Thanks to the American film Next, many people learn the famous quote of President Abraham Lincoln: "The best way to predict the future is to create it!" In the 5G field, ZTE clearly would rather influence and even create the future than just predict the future.
The Future Begins with a Single Step
With the acceleration of the 5G standard development, global operators have attached great importance to the 5G field and increased investment in 5G R&D. The European market is always one of the most important and most valuable mobile telecommunications markets in the world. As the birthplace of many mobile telecommunications standards in the 2G, 3G, and 4G age, Europe has always been serving as the commanding height that telecom operators compete for in both the technical and market fields. This trend may continue in the coming 5G age. "In accordance with the series of actions taken in Europe, the 5G development in Europe is much quicker than we imagine." said Bai Yanmin, general manager of TDD&5G products and vice president at ZTE.
The European Commission pays close attention to the technological competitiveness of EU member states, and considers 5G as one of its core assets. As Bai Yanmin explained, 5G was more than an innovation in telecommunications technologies, it would also drive the development of applications and innovations in all industries and greatly promote the socio-economic development.
In September 2016, the European Commission released "5G for Europe: An Action Plan." It is actually a roadmap towards commercial 5G applications in 2020. The goal of the plan is that each EU member state should complete 5G commercialization in at least one city by 2020. The action plan falls into three phases:
Phase 1 : In 2018, the 5G pre-commercialization tests will be started.
Phase 2: By 2020, each EU member state should deploy 5G services in at least one of the cities.
Phase 3: By 2025, each EU member state should be able to provide 5G services in urban areas and along highways and railways.
To implement the plan, the EU has actively been negotiating with its member states about 5G deployment and frequency spectrum policies, and has planned to support 5G technology innovation by venture investment.
As the first EU member state responding to the action plan, only two months after the plan was released, Italy announced that it would deploy pre-commercial 5G networks in five cities in the north, center, and south of the country, and expected to start constructing a 5G network based on the 3.6-3.8 GHz band by the end of 2017. Three operators and their vendor partners were attracted to the bidding for the project. Finally, ZTE and Wind Tre (the largest telecom operator in Italy) and Open Fiber (a leading wired operator) jointly won the bidding for two of the five cities.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The ultimate goal of pre-commercialization is formal commercialization. It would be the first pre-commercial 5G network and thus it is of great significance, as said by Bai Yanmin.
In accordance with the plan, ZTE and its Italian operator partners will complete the independent 5G networking test, dependent 5G networking test, and equipment test in labs by Q2 2018. From the second half of 2018 to the first half of 2019, both parties should complete field tests in dependent 5G networking mode in the two cities, and should connect the network to existing FDD networks to form the pre-commercial 5G network. Starting during the second half of 2019, the project will enter the independent networking stage. The commercial 5G network will be launched in 2020.
The success of 5G not only depends on technologies and devices but also requires the support of relevant ecosystems. Therefore, in addition to collaborating with the Italian operators, ZTE will also carry out joint R&D, tests, and verification with local universities and enterprises on 5G network technologies and 5G ecosystems, involving smart city, AR/VR, public security, 5G medical healthcare, and industry 4.0.
Yesterday’s Efforts Create Today’ Achievements
How did ZTE win such an important project? From the viewpoint of Bai Yanmin, many factors contributed to the winning, including Pre5G success, accumulated experience in new technologies like the self-developed chips, antenna array, and high-power GaN power amplifier, and its predominant position in industry standard organizations.
ZTE started the research on 5G as early as in 2009 when 5G was still at the concept phase. Many development directions were discussed then, but ZTE strongly believed that the key 5G technologies included the large-scale antenna array, new air interface structure, new waveform and coding, and high-frequency communication. As far as it goes, ZTE’s judgment is perfectly correct and the technology roadmap is consistent with the mainstream development direction. In 2014, some 5G technologies were tried in 4G networks in the industry. ZTE first put forward the Pre5G idea, advocating that 5G technologies, including Massive MIMO, Ultra Dense Network (UDN), cloud, and core network, be applied in 4G networks to enable users to enjoy near-5G network experience ahead of time. To date, because of the persistent efforts and continuous investment at the earlier stages, the Pre5G products of ZTE have been put into commercial use in 60+ networks of operators in over 40 countries, for example, China Mobile and SoftBank Group. The latest Pre5G equipment of ZTE has achieved the speed of 1 Gbps per carrier, nearly 10 times that of the traditional equipment.
