The stage is set for 5.5G commercial launch in 2024. So declared Eric Zhao, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Huawei Wireless Solution, speaking at the Wireless Media and Analyst Roundtable at Mobile World Congress.

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The stage is set for 5.5G commercial launch in 2024. So declared Eric Zhao, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Huawei Wireless Solution, speaking at the Wireless Media and Analyst Roundtable at Mobile World Congress. “Spectrum is available, the terminals are mature, and key technologies have been verified,” he said.

He noted too that 3GPP Release18 – designed, among other things, to improve spectrum efficiency and enhance XR capabilities in the 5.5G era – will be frozen in the first half of this year. Release 19 is also in the pipeline, allowing greater intelligence, more energy savings, and high-precision positioning. 5.5G will not just be about greener and better network performance (up to 10Gbps), however. Zhao asserted that 5.5G will allow carriers to explore new business models based on new network capabilities, such as passive IoT and ‘native’ intelligence.

“The Middle East is leading 5.5G commercial development, especially for FWA [Fixed Wireless Access]. Key operators there have achieved a premium experience rate of 10Gbps,” Zhao observed. “In China, operators are accelerating 5.5G technology verification and actively promoting application innovation, such as RedCap [Reduced Capability] and V2X [Vehicle-to-Everything]. In Europe, operators are also verifying 5.5G technology and exploring new business models, such as speed and experience‑based pricing to achieve better business results.”

The 5.5G terminal ecosystem is maturing fast. In tests conducted by China Unicom and DNA (Finland), smartphones achieved download speeds of up to 7Gbps; up to 10Gbps was supported by customer premise equipment. “This is the first time in industry history that the progress of the terminal ecosystem has exceeded that of wireless network deployment,” said Zhao.

Given that 5.5G will introduce more services and frequency bands, the firm message from Zhao at the Wireless Media and Analyst Roundtable was that networks must be ready to support them in a way that is intelligent and O&M efficient.

Huawei’s ‘native’ approach to 5.5G

Zhao paraded a raft of hardware and software innovation from Huawei aimed at providing carriers with a “smooth evolution path” to 5.5G across multiple frequency bands. He divided Huawei’s series of products and services into three main categories: Native 10Gbps; Native Green; and Native Intelligence.

Huawei’s Native 10Gps and Native Green propositions – ten times performance and ‘0 Bit 0 Watt’, respectively – are encapsulated in its 5.5G ‘GigaGreen’ product suite.

Native Intelligence is provided by combining Huawei’s newly released communication model at the cloud layer (Telecom Foundation Model) and its RAN digital twin system at the network layer. The upshot is Huawei’s ‘IntelligentRAN’, designed to help carriers move towards L4 network intelligence. In TM Forum’s definition of autonomous network levels, L4 is described as a “highly autonomous network” enabling full predictive analysis or active closed-loop management The next level up, L5, is a fully autonomous network.

GigaGreen

“Spectrum is key to achieving 10Gbps experience for 5.5G,” said Zhao. To get the most out of carriers’ existing TDD (time division duplex) spectrum assets, as well as efficiently accommodate the future need (in all likelihood) of supporting more than one large-bandwidth TDD spectrum – operators may well have large-bandwidth TDD spectrum across C-Band (3.5GHz), millimetre wave and upper-6GHz frequency bands in the 5.5G era – Zhao highlighted Huawei’s “unique” TDD ELAA (Extremely Large Antenna Array) technology. “ELAA is a preferred choice for 5G and a must-have technology for 5.5G,” said Zhao. “It will unlock all the potential of TDD spectrum.”

He added that Huawei’s upcoming 5.5G TDD Massive MIMO upgrade was a potent mix of hardware and software innovation, capable of supporting larger arrays, more frequency bands and providing a multi-dimensional high-resolution beam algorithm. “[The upgrade] can achieve a 10Gbps experience, additional 3dB coverage and 30% energy saving benefits [compared with traditional 64T products],” he said.  

As for FDD (frequency division duplex) spectrum, Zhao ruefully noted that while carriers typically have a lot of it at their disposal, it is usually spread thinly and in a non-contiguous fashion across multiple frequency bands. To address the sub-optimal spread of FDD frequencies, Zhao said that Huawei has launched the industry’s only triple-band Massive MIMO and triple-band 8T RRU (Remote Radio Unit), creating three-band integration and “ultra-large bandwidth”.

Again, for Zhao, it is a mixture of hardware and software innovation that sets Huawei apart from its competitors here. The triple-band FDD offering combines beamforming technology with MBSC (Multi-band Serving Cell) and FSA (Flexible Spectrum Access) technologies specified in Release 18. And, by doing so, it can integrate discontinuous spectrum into ultra-wideband blocks. “[Triple band] improves FDD coverage, capacity and energy efficiency, while achieving a ubiquitous 5Gbps experience,” said Zhao.

Huawei’s Native Green commitment encompasses sites, devices and networks. At cell-site level, Huawei promotes ‘0 Bit 0 Watt’. At times when the site is not handling traffic, Huawei is helping carriers to quickly put systems in idle mode (with the ability to fire up again immediately when demand for capacity picks up) so they don’t generate any electricity.

China Mobile has already tested Huawei’s advanced sleep mode technology on commercial networks and achieved impressive results. When in “super-deep dormancy mode”, cell-site power consumption was found to be less than 10W (equivalent to a small light bulb). “The results show that energy savings per day exceed 40% without affecting network KPIs and user experience,” said Zhao.

As for devices, Zhao said that Huawei was maximizing energy transmission efficiency in two ways: signal direct injection feeding (SDIF) to improve antenna efficiency and Meta lens to reduce spatial dissipation of energy. Native Green for Huawei’s 5.5G networks use intelligent algorithms to generate “optimal energy-saving policies” based on customer intents.

“We believe that 2024 is the first year of 5.5G commercial deployment,” concluded Zhao at the end of his presentation. “Huawei’s GigaGreen and IntelligentRAN solutions are designed to help operators smoothly and efficiently evolve to 5.5G.”

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