Sunday, 24 January 2021

ZTE: As 5G evolves so too must the RAN

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Wednesday 02 December 20

In Part 1 of this interview, Total Telecom spoke to Jiang Wen, Deputy General Manager of RAN Product Marketing at ZTE, about the ways in which 5G has changed in the last two years

With 5G being deployed in some markets for almost two years now, operators are beginning to get better acquainted with the new technology. What are operators leading concerns today when it comes to 5G and what can ZTE offer them?   5G deployment is indeed now on the fast track around the world, with 397 countries investing in 5G as of mid-September according to GSA.   As a result of this large-scale deployment in the past two years, operators’ focus on 5G is now being shifted from deployment to performance and verticals – a change that requires even more innovation and technology advances.   ZTE believes 5G networks should not only deliver higher capacity to meet the growing demands for mobile data, but also meet those of vertical industries to enable new services and business models beyond previous imaginations, as this is a sector that will offer the biggest growth opportunities for operators. Based on our experiences in 5G deployment and  exploration, we have released a range of innovative solutions to help operators offer both superior B2C 5G networks and flexible and powerful B2B 5G networks.   For consumer applications, ZTE is focusing on three main areas, including network performance, energy efficiency…

With 5G being deployed in some markets for almost two years now, operators are beginning to get better acquainted with the new technology. What are operators leading concerns today when it comes to 5G and what can ZTE offer them?
 
5G deployment is indeed now on the fast track around the world, with 397 countries investing in 5G as of mid-September according to GSA.
 
As a result of this large-scale deployment in the past two years, operators’ focus on 5G is now being shifted from deployment to performance and verticals – a change that requires even more innovation and technology advances.
 
ZTE believes 5G networks should not only deliver higher capacity to meet the growing demands for mobile data, but also meet those of vertical industries to enable new services and business models beyond previous imaginations, as this is a sector that will offer the biggest growth opportunities for operators. Based on our experiences in 5G deployment and  exploration, we have released a range of innovative solutions to help operators offer both superior B2C 5G networks and flexible and powerful B2B 5G networks.
 
For consumer applications, ZTE is focusing on three main areas, including network performance, energy efficiency, and spectrum utilisation. 
 
For network performance, there are two leading concerns. The first one is to provide the best possible coverage everywhere in the most flexible and effective way, for which ZTE’s innovative SSB 1+X solution offers best-in-class SSB beaming scheme in terms of perfect balance of deployment applicability and performance for both horizontal and vertical domains, with up to a 30% enhancement of high-rise building floor coverage, and without any compromise of ground coverage. The second concern is that uplink coverage and performance can be an issue particularly with SA 5G and C-band spectrum, for which FAST (FDD-Assisted Super TDD), another innovation, with close collaboration of FDD low band and TDD middle band, provides an optimal solution to guarantee continuous 5G coverage and improve downlink and uplink capacity.
 
For energy efficiency, the leading concern is that 5G sometimes consumes too much power and is inefficient at the initial stage of deployment. ZTE’s PowerPilot is a revolutionary 5G green solution that can save up to double the best possible energy savings of any rival solutions, by leveraging the energy efficiencies between 4G and 5G and directing certain users based on their service types. 
 
For spectrum utilisation, one big challenge is to both utilise more spectrum for 5G and migrate legacy services as smoothly as possible. SuperDSS is the industry’s first Tri-RAT dynamic spectrum sharing solution, which can open up many more applicable scenarios of dynamic spectrum sharing for 5G quick introduction, without having to phase out 2G and/or 3G legacy services, increasing overall throughput by up to 35%.
 
We also have innovations for vertical industry applications. The NodeEngine solution, for example, is a very convenient and flexible solution that brings high computing power to the base stations and then offers the fastest and most secure data services (via traffic local offload) and precise private networks, simply by plugging one extra board to the existing 5G baseband unit. This solution is ideal for deploying private networks for middle- and small-scale businesses.
 
 
You have released numerous white papers recently on some of the technical aspects of 5G. What inspired you to create these documents?
 
