As Pre5G technologies and services evolve continually, their performance and applications are increasingly marked by 5G-like features. Meanwhile, the 5G standards have gradually matured, and the time for 5G commercialization is drawing near. What “sparks” will be created when Pre5G meets 5G? There are certain expectations or curiosities in the industry. Can Pre5G co-exist with 5G? Will Pre5G evolve to 5G? Is it better to first deploy Pre5G than wait for 5G? In October 2017, ZTE launched its Pre5G upgrade solution following its innovation philosophy of “enjoying the present, co-building the future”. The solution points out a direction for the industry.
Enjoying the Present, Co-Building the Future
At present, although the time for 5G commercial use is approaching, the mass commercialization of 5G must rely on a mature industry chain including business models and terminals. From the terminal aspect, based on industry experience in 4G commercial use , it is predicted that 5G terminals will be used on a large scale in two years or even later after 5G standards have matured. It is therefore believed that 5G deployment and application is an on-demand and step-by-step process that can give a full play to post-4G technologies. The performance of existing networks is being gradually increased during the 4G network evolution. ZTE’s Pre5G not only covers the 4G network evolution but also uses key 5G technologies on 4G terminals in advance. Therefore, with 4G networks having 5G-like performance, people can enjoy 5G experience now, as proven by plenty of Pre5G networks currently deployed for commercial use.
In the future, or in at least the next decade, Pre5G will serve as a mainstream service-bearer network and co-exist with 5G for collaborative development. On the one hand, due to differential service development, 5G will be gradually deployed in high-end markets, while 4G evolution (or Pre5G) networks will still dominate the middle- and low-end markets. These multiple networks will co-exist for a long term. On the other hand, due to user habits, 4G subscribers will still dominate the market. That is, 4G and post-4G networks after the introduction of Pre5G will still play a principal service-bearing role, while 5G networks will largely bear the services of high-end and hotspot areas and new services like uRLLC. Under this circumstance, the 4G evolution and 5G deployment will advance abreast to collaboratively improve user experience with multiple networks. Moreover, with SDR features, Pre5G will evolve to 5G through software upgrade. This creates a more promising prospect for Pre5G.
Building 5G-like Networks, Enabling the 5G Era
The total Pre5G solution revolves around enabling the 5G-like eMBB, 5G-ready network architecture, and 5G-oriented service applications for comprehensive 5G network construction.
eMBB is the first and most important 5G service that can reach a peak cell rate of 10 Gbps. Pre5G has adopted various mobile broadband technologies and their portfolios, such as high-order MIMO, multi-carrier aggregation, ultra-dense networking, and high-order modulation, and these technologies continue to evolve. The Massive MIMO technology increases the spectrum efficiency by eight times. With function portfolios including multi-carrier aggregation, Pre5G can increase the cell peak throughput to the xGbps level, bringing 5G-like broadband service experience.
Cloudification has become an irresistible trend in network development, and the industry players have totally accepted the concept that cloudification should precede 5G deployment. The Pre5G solution introduces a cloud-based network architecture that encompasses the core and access networks and continues to evolve. ZTE’s Cloud ServCore, based on network function virtualization (NFV) and Cloud Native, is facilitating the smooth and quick introduction of 5G network functions. ZTE’s Cloud RAN, based on the NFV and access cloud engine (ACE), is also moving toward a commercial stage.
Based on the xGbps MBB and massive IoT, Pre5G can provides broad lines of 5G-oriented digital services and applications that include eMBB-based high data rate services (for example, ultra HD videos, VR, and online HD games) and massive IoT applications based on NB-IoT and eMTC (like smart city, intelligent parking, environmental surveillance, and wearables) , thereby enabling the seamless connection to the future 5G digital life.
As a world-leading wireless solution provider, ZTE, while implementing the Pre5G solution, has been advancing the global commercial use of 5G networks, such as xGbps networks, NB-IoT networks, and virtualized cloud-based networks. By the end of 2017, ZTE’s Pre5G-related products and solutions had been deployed in over 110 networks of 60-plus countries including China, Japan, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. The worldwide application of Pre5G not only benefits 4G subscribers but also provides valuable reference for 5G commercial deployment in the future.
With years of commercial Pre5G practices and comprehensive 5G investments, ZTE has been providing 5G end-to-end network solutions and pre-commercial products covering wireless, core network, transport and network management, greatly signifying its role as a 5G pioneer in the industry. As a chief contributor in global standard research, ZTE has submitted more than 4,000 international proposals concerning 5G NR and led the research on the 3GPP NOMA standard. In China, ZTE took the initiatives to complete all the 5G phase 2 testing items in 2017, with the results in the eMBB, eMTC, and uRLLC scenarios hitting the ITU-defined KPIs and the industrial records in succession. Meanwhile, ZTE has been working with mainstream operators like China Mobile, Softbank, and Telefonica to carry out field and pre-commercial tests.
Pre5G, 5G-like, 5G era, 5G-ready, 5G-oriented