ZTE Makes Pitch for pre5G at 5G-ICT Workshop

Huawei's been making a lot of noise about 5G lately, so it's no surprise that rival ZTE would want to get in on the action. The Chinese vendor provided updates on its vision for "pre5G" at an international meeting of industry officials.

In an address at the International Workshop on 5G-ICT Technologies conference in Beijing, Xiang Jiying, chief technology officer of wireless products at ZTE, said pre5G will become available much earlier than 5G and deliver a user experience comparable to 5G, offering high throughput and low latency. Pre5G will use some key 5G technologies while being provisioned on existing 4G user equipment (UE), Xiang told delegates at the conference, according to a press release.

"Even though the industry is still working on 5G standardization, we already have a lot of clarity on 5G user experience and the 5G candidate technologies," Xiang said. "Therefore, pre5G can be defined and implemented even before 5G becomes standardized."

The International Workshop on 5G-ICT Technologies conference, hosted by the Future Mobile Communications Forum, was attended by representatives from companies including China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Qualcomm and Intel.

ZTE says it has put a lot of effort into 5G research and development and has been making breakthroughs and innovations in key 5G technologies. In June, the company released details of what a new 5G access network architecture would look like based on dynamic mesh networking.

But why wait for 5G, which has yet to be defined by the standards community? ZTE says massive MIMO has become an important part of "pre5G," and it is developing precommercial massive-MIMO products without modifying the legacy 4G air interface.

More specifically, ZTE has proposed virtual cell technology for the evolution from cloud radio to the ultra-dense network (UDN), which effectively solves the problem of cell-edge interference in 4G networks. "The multi-user shared access (MUSA) technology proposed by ZTE improves network capacity significantly, with reasonable complexity," the company states. "The coding-based design greatly enlarges the number of users accessed simultaneously, and SIC receivers are used so no synchronization is required between users, which is particularly useful for prolonging terminal battery life."

Uplink MUSA is a suitable candidate for machine-type communications, according to the company. In addition, ZTE says that for several years it has been investing heavily in 4G vector processing chips, which have an extensible software architecture and strong processing capacity and can meet pre5G requirements by just modifying instruction sets rather than changing the hardware.

ZTE is not the only vendor talking about getting more out of 4G. Huawei, too, has weighed in with a "pre5G" concept, which it calls 4.5G. That 4.5G technology will include higher-order MIMO, "massive" carrier aggregation, semi-orthogonal multiple access (SOMA), shorter wireless scheduling time, the use of unlicensed spectrum, as well as open and agile network cloud architecture to speed up the deployment of new services.

It's too early to say which vendors' preferred technologies ultimately will make it into the standards, and having a technology between "Gs" is not unusual, as it was done with 3.5G, a shorthand way of describing technology iterations beyond 3G but not quite 4G.

Many network vendors have weighed in on what 5G should entail, with Alcatel-Lucent wireless CTO Michael Peeters warning that 5G should not become a technology dumping ground composed of all the things that didn't get included in earlier technology evolutions. More recently, 5G Americas published a white paper last month detailing issues it believes need to be addressed from an Americas standpoint.

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