ZTE Executive Director and President Xu Ziyang talked to Mobile World Live about the key challenges operators face when launching 5G.
In terms of performance, functionality and maturity, how will 5G networks and devices evolve?
Let's first talk about the development of RAN. Due to the high-speed and low-latency requirements of 5G networks, chipsets have become the core driver supporting the function and performance of the devices and networks.
Current 7 nm chipsets have directly improved performance and reduced power consumption as compared to the previous generations. Specifically, the baseband computing power has increased threefold and the processing capacity of digital intermediate-frequency bandwidth has increased fourfold. In addition, RF full link efficiency has increased by around 20 percent, integration level has increased over 40 percent, while power consumption and weight have reduced by about 30 percent. With the introduction of 5 mn chips and continued technology progress in place, power consumption and weight are projected to decrease by over 20 percent annually.
Simultaneously, with more investments going into the development of wireless access networks, it can help fulfil coverage for more different scenario requirements. From there, it becomes natural to construct a network with the optimal price-performance ratio.
Regarding the development of core network, an SBA-based cloud-native core network that supports 2G/3G/4G/5G converged access has become the industry consensus. Looking ahead, automated deployment and intelligent operations will continue to improve network agility and flexibility, while cloud-network collaboration and cloud-edge collaboration will achieve higher resource utilization efficiency. Furthermore, inter-vendor collaboration and multilayer decoupling will provide operators with more flexibility.
On the transmission side, building a large-bandwidth, low-latency, and cost-effective transmission network will serve as a guarantee for 5G service deployment. Similarly, the key to transcending limits imposed by network bandwidth, transmission distance, and heat dissipation limits lie in the chipsets, algorithms, and liquid cooling technologies.
Lastly, when it comes to the device, one needs to bear in mind that the 5G era is scenario-oriented. In the 5G era, everything is sensory, connected, computed, smart and integrated. Therefore, our smartphones will be rooted in 5G and AI, and will leverage cloud services to deliver user experiences in different scenarios such as video, entertainment and gaming. Besides smartphones, 5G mobile broadband, IoT modules will also promote comprehensive industrial upgrading across different technologies, such as industrial manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, transportation, and smart city development.
What can operators of 2G to 4G networks do to ensure a smooth transition to 5G?
Apart from those with new licences, the current issue facing most operators who plan on constructing 5G networks is that they are concurrently operating 2G/3G/4G networks. Operators need to grapple with the uncertainties surrounding the change of business models and industry use cases.
When it comes to the details of 5G network construction and development, we propose a concept strategy of "addition, subtraction, multiplication and division". The idea of "subtraction" is targeted towards the issue of the coexistence amongst 2G/3G/4G/5G networks, and their related problems of resource constraints and network complexity. Through large bandwidth, multi-mode and multi-frequency products, operators could create simplified sites and streamline the processes of construction, operation and maintenance. For 5G networks, ZTE can provide full-band, full-scenario, full-series products and spectrum-sharing solutions which enable operators to build cost-effective and resource-efficient networks.
When it comes to "addition", ZTE's goal is to "add" capabilities such as edge computing and ubiquitous AI to simplified networks, to realize efficient collaborations and intelligent network operations on the cloud network and cloud edge. For "division", ZTE advocates an agile and flexible end-to-end slicing that supports a wide network of industries, while significantly reducing business deployment and trial-and-error costs. Lastly, ZTE aims to "multiply" by combining the above capabilities with business platforms such as big video (AR/VR/HD) and drones, in order to drive further innovation for different industry scenarios. All in all, the ultimate goal is to build a vibrant 5G ecosystem.
What internal factors should operators consider when developing 5G network routing?
Compared with 4G, the SBA-based 5G core network can support 2G/3G/4G/5G networks and fixed network convergence access. This allows for the flexible scaling of functions on demand, flexible deployment of end-to-end slicing, and smart operation of networks. Defined as a new type of infrastructure, 5G networks will form the basis for supporting industry transformation and a next-generation industrial revolution.
The industry consensus is that SA is the targeted network for 5G and can truly unleash the advantages of 5G deployment, thereby empowering business innovation. Indeed, China Mobile, China Telecom and other operators have already publicly stated that SA commercialization will be realized in 2020. ZTE has also been actively helping the industry promote the commercialization process of SA. The release of the first version of the commercial core network and the subsequent full verification, end-to-end slicing, and terminal IoDT, all ensure that SA technology is at the industry forefront.
Prior to 2020, constrained by the progress made in core network and terminal chipsets, 5G commercial operators generally began with the development of NSA first. In 2020, neither the commercial maturity of the 5G core network or the terminals supporting SA will be a constraint on SA network deployment. We firmly believe that more operators will consider the one-step SA construction model.
What kind of collaborative strategies should the different parts of the ICT ecosystem adopt to support the 5G ecosystem together?
From mobile internet to IoT, the application of 5G is gradually being expanded to all industries in society. As a collection of technologies and industry standards, 5G is currently experiencing increased integration and collaboration with new technologies such as cloud computing, edge computing, and AI. Considering the diversity of application scenarios, it is predicted that the 5G industry ecosystem will be larger and more complex than ever and, therefore, will require the support globally from different societies and industries.