The Convergence of 4G and 5G Drives Network Evolution

Release Date:2018-02-05  Author:By Zhang Jiong  Click:

From the technical development perspective, 5G is an innovation and revolution based on 4G and also a natural evolution and extension of 4G. From the perspective of network deployment, initial 5G networks may not be deployed on a continuous and complete basis but need to converge and collaborate with existing 4G networks that are more extensively covered and well developed.

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According to the GSMA’s forecast, global 4G connections will grow rapidly for many years and even continue to surpass 5G connections for a period of time (Fig. 1). This growth trend matches the maturity of 4G and its industry chain, the potential of 4G evolution, the abundance of 4G terminals, and the unbalanced development of current networks worldwide. In this context, in order to maintain competitive advantages, it is imperative to converge 4G and 5G, and optimize the capital structure and network evolution path based on existing 4G networks. All this raises a real and pressing need for the convergence of 4G and 5G.
The evolution of 4G networks needs to leverage the fruits of 5G development as many as possible. Applying a part of 5G technologies in 4G networks in advance allows ordinary users to enjoy better service experience. This doesn’t mean to separate 5G completely from 4G to miss the opportunities for network evolution. ZTE’s Massive MIMO is just a typical solution that applies 5G core technologies in advance to current 4G networks. Without modifying the core network or changing existing 4G terminals, the solution can significantly improve spectrum efficiency. Moreover, the deployment and upgrade of existing 4G networks needs to be prepared for 5G evolution. This ensures a smooth evolution while protecting the existing investment. ZTE’s 4G series of products including RRUs, AAUs, and BBUs support the smooth evolution to 5G, and can be directly deployed in 4G networks to offer 4G services. Once 5G standards are frozen and operators begin to deploy 5G networks, these products can support 5G through software upgrade.
The convergence of 4G and 5G also needs to consider the network evolution. Accordingly, the convergence has to be done in stages.
At the first stage, by using the cutting-edge LTE-A, LTE-A Pro, and part of 5G technologies, 4G networks continue to evolve in terms of larger capacity, lower latency, more connections, and more flexible architecture. ZTE’s Pre5G is a total solution that incorporates new and innovative technologies and solutions such as Massive MIMO, LAA, and NB-IoT/eMTC. The Pre5G solution has been deployed and commercialized in more than 110 networks of over 60 countries.
At the second stage, 4G and 5G networks will start to converge, after the first version of 5G standards will be released in 2018 and 5G networks will be gradually deployed by operators in some countries. Over a period of time, 4G and 5G networks will co-exist, and so will 4G and 5G terminals. The percentage of 4G terminals will be significantly higher than that of 5G terminals. In this case, a quality 4G/5G network will certainly require a superb solution to 4G/5G convergence.
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From the RRU perspective, ZTE’s Pre5G Massive MIMO is a perfect solution for seamless intra-frequency upgrade to 5G. The solution supports gradual frequency refarming to 5G on appropriate bands. However, in the 4G era, a non-Massive MIMO RRU also needs to support 5G at a minimal cost. ZTE’s new-generation RRU series is exactly the leading product solution that can support 5G only through software upgrade. For example, both ZXRAN R8894E and ZXRAN R8998E support 4G and 5G, and allow for easy evolution to 5G. They are the most cost-effective and flexible solution for deploying 5G-oriented networks at the present stage.
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From the BBU perspective, a BBU needs to support both 4G and 5G, and has the capability of flexible configuration and collaboration. ZTE’s new-generation BBU is a virtual BBU based on the IT platform. It supports both 4G and 5G, and implements dual connections in a converged 4G/5G network scenario. Its distinct advantages like small size, large capacity, and flexible deployment are important guarantees for the evolution from 4G to 5G. ZXRAN V9200, a leading BBU based on the IT platform, supports both 4G and 5G, and flexible configuration and networking modes. With ultra-high capacity, ZXRAN V9200 can meet the needs for deploying 4G, 5G, and converged 4G and 5G networks in multiple scenarios.
The convergence of 4G and 5G drives smooth backward network evolution, so the cost-effective smooth evolution solution with advanced technologies and superior performance are a preferred choice for operators. Drawing on its rapid and efficient deployment and delivery experience and the future evolution capability, ZTE has rolled out a complete industry-leading 4G/5G convergence solution that will certainly help operators gain an upper hand and have more success in the upcoming 5G era.  

[Keywords] 4G and 5G, Convergence, 4G/5G convergence, 5G

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