5G-Oriented Technical Innovation and Practice of ZTE

Guest author

September 13, 2017

8 Min Read

Nothing can stop people’s yearning for the 5G era!

The year 2017 is destined to be recorded in the 5G development history. Early in 2017, to accelerate the publication of 5G standards, 3GPP specially divided the R15 standard into two stages to ensure that the 5G air interface technology could be put into commercial use ahead of time. 3GPP unprecedentedly combined 4G and 5G technical standards, aiming to use 4G network anchors to resolve access problems in 5G NR applications. Currently, the governments of many countries, including China, U.S.A., Japan, South Korea, UK, and Germany, have put forward national 5G strategies, putting stronger emphasis on 5G compared with that on 4G.
Facing the super heat and rapid development of 5G technologies, ZTE has its own clear understanding and judgment. ZTE thinks that, the 5G requirements and goals are very clear, but the market requirements are not very urgent. Thus, it is necessary to take things calmly and resolve practical problems step by step. From an objective perspective, the pre-commercial 5G test will be started globally in 2018, and large-scale commercial 5G applications will be implemented in 2020. However, the commercialization progress varies from region to region worldwide. The most outstanding feature of 5G is the real full-service connectivity, which has the same Hype Cycle as before but with a more rapid iteration period.
Humans have never stopped their explorations of new technologies. Various dazzling technologies emerged in the history of science and technology, among which many vanished in the Gartner Hype Cycle. In the communication field, a technical innovation can be considered as a real technology breakthrough only after it is applied in existing networks for large-scale commercial applications and deployment.
Based on years of experience and exploration, ZTE has been in the front of the industry in wireless technology practice, cloud technology, network reconstruction, and digital transformation driven by big data.

Wireless Technical Innovation Creates Value in Network Applications
The core of mobile technology research of each generation is how to increase the wireless air interface capacity. Three major technologies (new frequency spectrums, dense networks, and higher spectrum efficiency) are used to increase the air interface capacity. These technologies are also the key research directions for 5G NR.
With years of R&D experience, ZTE has already realized that only the SDMA technology can multiply spectrum efficiency. As one of the key 5G technologies, Massive MIMO plays a critically important role in increasing spectrum efficiency and air interface data bandwidth. In June 2014, ZTE first put forward the Pre5G innovation idea and solution, and used Massive MIMO in 4G networks for commercial applications to resolve network capacity insufficiency.
In 2016, Pre5G Massive MIMO was put to commercial use in high-end markets such as China and Japan, marking a lower threshold of commercial 5G applications. The successful experience has gained wide recognition in the industry and can serve as a reference to lead the 5G industry development. Currently, more telecom equipment manufacturers have followed the trend, and more operators have started tests and deployment, demonstrating the distinguished technical advantages and confidence of ZTE.
ZTE has remained ahead in the industry in solving technical problems encountered in the Massive MIMO commercialization process, and has accumulated extensive experience in 5G applications in existing mobile networks. It provides valuable data reference for subsequent commercial 5G deployment, greatly accelerates maturity and improvement of core 5G technologies, effectively shortens the period of 5G product validation and large-scale commercialization, and makes good preparation for evolution to future 5G networks.

