With the rapid growth of network traffic demand, the 5G commercialization process is also accelerating, and many operators around the world announced that they will launch 5G services in 2019. As one of the four main equipment vendors in the 4G era, ZTE has released 5G end-to-end product solutions, ready for the coming large-scale 5G network construction. As of now, ZTE has carried out 5G cooperation and testing with more than 40 operators worldwide, and continues to rank in the first camp of 5G
5G is highly anticipated
Compared with 4G, 5G features tens or hundreds times higher network speed, lower latency and much higher connection density, some of which may not be provided by 4G. Therefore, it has really significant influence to users, economy and the society. Along with the development of 5G, we also witness the rapid rise of AI (artificial intelligence), IoT (Internet of Things), Cloud Computing, Big Data, edge computing and other new technologies. The integration of these technologies and 5G will bring a powerful burst, so individual users and industries are highly expecting 5G.
“5G not only upgrades 4G services, improves individual digital experience, but also creates lots of new services, such as Cloud AR/VR, Cloud Gaming, individual live video and other immersive real-time video service.” Wang Weibin, chief engineer of ZTE Telecom Cloud and Core Network, said, “These are just the first wave of 5G applications. It is the nature evolution from 4G MBB to 5G eMBB, to address capacity demands of large-bandwidth services with lower bit cost. With the introduction of uRLLC and eMTC, 5G will bring industrial revolutions of IoE (Internet of Everything). It will provide autonomous car based on IoV (Internet of Vehicles), intelligent manufacturing based on UAV and industrial robot, telemedicine based on low-latency connection, smart city, smart agriculture, and other various industrial applications.”
“4G changes the life, while 5G changes the society. To some degree, the emergence of 5G is comparable to the emergence of automobiles. It has an unimaginable effect on the economic and social development of various countries.” Wang said.
eMBB scenarios are commercial ready
After years of development, 5G technologies and devices are becoming more and more mature, and already support the commercialization of 5G services such as eMBB.
As early as 2014, many countries have begun to study the core technologies of 5G mobile communications, including large-scale antenna arrays, ultra-dense networking, new multi-access, full spectrum access, and new network structures. On June 13, 2018, the 3GPP Plenary (TSG #80) approved the freeze of 5G Standalone (SA) function, which is the international 5G standard in a truly complete sense. Up to now, both 5G SA and NSA standards of eMMB scenario have been frozen, uRLLC will be frozen in March next year, NB-IoT and eMTC are defined as 5G features, and mMTC definition is expected to be completed in R17.
Currently, the 5G industry chain is getting mature rapidly. For example, NSA smart phone is already commercialized, and NSA/SA dual-mode chip and smart phone will be in volume production as early as in 2019 Q3 or Q4. System equipment vendors are also making good preparation. NSA/SA dual-mode base station, and NSA/SA convergent core network are now in trials, and will be ready for scale commercial use in H2 2019.
Overall, 5G industry is commercial ready for eMBB scenario, while uRLLC and mMTC still call for improvement. According to GSMA’s forecast, more than 30 countries and areas will promote 5G commercial service in 2020, and global 5G users will reach 1.36 billion in 2025.
In the 5G field, Chinese vendors take very significant positions. Wang Weibin says that China is one of 5G pacemakers, leading 5G standard development, 5G technology verification and commercialization, 5G terminal and system equipment manufacturing technologies. In the next few years, China will take 5G commercial operation as the leader, and use applications to drive systems, use systems to drive equipment, use equipment to drive terminals, use terminals to drive chips, and then drive relatively weak links of software, antenna and instrument to further consolidate its leading position in technology development.
5G commercialization will not be accomplished overnight
Compared with the rapid maturity of technology and equipment, 5G commercial process is difficult to accomplish overnight, and there are many problems to be explored, such as 5G business model and network operation.
Wang Weibin explains that though 5G can reduce the cost per bit of mobile bandwidth, competition and policies also make it more difficult to monetize traffic, so the existing mobile network business model cannot support the sustainable development of 5G. People are talking about the application of 5G in vertical industries. The prospect is very good and the market space is also very large. However, due to many factors involved, relevant technical standards and industry maturity are relatively low. From the perspective of refined operation, how to introduce various billing modes such as billing per traffic, rate, connection number, latency, slice, and slice + SaaS. Whether it can support new business models to monetize traffic, rate, connections, latency, slice resource and services. All of these require a lot of research.
5G is not only the pipeline, but also a business model innovation, a change in service methods and a vertical business integration innovation. To achieve commercial success, 5G must explore possible new business models in advance, and promote 5G to embark on a pathway of sustainable development through “quantitative change + qualitative change”. On the other hand, agile and refined operations will make traditional network O&M methods unbearable, which requires the introduction of new technologies to achieve automated and intelligent network O&M.
Stay in the first camp
According to Wang Weibin, by virtue of outstanding 5G products and solutions, ZTE is now cooperating with more than 40 mainstream operators worldwide in the 5G field. ZTE has accumulated lots of practical experience and stays in the first camp of 5G. In China, ZTE participated in the 5G test led and planned by the government, which is also the largest regional 5G test project in the world. The whole project is divided into three stages: key technology verification, technical solution verification and system solution verification. In this project, ZTE has made very good results.
“Since September 2018, ZTE has won multiple firsts in the national 5G SA core network test: the first to make through the 5GC First Call based on 3-layer decoupling and SA architecture, the first to complete the 4G and 5G two-way interoperation, and the first to complete comprehensive functional test of multiple network functions including AMF/NSSF/NRF/SMF/AUSF/UDM/PCF/UPF.” Wang Weibin said, “Recently, ZTE and Orange cooperated to completes the Europe’s first 100% 5G call based on SA architecture.”
Now, ZTE 5G Core is commercial ready, and ZTE unveiled the Common Core convergent core network product in 2019Q1, which will help operators accelerate 5G commercialization and 4G expansion. ZTE is the main contributor to global 5G technology research and standard making. Among the first 3GPP 5G standard essential patents disclosed by ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), ZTE owns more than 1200 families. Wang Weibin says, the SBA-based 5G Core will continuously assist operators achieving digital transformation in the 5G era, to bring more possibilities and expectations to the 5G network.