On day 2 of the Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF), we had the pleasure of sitting down with Zhao Zhenlong, Vice president of Huawei’ s MAE product line to discuss the key features of 5G native intelligence.

From the perspective of mobile network operators, what are the biggest challenges regarding 5G and 5.5G?

The first challenge is that currently with 5G and 5.5G, the challenges we see are the complexities that are brought about by more and more bands and the antennas that are deployed on the network. Because of this complexity, operators can see a lot of O&M alarms, in the hundreds of millions.

The second challenge comes from the massive amount of traffic on the network. In order to provide a better customer experience, we need to deploy more frequency bands on the network, while the network needs to provide more traffic, this will naturally require more energy consumption, we need to solve this problem is to make the network experience and network energy consumption to achieve the best balance, so as to ensure that energy efficiency is maximised.

The third challenge is that in order to provide 5G or 5.5G services to their customers, operators need to build a large number of sites, which is a huge investment. Obviously, operators would like to get more return from these investments, but with the revenue growth rate in the B2C market only around 1-2 per cent per year, operators can try to accelerate their revenue growth by identifying high-value customers and providing them with deterministic assurance services, so that these customers are willing to pay more for such services.

How could the mobile network evolve into an autonomous network, and if so, how?

In fact, the industry already has a clear concept of an autonomous network, and TMF has proposed a network framework with five levels of definition. Each level is clearly defined in its published white paper Autonomous Networks.

We are working with leading operators and other partners to define the elements in the five levels of the Autonomous Network Framework. The framework will cover elements such as the technologies required, the capabilities, the architectural features, but also the level of openness and the level of driving intended. Each level in the Autonomous Network should be mapped to some kind of value for the customer.

In terms of the difference between L3 and L4, L3 is more of an automated process, automating the tasks that may need to be done manually to improve efficiency. However, this automation capability is still a passive approach. With L4, we are talking about proactive O&M, including predictive and preventive capabilities. Another difference can be seen in terms of the ability to sense, to analyse and to execute, and how these three form a closed loop.

We start with perception and need to look at data collection to have greater visibility into the network, so the L4 base station can collect more data compared to L3, and can also collect past data more frequently, from 15 to 30 minutes to now by the minute, or even per second.

In addition, predictive and preventative capabilities are being built to ensure that cells are always online in the event of scenarios such as optical links, high temperatures and back-up power.

Finally, we come to the execution part. The old way was to give the command, give the parameters to the network, run it and see what the response was from the network, which took many iterations. Now, at L4, we use digital twin technology, which means we have a simulation environment that can be mapped to the physical network. In this environment we can actually run commands hundreds and thousands of times and identify the best command and parameter and run it in the physical network.

What are the innovations of Huawei’s solutions in the intelligent field?

All our innovations are focused on customer value. For example, in the area of energy saving, our solutions support the energy saving synergy between the network level and the site level, so that we can achieve optimal energy efficiency and optimal service experience at the same time. This kind of capability is represented in our product, the PowerStar series. We had the older version, the PowerStar, and in the future we will release the iPowerStar. With each new generation we see a 10% increase in performance.

Another example is our use of intelligent solutions at the Hangzhou Asian Games. Normally, before such an important event, we need to send people to check all the communication equipment in advance, but this is a very labour-intensive task as there are many communication devices. To cope with this, we are using AR glasses here for smart inspections with less manpower to improve efficiency.

As an example of increased revenue, in Germany we worked with an operator that offered a $40 per month package for subscribers with live streaming needs. Working with them, we were able to offer a plan with similar benefits for $200 per hour. This certainty of experience guaranteed service opens up new business opportunities for operators.

We can also improve subscriber loyalty by enabling network experience monitoring from the last kilometre to the last metre, we are able to gain visibility into the network experience of the devices connected to the CPE, monitor changes in the device experience, provide more guaranteed service to the customer, and help the operator to better retain the customer.

Why is it good value for customers, and what is the evidence that it has a large user following?

Currently, 30-40 operators around the world are using our i-Series wireless Autonomous Network solution and have received excellent feedback in their project practices.

What is the view of Huawei as a company view on the open gateway proposed by the GSMA?

We fully support the GSMA’s Open Gateway. As Mats Granryd (GSMA Director General) said, this is as monumental as roaming was in the 2G era.

In a general sense, it will help us to bring more players into the mobile industry, including device manufacturers, equipment suppliers and developers. It will bring the kind of economies of scale needed to benefit all parties.

The first value is increased revenue. For example, operators can use slicing APIs to offer goods based on slicing APIs, thus providing better connectivity guarantees. Network resources can be allocated on demand and paid for based on efficiency, increasing the efficiency and value of network resource utilisation.

The second value lies in marketing. Promote network innovation and service diversification to enhance operators’ revenue streams and competitive advantages. Promote the advancement of network technologies and the formulation of standards, and increase the influence and voice of network technologies.

We see such a high demand to connect everything, and with a platform like the Open Gateway Initiative, we can bring more industry stakeholders together to drive more growth. We are ready and willing to contribute our technology and expertise to the Open Gateway initiative, for the benefit of both consumers and society at large.