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The rise of Huawei

Date: 16th December 2013
Topic: Monthly Features
Issue: Issue 17
Tags: Huawei, LTE

Huawei.jpgLeon He, president, Western Europe Enterprise Business Unit, Huawei Technologies speaks exclusively to TETRA Today

When it comes to building the businesses and communities of the future, it’s no longer good enough to see things purely in terms of dedicated point solutions. While specific industry sectors or applications will continue to require specialist tools to do their jobs efficiently, safely and cost-effectively, it’s fast becoming clear that creating greater openness and integration between different systems and services will deliver far more benefits to enterprises, users and citizens alike. With hot topics like big data, smart cities and social media already starting to rapidly change the operational landscape for a wide range of mission-critical communications users, the emergence of Huawei as a major player in the European space looks set to speed up the rate of innovation and change.

With these topics in mind, TETRA Today sat down at the recent IIR Professional LTE conference in London to speak with Mr Leon He, Huawei’s president with responsibility for their Enterprise Business Unit in Western Europe. Coming hot on the heels of Huawei’s opening of a dedicated solutions exhibition centre in Amstelveen in the Netherlands – and a related announcement that the company plans to boost its current 7,500 European workforce by an additional 5,500 employees over the next five years – Mr He was keen to stress his company’s commitment to continued R&D investment, increased partnering and a dedication to the particular needs of the European marketplace

“Western Europe remains the key target market for Huawei Enterprise,” said Mr He. “Our global success as a company will be measured against our achievements here. In terms of specific vertical mission-critical markets, we’re concentrating on public safety, transportation and energy as well as supporting various application areas such as smart grids and smart cities. Our footprint on the continent continues to grow as well and we already run 13 R&D sites in eight European countries, as well as operating numerous joint innovation centres where we partner with a number of leading telecom and ICT companies.”

Market presence
In explaining Huawei’s growing mission-critical product and system portfolio in the context of the company’s presence at the Professional LTE conference, Mr He emphasised the company’s existing LTE strengths and the breadth of current products: “Overall in this market, Huawei provides its eLTE Broadband Trunking solution – the world’s first professional broadband trunking system - plus its eLTE Broadband Access solution and a GSM-R solution as well. These are specifically optimised to operate efficiently and reliably across a wide variety of the often harsh environments found in the mission-critical arena where additional criteria such as support for high-speed transport or large area coverage are also often important.”

He continued: “For public safety customers – many of whom are now looking to integrate the potential of broadband with their operations - we’re already able to deliver multimedia group call and video despatching to improve the efficiency and safety of those first responders dealing with real-world events as they happen out on our streets. Our eLTE Broadband Trunking solution is also attracting increasing interest from other vertical market sectors in the mission-critical space where video connectivity combined with appropriate applications can bring significant operational and productivity benefits to both front-line workers and the business or public utility as a whole.

“Our expertise and experience with IP allows us to create a reliable, secure, scalable and ultimately flexible end-to-end all-IP environment that can be easily and cost-effectively integrated with other systems and applications in both the front and back office, as well as other existing communications systems such as PBXs. That seamless approach also extends right down to our handsets and terminals which have been designed specifically to cope with the particular demands of the mission critical user. For example, some interfaces have been specifically optimised for what’s increasingly being known as the PPDR – Public Protection and Disaster Relief sector – while others have been developed to operate reliably and safely in difficult or potentially hazardous environments and cope with submersion or the risk of explosions from dangerous gases.

A new societal model
For Huawei’s He, the increasing complexity of today’s societies – at local, regional and national levels – and their reliance on numerous technological sub-systems to deliver transport, energy, water and other services is bringing with it a greater awareness amongst governmental decision makers of the overarching need to also ensure security and safety against this backdrop of unceasing change. “We think that Huawei has a major contribution to make in this area both by supporting advances in each individual market sector, and in providing the kind of 360 degree overview of how these systems can be brought together to work as a harmonious whole for the benefit of all. With a history of managing complex civilisations stretching back around 4,000 years, China can possibly claim to have been one of the first innovators in urban development, creating the laws, infrastructure and bureaucracies needed to manage large, dense populations successfully!”

In this context, it’s clear for Huawei that no single company or institution holds all the answers and that it’s only by establishing a dialogue with all the players in the mission-critical ecosystem will we get the systems and tools that advanced societies need to survive and thrive. “Huawei sticks with a strategy of open cooperation for mutual win-win benefits,” says Mr He. “Our ‘be integrated’ mission statement means being committed to strengthening collaboration with a wide range of industry players, providing industry customers with competitive and customised end-to-end solutions that deliver real benefits today - while at the same time helping support wider innovation, creativity and industrial development as a whole. In terms of specific devices, Huawei has developed a chip and wireless module that enables fast frequency customisation and can be easily and cost-effectively integrated with different systems across a wide range of industry sectors, bringing – for example – new, expanded or customised terminal and service functionalities to specific vertical sectors.”

Open platform
“In terms of industry applications,” adds Mr He, “Huawei also provides an open platform and API interfaces to help integrate those external supporting applications that each mission-critical sector expects and indeed rightly demands. At the same time, this open platform strategy is also applied to drive interoperability with equipment from other manufacturers – such as TETRA, PMR, DMR and 2G, 3G and 4G cellular systems. Example of that cooperation – which also involves supporting joint innovation and customer service operations on a global scale – currently includes work with companies like Rohill and Selex. With the last company, we have already set up a Joint Innovation Laboratory to develop systems and technologies for Germany’s rail operator Deutsche Bahn AG.

As ever, standards are crucial in this marketplace to ensure interoperability, deliver economies of scale to development and manufacturing, and ensure that customers don’t suffer from vendor lock-in. Mr He emphasised Huawei’s growing active role and participation in the these communities, “Standards are the critical building blocks – not only of the systems themselves, but also of the relationships between all the different players, partners and customers in this increasingly interconnected world of ours. Whether it’s commercial public networks or dedicated ones that support critical services and infrastructure. Huawei views collaboration with partners, vendors and operators as crucial to both its own success as well that of the wider communities that we all support in our different respective ways. Huawei’s enterprise LTE systems, for example, are based on the 3GPP and the UICs (International Union of Railways) standards and we’re dedicated to adding new applications, features and functionalities by building on those industry-wide standards to meet sector specific needs.”

Finally, looking only slightly further into the future, Huawei’s He was keen to focus on the key role that LTE will have in supporting the current “Smart/Safe City” visions that are currently exciting politicians, citizens and technologists alike: “Huawei is already excellently positioned to fulfil the emerging demands of these highly complex, dynamic and real-time environments. One excellent real-life example of this is a project that Huawei recently did for China Southern Power Grid where we provided broadband wireless automation distribution communications network based on eLTE. This supports the automation of electricity distribution and meter reading, trunk-based dispatching, video surveillance, access control systems and additional Smart Grid services. Citizens increasingly expect their services to be delivered to them in seamless, secure, reliable and intelligent ways – for that to happen, the supporting communications networks have to be equal to the task. That’s Huawei’s mission in a nutshell!” 

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