ZTE considers that the co-evolution of 4G and 5G networks is a key issue as these two technologies will be sharing many resources and will be offering each other a strong support in the next decade.
This is why, ZTE believe that it is essential for CSPs to modernize networks as 5G-oriented as possible and at the same time achieving better 4G capabilities, to co-evolve the networks to a more technologically and financially promising 5G future.
According to Shen Jianda, VP of ZTE Corporation, the "fast deployment of 5G would give operators a big head start. For initial 5G rollout, high-value areas should be selected firstly, based on factors including high ARPU, high traffic, and high penetration rate of high-end smart phones. NSA has more endorsement at this stage, because it does not need 5GC so faster rollout could be more easily achieved". The executive highlighted that SA 5G networks are ultimate goal of 5G development, as these networks will be able to provide more attractive 5G new services.
"During the initial 5G stage, CSPs should make full use of the existing 4G networks, deploy 5G networks rapidly and efficiently, take into account the requirements on the existing network and subsequent 5G networks, adopt an efficient and comprehensive 5G evolution solution," the executive said.
ZTE highlights that the common view of the industry, including operators, is that 4G and 5G technologies will coexist and complement each other during a long period of time. 4G&5G co-evolution is also in line with the demand of operators at this stage. For operators, 4G is their strong revenue support, which will not change in a short term. It is essential for CSPs to factor in all these concerns with the best possible balance, with every dollar invested now providing much better 4G performance and 5G capabilities, ZTE said.
There are many resources that can be shared among 4G and 5G, and from RAN perspective, ZTE believes that RAN site and spectrum are the two most important things to be taken into consideration. Site space in high-value areas is insufficient, it is difficult to add additional equipment, and more equipment also means more rental cost and TCO. While 4G sites with high load still need capacity expansion to meet the growing traffic requirements, it is also important to deploy 5G rapidly, efficiently, and cheaply. Therefore, it is essential for existing equipment to be both 4G-powerful and 5G-capable, to maximize the return on investment for CSPs.
"The existing 2G/3G/4G network is usually based on sub-3GHz spectrum. The spectrum is low, the coverage is good, and the cost of upgrading 5G is low. Therefore the existing 2G/3G/4G spectrum re-farming provides a cheap solution for 5G evolution. Spectrum sharing and flexible spectrum scheduling among GSM, UMTS, LTE, NB-IoT and 5G NR can improve spectrum utilization in an all-round way, and help 5G-oriented smooth re-farming of the existing spectrum," Shen said.
According to ZTE, operators should strive for the balance between critical investment in 5G to offer much better user experiences and guaranteed service in the existing 4G. "This is exactly why ZTE believes a comprehensive solution for both efficient 5G rollout and modernized 4G is in the core of facilitating operators' network upgrade and 5G implementation. ZTE's UniSite is such an integrated solution for multi-RATs, especially the long-term 4G/5G coordination, integration and evolution," Shen added.
UniSite is incorporated with some of ZTE's latest high-performance and high-integration products, such as ultra-broadband radio and combiner-imbedded RRU, realizing highly efficient site deployment, supporting 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G in all sub-3GHz bands with just one antenna. While network capacity can be greatly enhanced, the number of equipment required for a radio site can be dramatically reduced, which in turn saves precious space for 5G deployment. For example, ZTE's tri-band ultra-broadband radio product (for 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 2100 MHz) can reduce the number of radio units by up to 67%. ZTE's other innovative products, including Massive MIMO, Pad radio family, and multi-mode and multi-band QCell, offer a complete portfolio for all of the important deployment scenarios. UniSite can enhance network capacity and performance, simplify site deployment, and facilitate smooth migration to 5G, with lower TCO in multi-mode and multi-band network evolution.