28 June 2018
Alex Wang of Huawei’s Wireless X Labs says carriers have to simplify their networks and optimise them for people’s connections. The most challenging issues are broadband issues, he tells James Pearce
Why are telecoms vendors investing
billions in developing future technology? Microsoft founder
Bill Gates put it accurately: "I believe in innovation and that
the way you get innovation is you fund research and learn the
Among these vendors is Chinese company Huawei, which
launched its X Labs division in 2016.
So what is Huawei’s Wireless X Labs? It looks
at use cases for innovative new technologies such as the
internet of things (IoT) and 5G. And it bring, together the
operators, vertical industry partners and industry leaders to
jointly drive innovation in business and technology.
Speaking to Capacity, X Labs CEO Alex Wang says the goal of
the division is to promote an open industry ecosystem to
discuss cutting-edge technologies, such as AI, cloud and
"The digital world and the physical world are becoming more
connected because of AI and the cloud. AI will be everywhere,
but this will run on the cloud. How can we introduce AI with
me, with everyone, so it can instantly process data with no
At a briefing in Huawei’s office in London,
Wang – who is usually based in China –
demonstrates three examples of projects Huawei is working on.
These are in autonomous vehicles, cloud-based AI and virtual
What I want to know is what the demands for this kind of
work will be on the underlying network. Are we ready for these
cutting-edge processes? Or does the carrier community need to
up its game?
He replies by pointing to a need to simplify the network.
"Through the whole networks there are so many issues to
resolve. But what we propose is a simple network idea. We want
in future to simplify the carrier network and optimise it for
This, at least in part, reflects a change in the core
purpose of telecoms networks. We’ve already seen
the main uses of networks change from voice calls to data, but
this is, for the moment at least, primarily driven by the
The internet of things will generate a staggering 400
zettabytes (ZB) of data a year by 2018, according to a report
from Cisco. A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes. This is up
from 113.4ZB in 2013.
Wang adds: "In the future, 99% of the network will be used
by things – by cars, by robots, by drones, by
aeroplanes. So we need to totally rethink and re-optimise the
whole network. So we call it 'simplify
He is discussing the bits behind Huawei’s
wireless technology – the bits the vendor is working
on with carriers and other vendors in order to optimise, to
make sure the connected world it envisages has the
infrastructure in place to work.
He says: "This is a broadband network, not a narrowband
network. Much of IoT is going to be supported by narrowband IoT
but the most challenging network issues are broadband issues.
We are focussing on these challenges and, step-by-step, by
focussing on the core and transit networks, and the backbone
and transmission, we can optimise all of this to overcome these
issues. Also we have different milestones for different network
elements. But ultimately we need to optimise the entire
The last question is how this will happen and the answer is
simple, says Wang. Automation, AI and making networks smart and
innovative enough that they can overcome the challenges brought
about by a greater volume of complex data.
He concludes: "We believe automated networks plays a key
role in improving networks. Take autonomous vehicles –
we propose the idea of an autonomous network. If there is an
issue, the network should identify it itself. This is why
Huawei is sternly focussed on AI in the network. But it helps
the network become autonomous."