As the pace of 5G commercialization is getting closer, the industry's focus has gradually shifted from 5G technology verification to actual network deployment. 5G sites, as the top priority of 5G networks, account for more than 80% of the operator's investment. Therefore, the deployment of 5G sites has become a major concern and challenge in the industry, especially for operators and equipment vendors.
Challenges of 5G Site Deployment
Deployment of 5G network is more complicated than that of 2G, 3G, 4G and NB networks because of the complexity of 5G spectrum and service characteristics. Especially the deployment of 5G wireless sites poses even greater challenges which involve:
More sites: The first phase of 5G deployment is chiefly based on the 3.5–5 GHz frequency bands. Compared to 2G, 3G, 4G and NB networks within the sub-3 GHz bands, 5G needs more sites to achieve continuous coverage with better rate experience. This leads to huge capital costs for operators.
More difficult site acquisition: There is a challenge in the acquisition of new sites, especially in the early 5G deployment starting from urban areas. It is quite difficult to obtain new sites in these areas. There is also difficulty in acquiring existing network sites because of stricter spatial constraints and higher rents.
More devices: The introduction of 5G brings more devices to the site. It is more complicated to deploy and operate these devices of different systems on multiple frequency bands apart from the increasing rental fees.
How to protect network investment: Operators need to protect their network investment. They will consider maintaining and adding the value to their newly-built networks on the long run while making full use of their existing networks.
How to reduce the impact on existing networks: The major concern in the 5G deployment is to avoid or reduce the interruption of existing services. Another concern is to avoid the impact of 5G network such as interference on the performance of existing networks.
ZTE UniSite Solution: Simplifying 5G Site Deployment
Relying on the deep understanding of the challenges faced by operators in their 5G deployment, ZTE has proposed some ideas to help them address the challenges.
Maximize existing site utilization: Existing sites are valuable resources, so operators try their best to find ways to maximize site utilization. For example, they introduce multi-mode multi-frequency convergence devices, high-capacity devices, highly integrated devices, and high-order MIMO to reduce the number of devices used, so that a single site can accommodate more systems and more frequency bands and improve its spectrum efficiency.
Rapidly deploy new sites at low cost: Match the corresponding site solutions according to site environments, make good use of environmental resources, and avoid public discontent. For example, light poles are used to build a site to cover hotspot areas in the commercial street.
Reduce the impact on existing network services: Protect and make full use of existing network devices to reduce as much as possible the impact on existing services. Deploy a new 5G network while reconstructing or swapping existing network devices unless they are outdated and cannot be evolved. Decouple 4G and 5G, and make independent 5G configuration, maintenance and networking except the co-site infrastructure sharing.
Based on these ideas, ZTE has launched its UniSite solution (Fig. 1). UniSite incorporates the concept of convergence to completely simplify the radio site and maximize site utilization, so that 5G can be rapidly introduced at a low cost. UniSite brings the following attractions to operators:
A full range of site solutions meet diverse coverage needs
: UniSite involves several scenarios such as Macro site, QCell site, Pad site, and iMacro site. These site solutions are cost effective to match different 5G scenarios.
Multi-mode BBUs create a high-performance network
: The new-generation BBU V9200 based on a virtual platform can be commercially deployed. The BBU V9200 supporting 2G, 3G, 4G, NB and 5G is the industry's largest-capacity BBU with a height of 2U. It integrates virtual and IT platforms to offer elastic RAN capacity and open interfaces, enabling local innovative services and supporting flexible CRAN and DRAN networking.
Multi-mode multi-band RF units simplify the site and reduce TCO
: Considering the coexistence of multi-mode multi-band sites, ZTE has launched a series of ultra broadband RF units (UBRs) based on its multi-mode SDR platform. There are UBRs operating on 800M+900M bands and UBRs operating on 1800M+2100M bands, which significantly reduce the number of site devices, simplify the deployment, and lower the requirements and TCO for the site. ZTE has also rolled out a variety of 5G AAU/RRU products to match different coverage scenarios. For example, 64TR is developed to cover urban high-traffic areas, and 16TR is used to cover ordinary areas. These devices support smooth evolution to 4G/5G mixed mode through software upgrade.
Antenna integration facilitates the introduction of 5G
: The traditional site has a large number of single-frequency antennas, which result in the lack of antenna space and difficulty to expand network capacity. ZTE has launched a variety of multi-frequency multi-port antennas to reduce TCO by integrating antenna space. The typical integration solution integrates all sub-3 GHz passive antennas in one antenna and forms 1+1 antenna system after introducing 5G AAU. The sub-3 GHz antenna and RRU are integrated into a multi-frequency AAU, which makes the RF units require less antenna space and also reduces TCO.
New-generation Flexhaul transmission devices meet 5G service bearer requirements
: A new generation of bearer products based on FlexE and SDN are characterized by industry-leading 5G transport applications, ultra-low latency, ultra-high clock accuracy, and high reliability. They can fully meet the needs of 5G services.
New-generation outdoor cabinets and power supplies meet the need of 4G+5G for large capacity
: Considering the introduction of 5G, ZTE has developed a new outdoor large-capacity cabinet. Although the new cabinet greatly improves its capacity, its size is exactly the same as that of the old one. Its installation interfaces are also similar to those of the old one. This ensures good compatibility with existing network devices and cabinets. The new-generation cabinet supports B8200+V9200 overlay deployment and can embed 5G transmission equipment to achieve all-in-one deployment. The next-generation power module is also embedded in the cabinet and provides a maximum DC output of 350A. The new power module can be connected to a maximum of 21 RRUs and AAUs due to more breakers, and its system efficiency reaches as much as 98%.
UniSite is a cost-effective solution that comprehensively addresses the challenges faced by operators in deploying their 5G sites. The UniSite solution has the advantages of high performance, low TCO and easy deployment.
The UniSite solution provides high performance. It has super large-capacity site, new-generation large-capacity BBUs based on a virtualized platform, ultra broadband RF units, new-generation 5G transmission devices, and new-generation large-capacity outdoor cabinets. Multi-mode BBUs or RF units can be converged and collaborative. They are highly reliable and adaptive to various scenarios. The solution reduces TCO. It makes good use of existing network devices, so that the operator’s investment can be protected. The multi-band multi-mode site reduces the number of devices used and allows for long-term smooth evolution. This saves more space and consumes less energy. The solution also provides easy deployment. Its multi-band multi-mode converged devices and all-in-one highly integrated outdoor cabinets simplify site installation, and its flexible site schemes facilitate rapid deployment.
UniSite, Site deployment, Simplified and convergent site, 4G to 5G evolution,