Editor's Note: At the ZTE APAC 5G Summit 2020 virtual event held in November 2020, Deng Wei, Deputy Director of Department of Wireless and Device Technology Research of China Mobile Research Institute, talked about how China Mobile is using the capabilities of 5G SA to extend its offerings to vertical industries including steel manufacturing, mining and port. ZTE has been actively involved in China Mobile's 5G deployment.
China Mobile's 5G+ Plan
To support the Digital China strategy, China Mobile comprehensively implements its 5G+ plans, including 5G+4G, 5G+AI, IoT, cloud computing, big data and edge computing (5G+AICDE), 5G+Ecology and 5G+X, which will eventually make 5G the main artery of social information flow, the accelerator of industry transformation, and the cornerstone for the development of digital society.
China Mobile and two other domestic operators have jointly promoted the development of 5G networks and subscriber base. By the end of September, more than 600,000 5G base stations have been deployed, of which, 300,000 base stations were deployed by China Mobile with the number to swell to over 350,000 by the year's end, covering over 300 cities. The number of devices connecting to the 5G network has exceeded 130 million, which is higher than that in the first year of 4G. At the same time, China Mobile has launched some 5G-enabled services that provide brand-new experience for customers.
China Mobile's 5G Strategy
Almost one year after China Mobile's 5G commercialization, China Mobile has launched a core strategy for 5G development, more specifically, accelerating the introduction of 5G SA and grabbing the opportunities in empowering thousands of industries.
What is 5G SA
The Move to 5G SA
5G SA enables network, capability and service innovation and supports diversified application scenarios for vertical industries.
First, SA mainly refers to a totally new core network architecture known as 5G Core. Compared with the 4G core network, the 5G Core has a service-based architecture, software-based functions and network intelligence, which allows the rapid introduction of functions and efficient allocation of network resources.
Second, SA brings many new capabilities to an end-to-end 5G network through innovative technologies such as network slicing, edge computing and uplink enhancement.
Third, 5G SA enables a variety of new services such as customized services, private networks and capability exposure.
Only with these three new features can 5G truly change the society.
China Mobile's 5G SA network can be commercially used within 2020. China Mobile supports the maturity of 5G SA in terms of standards, the industry, and applications. After more than one year of improvement, SA has become commercially viable.
Taking advantage of network slicing and edge computing, 5G SA brings significant performance benefits such as large capacity, high reliability and high uplink bandwidth. Based on different industrial application scenarios and typical requirements such as customized network, ultra-low latency, HD video backhaul, data on-site, service bundling, China Mobile develops three tiers of private network services, which are preferential, exclusive and premium.
There are also three types of capabilities: basic capability (QoS enhancement, slicing, edge computing, and private uplink); network deployment capability (resource pool, private network element, service offloading, wireless public/private network convergence and frequency coordination); service supporting capability (unified entrance, management orchestration, capability exposure and muti-dimensional billing).
For each type of capability, there exist many principles for matching the private network service. For example, slice isolation and DNN are capabilities for preferential service; edge cloud and carrier aggregation for exclusive service; private frame structure and whole uplink for premium service. This capability system provides support to private 5G network solutions and empowers thousands of industries.
The core capabilities of 5G SA bring about new business models, such as multi-dimensional and customized services. We can set value-based operation strategies in relation to different network capabilities (network speed, latency, reliability or capability combinations). We can also set customized strategies based on the service characteristics of customer's requirements. Such business models based on diversified values can avoid barriers brought by traffic-based operation mode when introducing 5G into vertical industries, fully use 5G's capabilities and protect the value of 5G networks.
Expanding into Vertical Industries
Three Horizontals and Five Verticals
Key Industrial Applications
China has been going through a digitization process for many years. The digital transformation of the entire society has manifested an obvious feature that can be summarized as “three horizontals and five verticals.”
The horizontals refer to the three common demands that arise from the digital transformation, namely online operations, intelligentization and cloudification. The verticals are key application scenarios resulting from the rapid penetration of information technology in the economy and society and specifically refers to the digitalization of infrastructure, social governance, production, ways of working and lifestyle.
5G SA with its capabilities maturing at the right time can effectively match the requirements of “three horizontals”, fully empower the vertical industries and greatly widen the scope of the communication industry.
China Mobile deeply understands the characteristics of “three horizontals and five verticals” and has created 100 group-level demonstration projects and 1,000 province-level feature projects across 15 industries, which could realize a large-scale replication of those solutions. With the integration of 5G in areas such as logistics, ports, industry, transportation, healthcare and high-end manufacturing, we have created many industry firsts.
China Mobile has made some exploration in meeting the requirements of different vertical industries with 5G SA.
The steel industry is a traditional industry with complicated processes and numerous links, including iron-smelting, steel-smelting, steel casting, and logistics. Considering 5G SA's low latency and high uplink bandwidth, China Mobile proposes the principle of “four alls” (for example, all on-site control rooms centralized and all operation positions using robotic arms). This changes a working environment featuring high temperatures, hazardous areas, and toxic gas to one with large-scale centralized control, remote operations and remote video surveillance, improving the work efficiency and achieving the digital transformation of steel enterprises.
In the mining industry, safe production is priority, which requires unmanned or less manned operations. After analyzing the production process of open pit mines, China Mobile found that the 5G's low latency, high reliability, high uplink bandwidth can meet unmanned requirements of drilling, shoveling and shipment. China Mobile deployed the 5G SA-based unmanned mining truck in Baiyun Ebo, Inner Mongolia, which has greatly improved production efficiency. The underground mining operation can also use 5G for HD video surveillance and unmanned excavations. China Mobile with the uplink enhancement technology achieved a maximum uplink speed of 1100 Mbps for Yangmei Goal Group in Shanxi so that “clearly and fully seeing the underground mine” was realized.
The port industry, both a traditional and modern one, has a high level of mechanization. In order to improve the production efficiency and reduce on-site manpower, the port also has an urgent need for automatic and intelligent transformation. By analyzing port operation flow, we found that, based on 5G SA's low latency and high uplink bandwidth, the transformation can be realized by meeting three conditions: first, wireless signals should meet the industrial equipment control standard; second, the existing business should not be interrupted when there is trenching or fiber installation; third, the port should be expandable in meeting the future new requirements in terms of equipment positioning, video surveillance and security protection.
5G has played an important role in tackling Covid-19 in China. 5G applications such as HD video live broadcast, remote healthcare, smart medical robot and unmanned vehicles and drones are used to fight against the pandemic and guarantee work resumption. 5G also accelerates the development of digital governance and digital economy and society. Nowadays, people are already accustomed to digital lifestyles such as cloud video, cloud commerce, cloud classroom, cloud office, and cloud games.
I believe that through the joint efforts of the whole industry, 5G SA will bring industrial applications into a new era, unleash 5G's full potential, and propel the digitalization of the society.