Qiao Lei, VP of 5G Solutions at ZTE discussed their planned 5G smartphones and the business case for 5G.
Why is 5G important to ZTE?
When we look back in history, new generations of wireless telecommunication technology come out every decade. 2020 will be the target year for 5G commercialization in the industry. Meanwhile, ZTE has created its "2020 Strategy" which will focus on the main business and innovation. 5G as the new generation of wireless technology provides the best chance for ZTE to hold a leading position from the beginning.
ZTE has made 5G the core strategy of whole company with the slogan of “Leading 5G Innovations”. ZTE has dedicated full effort into standards, product R&D, pre-commercial verification, and working together with industry partners to accelerate the commercialization process, achieving 5G leadership in the following three aspects: leading 5G commercialization, leading 5G technologies, leading 5G economies of scale.
As the challenger in 2G and 3G, and a major player in 4G, in the coming 5G era, ZTE will be the “5G pioneer” for technology and commercialization with a remarkable status.
How has the 5G landscape changed over the past year?
5G technology developed fast in 2017 in the following aspects:
Standard acceleration: R15 NSA standard was finished at the end of 2017 while SA standard will be finished in the middle of 2018.
Spectrum harmonization: Sub-6GHz is the most popular frequency in the 5G initial phase while more and more operators conducted pre-commercial trials in the last year.
5G commercialization process acceleration: China Mobile has launched the first 3.5GHz pre-commercial sites and plans to have more than 10,000 sites in 2019; KT has prepared to provide a 5G trial service to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games; Verizon are deploying more and more mmWave sites with V5G standards for FWA service.
As a 5G pioneer, ZTE have established 20+ strategic cooperation partnerships with operators, including China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom, Softbank, Orange, Telefonica, WindTre , T-Mobile, KT, Telenet, AIS, VEON, Umobile, etc. 5G pre-commercial networks has been deployed worldwide : first Sub-6Ghz pre-commercial 5G site with CMCC; Europe’s first pre-commercial 5G network with Windtre and Openfiber; RAN Split test with Telefonica; ZTE and Orange will cooperate on testing and assessing several key 5G enabling technologies in 2018.
ZTE have announced they will be launching a 5G smartphone by early 2019. What are some of the challenges involved in releasing this technology and how does it fit into your overall 5G strategy?
The availability time for the terminal depends on the launch of the chipset. The key challenges for the terminal are frequency and networking options. There are still different frequency choices for different operators which means the chipset needs more spectrum combinations. And there are different network options such as standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) for operators. There will be a NSA chipset in 2018 which will support the 5G smartphone in 2019. The SA chipset will be available in 2019.
Together with Qualcomm and China Mobile, ZTE conducted the world's first 3GPP based 5G NR IoDT@Sub-6GHz which is accelerating the maturity of 5G ecosystem.
In the initial stage of 5G commercialization, eMBB will definitely be the major use case for the mobile network.
What use cases do you think will be the key drivers for 5G commercialisation?
There are three major application scenarios for 5G: eMBB, mMTC and URLLC.
In the initial stage of 5G commercialization, eMBB will definitely be the major use case for the mobile network. This is due to the standards process and the countries which will launch the first batch of 5G networks. According to the 3GPP process, Release 15 including the eMBB and part of URLLC while Release 16 including the other part of URLLC and mMTC. The consumers in the first batch 5G countries such as China, Japan, Korea and US are waiting for the faster speed while the low latency service will the next one in the queue. The ecosystem for URLLC and mMTC still needs more time to market, optimization for the chipset on power consumption and size, market verification for industry corporation business plan and profit model.
How can operators put together a business case for commercial 5G?
For the operator, 5G is a very good chance to increase the stickiness of the subscribers. In the initial phase, 5G can provide faster speeds than 4G which makes many use cases available in the mobile terminal such as VR / AR / UHD video streaming, etc. New technology such as virtualization makes the whole network open with more possibilities. With the MANO and VIM platform, the operator can modify the function or fast deployed different applications according to the market requirement. In the later phase, the low latency service will combine with daily applications such as autonomous driving, remote surgery, etc. which will create a better life experience for users.
Low latency service will combine with daily applications such as autonomous driving, remote surgery, etc. which will create a better life experience for users.
What do you think is the most pressing challenge that leaders across the 5G ecosystem are currently facing?
The current challenges for 5G are unified spectrum allocation, the gap between the maturity of systems and terminals and the corporation between telecommunications and other industries.
Spectrum allocation: C-band, mmWave are clear that the these band will be used for the 5G deployment, but compare with LTE or 3G ,the roaming has the limitation due to the different spectrum allocation globally. For example, there will be 3.5GHz and 4.7GHz in sub-6GHz and 26GHz/28GHz in mmWave in different countries. There are still other potential options for different operators.
Maturity of system and terminal: Smartphones will be the main stream for the commercial terminal type based on the current situation , but the power consumption and the size of the chipset is still being developed to adapt this type of terminal.
Collaboration between industries: Vertical collaboration is a totally new market, even the IoT technology has been used for decades. But the rigor KPI requirement from 5G will make everything new to other industries .So it will take some time for the change of the industry and integration solution available for the end users.