By Joseph Waring

HTC CEO sees next technology revolution breaking down barriers

HTC CEO Cher Wang outlined a vision of a more equal and empathic world, where the power of rapidly advancing technologies is combined with humanity to spark new solutions to many of the world’s most protracted problems.

Wang, in her keynote yesterday, said as the new wave of technology advances quickly, the impact of VR and AR will be even greater than that of smartphones. It will require a few years to take off, just as smartphones, she said, “but it will become all embracive, creating a far larger virtual economy and a broader range of experiences, and far more meaningful social interactions, which brings people closer together fostering greater empathy for each other”.

Combining technologies like VR and AR, AI, blockchain and 5G creates the potential for a better world, she said. “It is only through the convergence of technology and humanity that we can unleash our imaginations.”

Today the world faces many global challenges, such as poverty, climate change and taking care of an ageing population, she said. Through technologies such as Vive, “we are finding new ways to complete complex tasks to better lives.”

Instead of being bound by the four walks of a classroom, she said children in poor areas can now take part in virtual lessons across a range of subjects and have the same learning opportunity as those in richer areas.

Wang noted that over the last 50 years, as computing moved from mainframe to desktops to laptops to smartphones, it has become not only more convenient but more personal.

She believes 5G will be like the air we breathe. “It will be all around us. AR and VR will be like the senses: our eyes and ears, and even our sense of touch. AI will be the brain and nervous system, and blockchain will be the DNA of our digital empowerment,” Wang added.

Chua Sock Koong, CEO of Singtel, addressed a similar theme, noting that mobile revenue is stagnating even as data growth kicks off. Chua cited forecasts that suggest mobile data growth will be four-times higher by 2025 compared to today, or five-times higher including 5G. However, annual revenue growth is expected to shrink from 5 per cent to 1 per cent in the same period.

“This is clearly a major concern of operators,” she said, as they are investing billions in 5G networks and spectrum to enable this data growth. “This dichotomy clearly reflects the increasing commoditisation of connectivity.”

Chua also pointed to 5G, along with the IoT and AI as key technologies that will help drive value creation for the industry in the era of intelligent connectivity. But she added that operators would need to rethink their approach if they are to benefit fully from this new world.

For example, in the IoT market, applications, platforms and professional services are the growth areas of IoT and expected to account for 95 per cent of all IoT revenue. By contrast, connectivity will further commoditise and is expected to shrink to just 5 per cent of revenue.

“This will make it difficult for operators to compete on connectivity alone. And therein lies a challenge and an opportunity for us,” she said.

Stephane Richard, CEO of Orange, agreed that the industry faces some serious challenges ahead. It needs to invest massively in new networks, while also creating value and achieving return on investment in a period of increasing competition and regulatory pressure. Without naming names, Richard also alluded to the problem in the global equipment supply sector, stating categorically that this is a big concern. “And this is the first time that we have such a risk in our industry,” he added.