The Biggest Network Reconstruction Has Started
Future network reconstruction will further explore the potential of networks through infrastructure cloudification and service diversification. ZTE has worked with many transnational operators, such as Telefonica and VEON, to successfully deploy and commercialize virtual core networks. It demonstrates that the 4G-to-5G network architecture evolution is an inevitable trend and can be deployed in advance without having to wait for the official release of 5G standards.
In 2016, ZTE worked with Telefonica to construct the largest vIMS network in the world, which implemented the centralized deployment of multi-branch control planes in seven countries in Latin America. ZTE worked with Velcom in Belarus, a part of the Telekom Austria Group, to construct the most complete cloud core network, in which the vEPC, vSDM, vCS, and vIMS technologies were comprehensively applied. ZTE worked with VEON, a transnational operator, to construct the largest vEPC commercial network in the industry, a 2G, 3G, and LTE converged network spanning five countries. In the Digital Transformation and the Role of the Virtualized Core Network whitepaper published by Ovum, a famous consultancy company, the VEON vEPC project was recommended as a classic case for research.
ZTE has constructed core networks in which 4G and 5G are deeply converged, and has constructed unified cloud networks in which EPC and 5G Core (5GC) are deeply converged. In the 5GC-based architecture, all EPC NEs are reconstructed, the public 5GC and EPC services are abstracted, and a unified orchestrator is used to implement network orchestration as required. For example, it is possible to orchestrate a network supporting EPC only, a network supporting 5GC only, or a converged network supporting both EPC and 5GC.
In the early stage of network construction, unified access to 4G/5G networks is supported based on the EPC core network to provide early 5G user experience. Some 5G core network technologies, for example, network cloudification based on service-oriented architecture, are applied to 4G core networks. Flexible and rapid service deployment is implemented through network service orchestration. The control plane and user plane are separated and some services are processed locally, thus optimizing service channels.
Deploying cloud core networks ahead of time helps reduce the traditional network investment because existing devices can still continue to operate for a long time in the future. The ZTE cloud core network supports 2G/3G network access, and implements network orchestration on the unified virtualized infrastructure platform. The 2G/3G core network can be integrated into the 4G/5G service-oriented architecture and deployed as independent slices. Traditional 2G/3G/4G networks can evolve to cloud networks and use the same software architecture as the 5G core network. It is significant to various aspects, including replacing dedicated devices in existing 2G/3G/4G core networks, maintaining network operation, terminating traditional network services in the future, and reusing resources.

Big Data Applications Promote Digital Transformation
Big data technologies are booming with the penetration of the IoT into all walks of life. It has become an inevitable trend in future network operation that digital transformation is promoted by big data applications. As an enabler of digital transformation and an impeller of digital ecosystem services, ZTE has worked with China Telecom Sichuan Branch to implement digital O&M, business operation and capability opening, jointly creating a new business model.
In this typical case, ZTE has put forward a comprehensive big data solution oriented towards industrial applications. Based on O&M network data of the operator and pain points of services, the solution provides a user experience-focused big data system. ZTE has achieved the “Specialized Platform + Industrial Data + Customized Application” multi-tier architecture big data solution thanks to years of R&D experience.
The professional multi-tier architecture solution improves the overall value of telecommunication network operation, promotes O&M reform and service innovation for telecom systems. It uses the O&M data of an operator as the entry point and focuses on user experience, comprehensively increasing the value of the telecom network for the operator.
The advantages of the big data system, including highly-efficient optimization, customer focus, active service, and smart operation, have gradually become prominent in network construction, network O&M, and network optimization. For big data applications in telecom networks, the solution helps customers increase both internal data value and external service capability, and promotes sustainable data value accumulation and long-term development.
The value of big data can be converted into business revenues by constructing open big data platforms. The big data platform of China Telecom Sichuan Branch has been developed from only supporting network construction, network O&M, and network optimization to promoting the process of converting the value of big data into business revenues. It provides operators with powerful support for big data-based business operation. The capability openness platform has been validated and applied in various industries, including outdoor advertisement evaluation, bank precision marketing for target customers, visitor migration analysis for scenic spots, passenger traffic in key areas, and realtime traffic monitoring. It has devised a new way for big data−based operation.

5G Ecosystems Established Based on Openness and Compatibility
As an important technology revolution in the history of telecommunication development, 5G will implement the real Internet of Everything in the future and will deeply influence the development course of human society. We should consider 5G as not only a new generation technology but also an opportunity for development, which we can use to redefine network architecture, industry roles, and business models, and completely transform the traditional telecom industry.
In the “5G Changes Society” era, people should consider how to redefine their roles in the society and should go out of their own social circles and actively work with each other to achieve win-win results. As a traditional telecom equipment manufacturer, ZTE is good at cooperating with operators. Nowadays, ZTE should learn to work with various industries, including auto industry, city service industry, banking and financial industry, and public transportation industry, to build new industrial ecosystems. As a good example, in recent years, the GSMA MWC has based itself in the mobile communication industry and has constantly developed cooperation with other industries. We have every reason to believe that the GSMA MWC will become a grand gathering of all-industry elites rather than a simple congress of the communications industry.

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