During 5G Asia 2018 held on September 18–20 in Singapore, Bai Yang, CTO of ZTE Asia & CIS Region, talked to ZTE Technologies about the 5G development in Asia Pacific and ZTE's role in the region's emerging 5G landscape.
What do you think of Asia Pacific's 5G development as compared to the rest of the world?
More than half of the world's mobile subscribers are in Asia Pacific, which also includes the world’s two biggest mobile markets, China and India. Asia Pacific has seen a rapid growth of 4G services due to extensive 4G deployments in the region. China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia have completed lots of 5G verification tests based on existing networks and will be the first countries to commercialize 5G services by 2019. It is expected that led by these pioneering countries, Asia Pacific will be the largest 5G region in the world by 2025, and lead in the development of 5G ecosystem.
What's ZTE's current focus in Asia Pacific?
Asia Pacific is always our most important overseas market. Indonesia, India, Japan, Myanmar and Thailand are five biggest markets in this region. Vietnam and Philippines, two densely populated and rapidly developing countries, are also important markets that we’ll expand into. With 20 years of presence in the Asia-Pacific telecoms market, we have established long-term strategic partnership with major carriers like SoftBank, SingTel, Bharti Airtel, Ooredoo, Hutchison, and of course, three Chinese carriers. We have been their most reliable partner and guide for technology innovation. From a product perspective, we focus on future-oriented technologies like 5G/Pre5G, optical transmission and access, and SDN/NFV in this region.
What kind of role is ZTE playing in Asia Pacific's 5G development?
Taking 5G development as its core strategy, ZTE establishes leadership in the commercialization, the core technologies and the economies of scale for 5G. ZTE, in close cooperation with China Mobile, AIS and other mainstream carriers, has deployed a series of 5G trial networks to get prepared for 5G commercialization.
With complete product lines, ZTE can provide end-to-end 5G solutions covering wireless, core network and bearer network. ZTE holds lots of 5G-related core patents. As the first drafter of nonorthogonal multiple access (NOMA), ZTE led the adoption of NOMA by the 3GPP RAN Working Group 1. Another core technology multi-user shared access (MUSA) proposed by ZTE is also expected to become a 5G standard.
TDD-LTE lays the basis for 5G. ZTE’s TDD shipments have, for four consecutive years, accounted for one third of the world’s total, which lays the foundation for 5G’s advanced commercialized use and cost savings. China Mobile has deployed more than 3 million 4G base stations across China. As China Mobile’s major 4G supplier, ZTE will deploy a large-scale 5G network for them in the next two years, which could effectively lower the cost of 5G products.
In addition, ZTE has actively participated in many standardization bodies such as ITU, 3GPP and IEEE. It has also joined organizations such as the 5G Automotive Association to explore 5G applications with industry partners, and cooperated with many top universities around the world to build 5G research centers. We can say that ZTE is leading the way to 5G.
Could you give us some concrete examples about how ZTE is helping operators transform their networks in preparation for 5G in Asia Pacific?
ZTE plans to complete pre-commercial deployment of 5G by the end of 2018, and scaled deployment of 5G in first half of 2019. ZTE has established 5G partnerships with over 20 top operators around the world, providing products and services for the world’s first 5G commercial deployments. Among them, China Mobile is the strategic partner that ZTE has cooperated for the longest time.
As early as the first half of 2016, ZTE has already deployed Pre5G Massive MIMO products for China Mobile in 30 provinces in China. Subsequently, the two companies jointly established a 5G Joint Innovation Center to perform tests and verifications of 5G end-to-end solution and products. In June 2017, ZTE established China’s first 5G pre-commercial base station in Guangzhou for China Mobile, achieving peak data rates of over 2 Gbps for a single UE. In November 2017, ZTE and China Mobile jointly completed field tests of continuous coverage of multiple base stations, which is very close to meet commercial network requirements. In December 2017, ZTE got one-third share of China Mobile’s NB-IoT project. In April 2018, ZTE and China Mobile made the first 5G call compliant with the 3GPP R15 standard, formally launching the field site for an end-to-end 5G commercial system. In terms of 5G applications, ZTE and China Mobile together joined Baidu’s Apollo Program to verify the application and key technologies of autonomous driving. ZTE will achieve the first commercial 5G deployment with China Mobile and extend its successful experience to other operators around the world.
What are the major challenges in Asia Pacific in the path towards 5G?
In some countries, such as India, Indonesia and Thailand, due to fierce competition in the telecommunications market, carriers’ profits have been declining, and their willingness to invest in new technologies has decreased, which is not a positive trend. As can be seen from 4G deployments in the last few years, the carriers who deployed 4G first in the country, such China Mobile, has achieved huge first-mover advantages and seized a large number of users, especially high-value users. Carriers should be actively involved in 5G testing, and deploy small-scale 5G trial networks in hotspots or large cities with controllable investment, to get prepared for commercial 5G deployment.
How can ZTE better help operators cope with these challenges?
ZTE can provide end-to-end 5G solutions and mature, commercial-ready 5G products, and has rich 5G pre-commercial experience. ZTE is willing to provide consulting services for operators and develop customized 5G evolution solutions based on their networks. For operators that are still working on large-scale 4G rollouts, ZTE’s 4G and Pre5G products support the smooth evolution to 5G without causing investment waste. In addition, compared to traditional networks, ZTE’s SDN/NFV-based virtualized core network and transmission network can reduce the costs and the service commissioning time. ZTE’s leading GPON products and big video platforms can reuse existing network infrastructure, helping traditional operators enter a huge new market with a small investment, and realize full-service transformation.
What's your expectation for ZTE's growth in the Asia-Pacific market?
As a company that actively embraces change, ZTE is devoted to research and development of innovative technologies and deployment of products and solutions. For the Asia-Pacific region, ZTE aims to seize the opportunities offered by strategic products including 5G, beyond 100G, and SDN/NFV, and become a leader in 5G by continuously optimizing its strategic layout regarding customers and products.
[Keywords] Asia Pacific; 5G commercialization, 5G development