Having demonstrated the 5G technologies in commercial networks through Pre5G, ZTE is now at the forefront of the technology R&D, commercialization process, and ecosystem construction of the 5G field. In the first half of 2017, ZTE completed the Phase-2 5G test organized by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) of China, and passed all technical validations in seven scenarios. With the ZTE 5G solution, the cell peak rate reached 19 Gbps in the low-frequency field and the peak rate of a single user reached 13 Gbps in the high-frequency field. The ZTE 5G solution also enabled 90 million connections per MHz per hour per cell, namely, 2 million connections per minute per square kilometer, twice that of the ITU requirement. For the ultra-low delay performance, the ZTE test result was 0.416 ms, much lower than the 5G requirement of 1 ms. All the data indicates that ZTE has correctly taken control of the 5G development process.
ZTE is also a major contributor to the global 5G standard research. Bai Yanmin enumerated the international mainstream 5G standard organizations and promotion platforms which ZTE has joined: ITU, 3GPP, IEEE, NGMN, ETSI, OpenFog, CCSA, IMT-2020, 5GIA, and 5GAA. ZTE has joined almost all 5G standard organizations and platforms and made positive contribution.
Today’s Efforts Will Create the Future
As the 5G pre-commercialization test in 2018 approaches, ZTE gains more and more olive branches given by operators worldwide. Currently, many top-level operators have made 5G strategic agreements with ZTE, including Orange, SoftBank Group, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, Telekom Malaysia, SK Telecom, and Telenet (Belgium), to jointly accelerate the 5G technology and industry chain development, according to Bai Yanmin.
Recently, ZTE and Telefonica completed the Phase-1 5G bearer test, and ZTE has come to an agreement with Orange for joint tests and evaluation of various 5G core technologies in the second half of 2018, including the independent 5G network architecture test for multiple sites, advanced feature validation for the 5G core network, and end-to-end 5G network slice performance and application test.
In October 2017, ZTE and BSNL, the largest state-owned telecom operator in India, officially signed a memorandum of 5G&IoT cooperation, planning to carry out research and commercial deployment of key technologies, including the future Pre5G, 5G wireless system, and virtualized network, and jointly evaluate and validate relevant technologies, with the intent to construct 5G ecosystems.
In the national market, ZTE has developed deep partnerships with three domestic telecom operators in the field of 5G. In June 2017, ZTE and China Mobile commissioned the first 5G pre-commercial site in Guangzhou. In the pre-commercial test environment, the peak rate of a single UE exceeded 2 Gbps. ZTE will fully participate in the 5G NR field test of China Mobile to verify various scenarios and networking modes. In late June, ZTE and China Unicom commissioned a site for 5G NR field test and completed relevant service validations, demonstrating that the 5G products of ZTE have the capabilities for pre-commercialization.
To accelerate the development of 5G terminals, at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) held in February 2017, ZTE, China Mobile, and Qualcomm announced to launch the IoDT based on the 5G NR standard. It is the first test based on 5G standards and future commercial terminal chips in the industry.
ZTE achieved outstanding results in the Phase-1 and Phase-2 5G tests organized in China, with the test data breaking the previous records. ZTE has also collaborated with many vendors to conduct interdisciplinary collaboration to promote healthy development of the 5G industry chain. Bai Yanmin emphasizes that ZTE is not only a telecommunications equipment manufacturer but also an important driver of innovation and development of smart life.
Bai Yanmin appreciates the famous saying "The best way to predict the future is to create it!" because it is what ZTE is doing now: building momentum for industry innovation in the future.
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