Li Huidi, EVP and Member of Group Senior Executive, China Mobile put telecoms front and center of China’s future economic growth stating that “telecom operators will be crucial forces and enablers for global digital transformation” in his keynote presentation at Digital Transformation World 2018. He stated, “4G changes life; 5G reshapes society.”
Li charted trends that are driving greater connectivity demands particularly around IoT. Of the 1.75 billion additional connections China Mobile has targeted by 2020, nearly half a billion are expected to come from connecting things as opposed to people or households. He cited examples of possible opportunities from:
- Retail – where original e-commerce, online services, offline experiences and modern logistics are becoming deeply integrated in new retail chains
- Industrial manufacturing – where the industrial internet can create a competitive edge for its users using the platform and ecosystem model
- Transportation – where China Mobile has been working with partners to develop the next generation of vehicles with capabilities such as pedestrian or collision warnings.
Verticals converging with telecoms
In the preceding keynote presentation, TM Forum CEO, Nik Willets explained how industry verticals are becoming ‘diagonals.’ Li continued this theme, laying out a vision in which telecoms converges with different vertical industries to create new opportunities for connectivity and other services. “Deep cross-industry integration between telecoms and others can accelerate the digital transformation of various verticals,” he said. “It’s imperative for China Mobile to create a new growth engine for the digital economy to leverage new value from industrial convergence and to establish new footprints in international business.”
To realize this vision, China Mobile has developed its ‘Big Connectivity Strategy’. The aim of which is to become a world-leading operator in digital innovation by boosting connectivity scale, optimizing connectivity services and strengthening connectivity applications. Li explained that the aim is not to reach a specific endpoint but to “continuously increase the value of connectivity by expanding our offerings from connectivity services to platform-level services and vertical applications. By building end-to-end infrastructure and content and applications systems.”
Transformative building blocks
This growth strategy is being underpinned by transformation in ten areas including: Intelligent IoT, innovation-driven next-generation network and collaborative ecosystems, all of which require new structures. CSPs need to create a connectivity plus proposition and expand from connectivity alone to platform businesses, Li said.
Li highlighted that 5G will be the key driver for the big connectivity growth strategy. China Mobile plans to commercialize 5G at scale in 2020, and has identified the importance of network slicing and edge computing in creating differentiated business terms for its customers while maximizing network capacity to support many future applications and services. However, none of this is possible without change.
5G lives in the cloud but needs culture shift to thrive
China Mobile’s 5G architecture is cloud-based, with cloud everywhere from the RAN, to network functions, to operations, to services. It is service-orientated, automated and intelligent, with an open platform, common hardware, software-based functions, customized service and automated operation.
On top of the virtualized network sits what Li described as OSS 4.0. This centralized next generation operations environment is again based on cloud computing and leverages both big data and AI. However, Li says, it must also be constructed with a focus on culture, personnel skills and innovation.
China Mobile is creating a DevOps environment, but it isn’t expecting its staff to be instantly up to speed, nor to acquire new skills themselves. It has a three-year plan including a skills roadmap, a retraining program and a certification program, with an increasing focus on encouraging internal innovation and internal entrepreneurship. The aim is to make talent the new engine for digital transformation.