Telecoms giant Huawei has announced plans to plough at least £370m into developing a new superfast 5G mobile network.
The Chinese smartphone maker, which also produces equipment that underpins much of the UK’s mobile and broadband networks, said it will invest a minimum of $600m worldwide in 5G technology that could enable one-second film downloads by 2018.
5G technology could be 100 times faster than new 4G networks currently being rolled out by UK mobile operators, and could be in action by 2020, according to the firm.
Huawei chief executive Eric Xu said the new network will mean download speeds of more than 10 gigabits per second, but said that a lot of work was yet to be done before it would be possible to realise such capabilities.
“There are several issues that must be resolved before 5G can become a reality,” he said. “These include the availability of spectrum and technological challenges, such as how to engineer network architectures capable of handling increasingly higher data volumes and transmission speeds necessary to accommodate more users on the network.
“By 2020, it is estimated that 6.5 billion people worldwide will use mobile networks for data communications and 100 billion additional ‘things’, such as vehicles, meters, medical devices, and home appliances, will also be connected to the network over 5G.
“We have already achieved many technological breakthroughs in 5G research and innovation, but the majority of the work remains ahead of us.”
Huawei has its UK headquarters in Reading and employs almost 900 staff at 15 UK offices, including a research and development centre in Ipswich. The group has already worked on European 5G research, helping establish a 5G Innovation Centre at Guildford in Surrey.
The money will help explore ways to exploit airwaves to handle increasing volumes of data transmitted at faster speeds. The sum does not include the firm's investment plans for products such as 5G handsets.
Huawei has provoked controversy in recent years and was recently banned from working on a new broadband network in Australia over cyber security concerns, which the company said were unjustified.
Britain's national security adviser Sir Kim Darroch was tasked during the summer with investigating operations at the company's cyber security evaluation centre – known as the Cell – in Banbury, Oxfordshire, following concern from MPs.
Huawei, which was founded by a former officer in the People's Liberation Army, first became a major player in the UK when it signed a deal to supply transmission equipment to BT in 2005.