26 March 2018
Taiwan Looks to Take a Lead in 5G Readiness at European Mobile Expo
While many exhibitors and attendees at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC) were keen to learn more details of the looming 5G rollout, the Taiwanese contingent was determined to demonstrate its mastery of the required technology.
With Taiwan keen to prove its prowess in the mobile-telephony sector, the territory was particularly well-represented at the recent Mobile World Congress (MWC). Held in Barcelona at the end of February, the event is seen as one of the most important annual gatherings of the information and communications technology (ICT) industry.
This year, the event took "Creating A Better Future" as its overall theme. It was a timely choice given that the sector is on the cusp of major technological change, with 5G – the new, much faster wireless protocol – set to roll out this year. In line with this, 5G-compliant software, hardware and handsets dominated the event, while a number of the ancillary sectors set to be transformed by higher connection speeds – including IoT, AI and autonomous vehicles – were also well represented.
The show was actually held in the shadow of an earlier milestone on the ICT calendar – the December 2017 meeting of the Third-Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the body currently responsible for establishing the global standard for 5G implementation. During the meeting, the first set of such standards – 5G NR Release 15 – was approved, paving the way for commercial applications and new networks to be duly rolled out.
One Taiwanese firm that has a considerable stake in the 5G roll-out is Mediatek. Based in the northern city of Hscinchu, the company is one of Taiwan's leading producers of semiconductors and has a particular focus on the wireless-communications sector.
While in the run-up to the introduction of the 3G and 4G standards the company was happy to simply spectate, it has played a far more proactive role in the development of the 5G standard. In conjunction with Qualcomm, the California-based semiconductor giant, it put its own 5G strategy in place back in 2013 and has sent a 12-strong consultative team to every 3GPP session.
From its point of view, the company regards 2019 as the end of the pre-commercial era for 5G, with full implementation set for 2020. At that point, it sees 5G-optimsed chipsets as likely to flood the mainstream mobile-phone market.
Demonstrating its 5G-readiness at the event, the company launched its Helio P60 chipset, which is said to support the incoming standard while also being optimised for AI use. This latter function was in line with an earlier statement by Joe Chen, Mediatek's President, where he shared his belief that IC companies that failed to keep up with AI technology would soon go to the wall.
With particular regard to the Helio P60, the company says the combination of its high-tech camera function and its powerful Mobile APU (accelerated processing unit) will allow users to enjoy AI-infused app experiences, complete with real-time image enhancements, novel overlays, AR/MR (augmented reality/mixed reality) acceleration and real-time video previews. The company also took the opportunity to showcase its latest innovations in the car-mounted and IoT sectors.
For three of Taiwan's leading telecom operators – Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and Far EasTone – IoT was their primary focus, with their attendance at the MWC intended to signal their global expansion plans. Of the three, Chunghwa Telecom commanded particular attention with its proprietary "5G Smart Pole +" solution. It also announced the results of a number of R&D initiatives related to 5G, AI, AR and IoT that had been jointly conducted with a number of other ICT businesses.
For its part, Taiwan Mobile announced plans for a strategic partnership with Bridge Alliance, the Asia-Pacific region's largest association of mobile-telephony companies. This partnership will primarily focus on participation in Multi-Network Connect, AT&T's innovative take on IoT.
Far EasTone, meanwhile, held the international launch of BoBee, its dual-band positioning system, during the event. Significantly, the system is said to be the first product of its kind developed in Taiwan and solely supported by the local supply chain.
Taipei-based ASUS also used the show as the launch platform for its latest product – the Zenfone 5 smartphone. With more than a passing resemblance to the iPhone X, this new handset features a 6.18-inch, 18:9 display, as well as a dual-camera system.
In the case of another Taiwanese smartphone brand – New Taipei City-based HTC – it had made the 20,700km round-trip to Barcelona in a bid to highlight its move into VR products. According to Cher Wang, the company's Chairperson, its changed priorities stemmed from its belief that the global smartphone market was approaching saturation point, making it difficult to remain competitively viable.
As well as the many Taiwanese companies in attendance, all largely gathered in the government-sponsored Taiwan Pavilion, the MWC once again attracted a wide range of international brands, all keen to unveil their latest products. Among the highlights here was the launch of Sony's flagship Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 compact smartphone, while Nokia launched its retro-styled 8110 4G handset.
Making its MWC debut, meanwhile, was Xiaomi, with the Beijing-based smartphone giant introducing its new Redmi Note 5 Pro handset to European buyers following its launch in India earlier in the year.
The 2018 Mobile World Congress (MWC) took place from 26 February-1 March at the Fira de Barcelona. The event featured 2,300 exhibitors and attracted more than 100,000 visitors.
Robert Kang, Special Correspondent, Taipei