Sharing our innovation and experiences with our customers and the industry and helping them succeed has always been a core mission of ZTE. During the past few years of 5G development and deployment, we have seen first-hand how the stakeholders can benefit from the know-how of the leading players. Based on our experiences in both China and other countries, and our latest innovations and insights, we have released many informative whitepapers. For 5G RAN, the most recent ones are:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Later this month, we will release more white papers, including one that focuses on 5G uplink enhancement technology and another on the ZTE PowerPilot solution. 
 
 
One of the most exciting areas for 5G right now is its incorporation with vertical industries, which should lead to a huge growth in fresh opportunities for operators. What areas of vertical industry is ZTE currently focusing on when it comes to 5G? 
 
The vertical industries that ZTE is currently focusing on include manufacturing, public transportation, power grids, mining, ports, and more, based on our two strongly correlated but distinctively unique layers of understanding of 5G vertical applications. The first layer is that the various industries share many fundamental requirements together, such as high uplink bandwidth and short latency, and the second layer is that they also have very unique applications that require precise and specific fusion between those fundamental capabilities and the end use cases. For any operators and vendors for 5G verticals it is crucial to have this type of big picture for deploying a capable and precise network that can meet the specific requirements and expectations of the industries.
 
The fundamental capabilities that are commonly required and we need to provide for the industries are: big uplink bandwidth, low latency, high reliability, network slicing, and precise positioning. The first capability is easy to understand but B2B can be different from what we might need for B2C because it requires not only excellent downlink but also often uplink; any use cases, such as high-definition surveillance, remote control and machine vision, that involve lots of video upload will require major uplink capabilities, which is why we offer a set of powerful solutions including deep collaboration between different frequency bands and flexible spectrum frame structures to achieve not only great download speed but also Gbps-level uplink speed.
 
Low latency is often more important for those critical and sensitive services dependent on the shortest possible lag introduced by the network, such as remote control. Overall lower latency can be achieved either by air interface technology enhancements (such as URLLC) or others like traffic offload, or both.
 
High reliability can be achieved by more redundant scheduling schemes to make sure more error-prone transmission of data. In cases where this is not adequate, re-transmission can be used to further guarantee reliability provided latency would not be compromised.
 
Over the past years, 5G positioning can deliver a level of precision that is basically on par even with satellite solutions. Based on ZTE’s radio frequency fingerprint algorithm, up to five-meter precision for indoor positioning can be achieved.
 
Networking slicing, a popular 5G technology, also plays an important role for the radio access network where physical resource block (PRB) slicing can offer resources in a very flexible and guaranteed way to end applications.
 
In addition to the above fundamental capability improvement, the innovative NodeEngine solution proposed by ZTE, that is installed simply by plugging one extra board to the existing 5G baseband unit, brings high computing power to the base stations with low cost, bringing fundamental capabilities more in line with the industries and opening up more opportunities for medium and small businesses to benefit from 5G for more diverse applications.
 
Offering the fundamental capabilities is crucial, but materialising these capabilities in various industries through tailored integration into their specific applications is equally important. ZTE has done a great job in doing just that. Manufacturing, for example, is a typical industry where many of the fundamental capabilities are required. Gian Technology, for instance, uses 5G solutions from ZTE to modernise their factory, and this award-winning project has built a 5G-based private network that supports a quality inspection system with much improved efficiency and fewer human resources. Tianjin Port, a top ten container port in the world, also uses ZTE solutions for a smart port system, realising new ways of doing old things with much better efficiency, including remote control of container cranes, meaning operating engineers no longer have to do shifts sitting on the crane for hours;  AI-based automated guided vehicles for port management; and high-definition-based customs inspection. Mining is special in that the core value of our solution is for the well-being of the miners, as 5G in the pit helps bring much safer operations to places where no wireless solutions have ever gone before, with greatly improved pit safety and mining efficiency. Thanks to the technology, the number of instances when miners need to do high-risk operations underground in person has been significantly decreased.
 
ZTE has been helping operators offer fundamental network capabilities to the various industries, so that 5G can benefit the industries through economies of scale and improved performance, and is working with many industries to ensure their specific needs can be provided for with the latest 5G innovations.
 
 
In Part 2 of this fascinating interview, Jiang Wen will take us on a deeper dive of ZTE’s latest technological breakthroughs and how they are shaping the ever-changing world of 5G.
 
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