 2016 been a transformational year for Huawei as a top technology brand among businesses as well as end-users of your handheld devices and digital platforms?

JT: Brand-building takes time, especially when done globally, and in 2016 Huawei saw steady improvement in our brand recognition. We rose to #72 on Interbrand’s global brand ranking, moving up 16 spots or 18 percent from 2015. In 2016, in addition to product ads, we launched a comprehensive corporate branding campaign. It used a series of images and stories to convey to our key stakeholders as well as the general public who we are, where we came from, and what we stand for. This campaign has run in many countries and regions. I believe you can see the impact in our business, which has grown substantially this year.

TT: What is Huawei’s global marketing vision as the world’s leading telecommunications company, which some argue, many consumers in the Western world don’t know much about?

JT: Again, we’ve begun talking more about our values, what we believe and why we do what we do. We don’t want to be known simply as a company that makes phones, or network switching equipment, even though we do make those things. We want to be known as a company that enables the digital, intelligent society of the future. That may sound a bit abstract, but it’s really not. In an intelligent world, factories will run more efficiently, farmers will use less water and get better crop yields, streetlamps will use less electricity, and nearly everything will emit less carbon. People will have access to always-on medical services and education. Cities will be safer. The potential for improving the quality of everyday life is immense. You can get bogged down in the bits and bytes, but as a communicator, I always try to emphasize technology’s benefits to people and society.

TT: What specific endeavours by your team of media and communications professionals have helped elevate Huawei’s standing as a top technology player on the global scale?

JT: One of Huawei’s core principles is to remain customer-centric, and if you’re in Corporate Communications, your main customers are the media.  My team tries to apply that philosophy to our engagement with journalists around the world. We give them information that provides context for their stories, so they in turn can help their audiences better understand not just Huawei, but the technological changes affecting the economy and the world.

One new thing we did last year was to start an influencer marketing function aimed at Key Opinion Leaders, or KOLs – bloggers and other people who may not be accredited journalists, but are nevertheless shaping conversations related to technology in general, and Huawei in particular.  We look for people who have substantial online followings, or who have a strong influence in specific areas such as cloud computing, safe cities, robotics, or fintech. Currently we have more than 100 KOLs. In 2016, they shared Huawei-related content that reached 39 million people.

TT: How is Huawei promoting its innovation and best practices particularly within South Asia and the MENA region?

JT: In the Middle East, Huawei manages more than 24 operators’ networks in more than 10 countries. We have three resource centers dedicated to Managed Services, and three training centers across the region. We partner with leading local organizations to create innovation centers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and elsewhere. We also invest in local talent through our “Seeds for the Future” program. Partners in that program include leading universities such as King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, UAE Higher Colleges of Technology, King Saud University, Kuwait University, Texas A&M University in Qatar, and the University of Bahrain. We also work with regulatory and other government authorities, and with organizations such as Aramco, UAE TRA, Saudi CITC, Oman TRA.

In South Asia, Huawei’s Lean GSM solution helped Telenor India in its digital transformation project. Among other things, we provided green solutions that reduced power consumption by nearly one-third and increased spectrum efficiency and network capacity by more than 30%. Telenor took that saved spectrum and used it to launch an affordable high-speed internet service to a mass market in India.  Last August, we set up a Global Services Center (GSC) in Bangalore with an investment of over US $20 million. And in partnership with Flex, a contract manufacturer, last fall we started manufacturing Smart Phones in India.

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TT: What are your views on IoT for telecom operators, on its sustainability practices, and how should it be viewed by the general public in terms of its potential contributions to enhancing quality of life?

JT: IoT is a big contributor to sustainability. It’s already making a difference in agriculture by helping farmers in drought-stricken regions conserve water. In California, for example, some farmers are already using 20% less water to grow their crops because of IoT technology. This increases yields, while lowering costs. Smart power grids will use IoT sensors that help operators manage loads more efficiently and check meters remotely. Buildings will use less energy and emit less carbon. Huawei recently conducted a year-long pilot experiment in China where a four-story office building employed energy-control systems using IoT sensor technology. After just one year, the building had saved the equivalent of 165 tons of coal. Rolled out across China, such programs could reduce air pollution substantially. Manufacturing, public infrastructure, and many other areas will also benefit from the efficiencies created by the IoT.

TT: What R&D leadership role has Huawei taken to accelerate the development of 5G technologies, and do you also view 2020 as being the year of 5G’s widespread availability?

JT: Huawei has been investing in 5G research since 2009. We collaborate closely with top universities including Harvard, University of California at Berkeley, and Cambridge, and to date have published more than 250 research papers about 5G technology through our engagement with these leading schools. We have more than 2,000 research scientists and other experts working on 5G, and have established 11 5G research centers around the world. In the five years between 2013 and 2018, Huawei will invest at least US$600m in 5G research and innovation.

We’ve also been promoting 5G standardization. In the EU, we’ve played a leading role in the 5G PPP project. We are the founding member of 5GIC, a 5G innovation center in the UK. With respect to 5G as it relates to the industrial IoT, we are a founding member of the 5G Vertical Industry Accelerator program, through which we collaborate with various industry sectors in Europe in finding and encouraging early adoption of 5G IoT solutions.

There have been several early 5G pre-commercial adoptions, such as the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan, and Expo 2020 in the UAE. Huawei has been actively involved in all of them.

Bridging the digital divide is a hugely important issue. Worldwide, about 4 billion people remain offline. If even a small fraction of those people come online in the next five to 10 years, it will create new commercial opportunities and raise living standards.

TT: What are some of the ways in which Huawei, through its media and communications strategy under your leadership, is promoting digital inclusion across the world?

JT: Bridging the digital divide is a hugely important issue. Worldwide, about 4 billion people remain offline. If even a small fraction of those people come online in the next five to 10 years, it will create new commercial opportunities and raise living standards. That means there’s an urgent need to build out broadbrand networks in less developed regions of the world.

Huawei runs a program called Seeds for the Future that trains young engineers in countries around the world. This type of intervention can have a dramatic impact on digital inclusion, especially in remote areas. For example, last year we launched a project aimed at bringing connectivity to small fishing villages in a remote part of the Amazon Forest in Brazil. We took 30 young Brazilian students and trained them in basic IT skills, computer maintenance, and photovoltaic systems. This last item is crucial because many Brazilian villages lack electricity, and solar power is their only hope of connecting to the Internet.

Also, each year we publish a Global Connectivity Index that measures different countries’ progress toward achieving digital parity. We hope this encourages governments to invest in broadband, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, and data center technologies, all of which will form the basis of economic development over the next decade and beyond.