As the Chinese tech giant tries to challenge Samsung Electronics and Apple in the high-end consumer electronics market, Huawei Technologies expects to launch the world’s first 5G TV as early as this year and aims to be a top-five PC manufacturer in three years.
A 5G module and a high-end 8K resolution display would fit the TVs, people familiar with the plan told in a review. This means that they will download data-heavy content, such as 360-degree videos that audiences can watch in any direction, and virtual reality programs, using the new-generation network. There are concerns, however, about how quickly the wider environment will be available for such services.
Huawei’s first attempt to make TV sets is fuelled by a desire to complete its consumer electronics “ecosystem,” which already includes everything from smartphones to wearable devices, even as critics voice concerns about the strength of its brand image.
It does not need the fiber optics or cable boxes that conventional cable or satellite transmission networks do is among the possible advantages of a 5G TV. For all other electronic equipment in a household, the TV could also serve as a router hub. Meanwhile, the ultra-high-definition 8 K resolution is the most advanced TV screen on the market, with 16 times more pixels than the regular high-definition 1080 pixels.
Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunication equipment producer and surpassing Apple in the first quarter of this year, only behind Samsung, to become the second-largest smartphone manufacturer by shipments. In the 5Gage, it has signaled its determination to remain ahead. Huawei has already launched a 5G foldable smartphone and multiple 5G home-use routers in addition to 5G base stations that will be available later this year.
8K is also emerging as a major battlefield
Samsung is currently the world’s largest TV manufacturer and has only begun delivering its own 8K TV without 5G capability, starting this spring at $4,999. Apple launched the Macintosh TV in 1993, but it was not a success, and since then, the California tech giant has not released its TV package. However, in 2006, it launched a digital streaming box called Apple TV and has revamped it many times to include third-party games, including Netflix. In addition, Apple TV plus, a streaming service for original Apple content featuring superstars including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, and Reese Witherspoon, was launched this March.
As Japanese broadcaster NHK is expected to broadcast the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in ultra-high-definition, several leading TV and camera manufacturers intend to carry out 8 K devices by 2020. This year, Samsung, LG Electronics, Sharp, China’s TCL, and Hisense showed 8 K TVs.
Research company IHS Markit predicts that 8K TV shipments will grow from less than 20,000 sets last year to 430,000 this year and next year to 2 million.
In the TV market, Huawei isn’t a complete novice. After Taiwan’s MediaTek, the chip arm of the Chinese company Hisilicon Technologies is the world’s second-largest supplier of TV chipsets and supplies to various local brands such as Hisense, Skyworth, and Changhong as Sharp. It is also developing its own in-house 5G modem chips. A critical component that helps decide the speed of data transfers and the quality of phone calls is modem chips.
Although Huawei could obtain large TV screens from local suppliers BOE Technology Group and China Star Optoelectronics Technology, Samsung Display, Samsung’s panel-making arm, analysts said, still dominates the supply of large, high-quality 8K displays.
“Compared to current TV manufacturers, Huawei probably has the most 5G-related capital and expertise … so it’s very natural to want to jump into the industry at the moment,” said Eric Chiu, an analyst at WitsView. “Whether Huawei will grab market share quickly is not yet clear, but such a move will certainly help the Chinese company broaden its brand into a new market and improve its ecosystem.”
C.Y. Yao, a Taipei-based TrendForce tech analyst, said that for 5G-capable 8K TVs, there are still many obstacles ahead. “You will need small-cell stations in the field, in addition to 5G base stations, and there requires to be an 8K ecosystem, like cameras, and 8K TV processors, codecs, and decoders to broadcast 8K content that is not yet mature.”
Yao added that cooperation is also required with telecom providers to sustain the 5G service, threatening existing cable broadcasters.
In addition to getting into televisions, a source told that Huawei has also set a goal of being a top-five PC manufacturer by 2021 and targeting triple shipments in that segment for 2019. The Chinese company designs its central processing units, or CPUs, for its computer product line. At the same time, the individual said that Huawei relies heavily on Intel for processor chips for laptops.
Huawei has launched the first laptop computer in late 2017, is a latecomer to this market. According to research company IDC, it shipped some 1 million units last year in the overall PC market of around 259 million units. Apple, whose laptop MacBook line served as the basis for Huawei’s MateBook and MagicBook, is the No. 4 PC manufacturer globally, shipping some 18 million units last year.
President Linford Wang of Huawei Consumer Business Group’s Tablet and PC Product Line said that his business is producing computers in hopes of completing its consumer electronics ecosystem. “But if our market share can be increased, that’s welcome, too.”
Joey Yen, an IDC analyst, said the emerging PC industry of Huawei is doing well in China, its home market, taking a share of almost 4 percent last year following its recent entry, and could slowly bring some pressure on smaller PC manufacturers such as Acer and Asustek Computer. “It also has the potential to grow first in emerging markets,” Yen said.
Although she was less optimistic about Huawei’s potential to challenge the powerful brand image of Apple, she noted the reasoning behind the company’s strategy. “The construction of key consumer electronics items such as smartphones, smart speakers, earphones, and TVs will hopefully help customers remain in their ecosystem and be more loyal to the phones of Huawei.”
For the first time in 2018, Huawei’s consumer electronics unit became the company’s main revenue contributor, accounting for 48.4 percent of annual revenues of 721.2 billion yuan ($105.2 billion).
However, since last year, its flagship telecom equipment sector has faced headwinds in many markets. The US has pressured allies to ban the Chinese company’s equipment in sensitive network infrastructure, citing cyber espionage issues.
On March 7, Huawei consistently denied all the allegations and sued the US government for being barred from the region.
A wearable product range, including smartwatches and wristbands, has already been rolled out by Huawei, similar to the Apple Watch and Fitbit offerings. It also makes FreeBuds and FlyPods wireless earphones from its Honor distribution line to compete against AirPods from Apple. In addition, last October, the company’s AI speaker was released as a response to Apple’s voice-activated Homepod.
In 2018, it delivered 206 million smartphone units and ranked only behind Samsung and Apple as the third-largest supplier globally.
The 5G TV may not require fiber or other cable boxes and maybe work as a router for electronic devices.