Top Huawei exec Guo Ping says 5G will be 'the new electricity' when combined with AI and other technologies

huawei guo pingGuo Ping, rotating chairman of HuaweiPedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • The rotating chairman of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, Guo Ping, has said 5G will be "the new electricity" when combined with other nascent technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data.
  • Guo added that 5G "represents a golden opportunity for the tech industry and particularly for [tech] developers," claiming it will create "countless opportunities for entrepreneurs."
  • Huawei is facing continued scrutiny from the US with regards to its 5G networking equipment. In May of this year, the Trump administration placed Huawei on its so-called "Entity List" of companies, which severely restricts the Chinese tech giant's ability to do business with American companies.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Guo Ping, rotating chairman of Huawei, has painted a stunningly optimistic picture of high-speed 5G wireless technology, claiming it will be "the new electricity" when combined with other emergent technologies such as artificial intelligence.

Guo, who has worked at Huawei for over thirty years since he joined the firm as a 22-year-old, was speaking at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal on Monday. Huawei employs a system whereby top execs rotate in and out of the position of chairman for months-long stints, while CEO Ren Zhengfei remains in place.

Addressing a sold-out crowd, Guo drew a lengthy comparison between 5G and the technological harnessing of electricity for human use. He said: "5G plus 'x' will create a smart new era. This 'x' can be AI, big data or VR/AR, among other technologies. As you all know, 5G deployment has just begun. AI's applications for a range of industries are still in their infancy. I believe that in the future, 5G plus 'x' will create countless possibilities for entrepreneurs."

Huawei, a giant among Chinese tech firms, is said to hold as much as 29% market share in the telecoms equipment industry, making it a leading voice in the push for ultra-fast 5G wireless internet.

"In 1875, Paris train stations started using electric lights. In 1879, a power plant in San Francisco started to sell electric power. These were historical changes. Later in [the] twentieth century, electricity significantly increased productivity in all industries. Humanity entered the electric age, just as the age began with electric lighting," he said.

"3G and 4G solved the problem of connecting people," he continued. "5G and AI represent a tipping point for ICT technology. This technology will be further applied in all industries, like electricity was over a century ago. This makes ICT a key enabler for industry development."

Guo's optimism comes despite Huawei coming under seemingly unrelenting pressure from the US as part of the so-called "Tech Cold War," in which China and the States vie for technological supremacy.

In May, the Trump administration placed Huawei on its so-called "Entity List," which prevented the company from buying parts and components from American companies without US government approval.

Speaking in the immediate aftermath of that decision, a Huawei spokesperson told Business Insider that the move "will only serve to limit the US to inferior yet more expensive alternatives, leaving the US lagging behind in 5G deployment, and eventually harming the interests of US companies and consumers."

At present, Huawei's status in the US remains murky, though there's reason to think it may soon see an upturn in fortunes. Earlier this month, the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Bloomberg that licenses for American companies to sell components to Huawei would be coming "very shortly."

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