“The maturity of the 5G industry accelerates the commercial deployment of 5G. As users’ requirements for experience and services continue to evolve, carriers are developing high-quality 5G networks, and 5G commercial deployment is entering a new phase. We believe that high-bandwidth massive MIMO is the key to achieving ultimate network performance and is the key of operators’ efforts to build high-quality 5G networks” says Cullen Xu, Vice President of Huawei 5G & LTE TDD Product Line.
There were a total of 182 5G commercial networks by the end of Q2 2021, according to TeleGeography. This number is likely to go up to 323 by the end of 2023. As the number of 5G deployments increases in all regions, 5G user behaviours and network quality are gradually changing.
Growing demand for HD videos poses higher requirements on 5G network quality
A key reason for the growing demand for improved network experience is the increasing consumption of high-definition video. Globally, video services account for as much as 70% of the total mobile traffic and high-definition video traffic accounts for 55% of the total mobile video traffic. HDR video caching increases the network rate by 2.6 times. According to user behaviour, more than 28% of video users are used to variable speed playback. For example, the network speed is doubled for video playback at double speeds. Further, the emergence of new video services, such as panoramic video and Virtual Reality (VR) video, also leads to an increase in the requirements on network capabilities.
In addition, HD video services have become a trend in household scenarios, increasing traffic requirements and network rate requirements. Currently, there are more than 90 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) networks globally. By the end of 2021, the number of FWA subscribers worldwide exceeded three million, and the average data traffic per user month (DOU) of FWA has increased by three times compared with that of 4G. This is also leading to an increase in the demand for HD video. It offers a massive opportunity for service providers to grow their revenue by providing a world-class HD video user experience.
High-quality networks are the trend of operators’ 5G construction
In line with the demand for better network quality, telcos are continuously improving network quality. For instance, according to RootMetrics’ 5G network performance test results in Seoul, South Korea, the median downlink network experience of LGU+, the top operator in the performance test, has increased from 476 Mbit/s in 2020 to 640 Mbit/s in 2021.
"The improvement of network quality promotes the continuous development of evaluation standards. According to the global P3 test report, in addition to traditional rate experience tests, network coverage and service experience (such as HD video and voice quality) are also included in the 5G network evaluation system," explains Cullen Xu. A case in point is that OpenSignal incorporates network coverage indicators into the 5G network evaluation system, such as the 5G duration camping ratio and the 5G network grid camping ratio.
All this means that the 5G experience evaluation benchmark is higher, and the 5G network performance evaluation dimensions are wider. This also makes it imperative for the telcos to focus on network performance to stand out from their competitors.
High-bandwidth Massive MIMO is the core of building a high-quality 5G network.
High-bandwidth Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) is emerging as a key technology concept to support telcos in providing a high-quality 5G network experience. Compared with 32T Massive MIMO, 64T Massive MIMO helps service providers enhance network experience, capacity and coverage.
Further, it is also helping the carriers provide better indoor coverage and experience. In Seoul, South Korea, 32T Massive MIMO was replaced by 64T Massive MIMO, empowering the carriers to improve their experience in high-rise buildings by more than 30%. In a challenging environment like Saudi Arabia, which has thick walls, 64T Massive MIMO is helping carriers improve coverage by 3db, improve the indoor experience by 2.8 times, and achieve a rate of 267 Mbit/s.
MetaAAU: Helping Carriers Improve Performance Sustainably
During his speech, Cullen Xu highlighted how MetaAAU is helping the carriers improve performance and energy efficiencies. Its Extremely Large Antenna Array (ELAA), along with the innovative AHR Turbo and technologies such as ultra-light integrated array and Signal Direct Injection Feeding (SDIF) are introduced to improve performance and integration.
Currently, this product has been commercially tested in multiple cities of all three major operators in China. Compared with the traditional 64T AAU, MetaAAU provides 3 dB coverage improvement and 30% user downlink experience improvement. When the cell edge coverage KPIs remain unchanged, the site can be configured with a lower transmit power to reduce the base station power consumption. Compared with the traditional AAU, the power consumption is reduced by about 30% in MetaAAU.
The carriers also need to gain from network intelligence to provide a best-in-class 5G customer experience. This is especially true as the networks continue to become more and more complex.
"By applying intelligent algorithms, the channel modelling, scheduling dictionary, and smart grid are constructed based on Mobile broadband Automation Engine (MAE) and site data. Based on the policy library, the base station can achieve more accurate beamforming in single-site single-frequency scenarios. In multi-frequency scenarios, the base station can select the optimal band to achieve the ultimate user experience," explains Cullen Xu. "MAE on the network side predicts the coverage of multiple sites through smart grids, optimizes beam coverage, and locks the optimal beam combination to improve network coverage. In addition, MAE on the network side can perform joint modeling on KPI data of tens of thousands of cells in an area to generate differentiated parameter models that match the characteristics of each cell, improving user experience," he adds.
These new technologies allow the service providers to ensure a best-in-class 5G user experience that helps them to improve market competitiveness and ensures faster return on investment and revenue growth.