© Huawei, Alissar Najjar
As Vice President of Huawei Technologies Austria, Erich Manzer is responsible for sales in the carrier area (mobile network operator). Through previous positions at A1, One and Orange, Manzer has gained a lot of experience in the domestic telecommunications industry. We spoke to the manager about Huawei and the new 5G cellular standard.
futurezone: You have been working for Huawei in Austria since 2009. How has the company changed during this time?
Erich Manzer: A lot has happened in that time. We used to take part in many tenders, but there were certain difficulties communicating. Cultures collided. For example, clearly telling a customer, ‘You are wrong with this argument’, was considered impolite. You had to learn that first. We have long since arrived in Europe.
How present is Huawei in Europe?
Huawei set up its first European research and development center in Sweden, followed by others in Poland, Munich and Milan. We have a large production center in Hungary and a new factory is being opened in France. In Austria we also have a small but fine R&D center that deals with magnetic products. We have a university cooperation with the Vienna University of Technology. The patents for the resulting technologies remain in Austria.
Is that unusual for Huawei?
No, that also happens at other locations. When it comes to research on technologies that will be built into Huawei products, the patents will of course remain with Huawei. But there are fringes where technology is made available to everyone. It is important to us that we drive developments in Europe. Local value creation is important to us. Huawei has 22,000 employees in Europe and there are many local partner companies, including in Austria.
At the 5G World 2020 Summit, Huawei a prize for a project in Wuhan obtain. What was it about?
A hospital was built from scratch in Wuhan due to the corona crisis. That was supplied with 5G from the start. We thought about how we could support the hospital staff and then deployed robots controlled by 5G.
What were the tasks of these robots?
For example, you have taken temperature measurements. These robots were also used for telepresence by driving directly to the hospital bed. The doctor could then talk to the patient via a monitor without risking infection. Still other robots were sent through the hospital on specified routes for disinfection. At the moment that sounds like a dream of the future, but operations via 5G will be possible in the future. Due to the low latency, doctors from Beijing can then operate on people in Wuhan.
From your point of view, how is Austria doing in terms of the spread of 5G?
In an international comparison, it looks very good. We carried out the first tests in 2017, for example with drones in Innsbruck. Then the first frequencies were awarded and the networks grow. The frequencies auctioned in summer 2020 will help to efficiently supply rural areas with 5G.
According to a survey by the telecommunications regulator RTR, 88 percent of Austrians are already satisfied with their current Internet bandwidth. Then why 5G?
I think it’s very good that there are many in Austria who are satisfied with the care. To keep it that way or move it up, we need 5G, as the applications and requirements are becoming more and more complex. Network operators need to prepare to divert this traffic. 5G is simply even more efficient and transmits more data. In the past, companies were able to cover a lot with WLAN. But WiFi is a shared medium, an open spectrum. 5G has campus solutions where customers can be provided with their own frequency parts from the spectrum.
A survey by Deloitte has shown that most Austrians no longer want to pay for mobile communications. How will this affect 5G adoption?
On the one hand, the price will fall as the number of 5G devices increases. On the other hand, 5G has significant advantages for network operators. He can thus control the traffic in the network much better. Some frequencies are still reserved for older mobile radio standards. From the operator’s point of view, it would be best if frequencies were used for those technologies that are most efficient at handling the traffic.
According to the same survey, 36 percent of Austrians are afraid of damage to health from 5G. Since the Corona crisis, conspiracy theories around 5G have blossomed. Where is the counterattack?
The problem is that some people are generally afraid of new technologies. If you look at it soberly, 5G uses high frequencies, but with very low transmission power. The Mobile Communication Forum recently carried out a study on this. More education may be needed. We want nobody to be afraid.
How does the futurezone Award fit Huawei?
I am delighted that we are part of it, especially on this ten-year anniversary. Innovation and technology suit us thematically well. This is a ‘perfect match’.