MWC 2017: ZTE aspires to lead the 5G network charge
By Chong Jinn Xiung February 27, 2017
- Aims to offer the 5G experience with the deployment of pre-5G solutions to worldwide carriers
- The company’s Gigabit Phone is still just a prototype at this point
EVERY year the tech world collectively trains its eyes on the latest innovations that are set to shape the mobile world of tomorrow at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.
Indeed, this year’s MWC theme is all about discovering what is the next element that will drive the future of communications.
For Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, it firmly believes that 5G, or fifth generation mobile networks that will eventually succeed today’s 4G LTE networks, will be the key technological trend of the show.
At its pre-MWC briefing, ZTE unveiled that it is releasing a full range of 5G millimeter Wave (mmWave) and Sub 6Ghz pre-commercial base stations. The release paves the way for 5G pre-commercial tests and deployment.
“5G is part of ZTE’s core strategy and it is dedicated to the R&D of virtualisation technologies,” said ZTE Wireless senior vice president Zhang Jianguo.
The company said it will plan to demonstrate the 50Gbps peak rate of its 5G mmWave base station at its booth in MWC 2017. The new solutions will support 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)’s new radio (NR) new air interfaces and mainstream 5G frequency bands.
ZTE’s range of products will use massive multiple input multiple output (MIMO), beam tracking, beam forming and other key 5G technologies.
Massive MIMO plays a vital role in improving frequency efficiency and air interface bandwidth. The company has already been pushing its Pre-5G solutions that deploy 5G technologies on top of existing 4G LTE infrastructure.
This would, in theory, allow users to experience 5G-like experience on existing 4G handsets in an accelerated timeframe.
The Shenzen-headquartered company claims that its Pre5G solutions are able to solve technology and applications problems caused during the commercial operation process. It is hoped that this would accelerate the maturity of core 5G technologies.
The company’s president of strategy and marketing Xu Ming said that ZTE’s Pre5G Massive MIMO has been deployed with carriers such as China Mobile, Japan’s Softbank and UMobile in Malaysia.
ZTE said it has applied for hundreds of technical patents and contributed to many proposals from standards organisations in regards to this technology process based on data collected from actual scenarios.
Transformation by collaboration
At the same media briefing, ZTE announced that it launched a next generation 5G IT baseband unit (BBU) with Intel Corporation. This IT BBU is said to be the world’s first software defined networking/network function virtualisation (SDN/NFV) technology-based 5-RAN.
The modular IT BBU is compatible with 2G/3G/4G/Pre-5G and supports cloud-radio access networks (CRAN), distributed-RAN (D-RAM) and 5G central and business units (CU/DU).
Normally when mobile networks scale they incur higher energy consumption and operation and maintenance complexity. With ZTE’s new generation network platform that utilise SDN/NFV technologies, it virtualises functions of network equipment, diversifies network functions and accelerates network deployment.
ZTE said it would be focusing on leading 5G evolution, advancing cloudification and creating the Internet of Everything where everyday items are interconnected with one another.
“ZTE will continue its innovation in the 5G field to meet the product and service needs of our customers. We will occupy a place in the world’s first 5G commercial market and lay a foundation for the future Internet of Things (IoT),” said Zhang of ZTE’s aspirations.
A prototype for now
With the advent of the next generation of network work, so to come new hardware devices that are fully able to utilise the network.
Leveraging on its 5G and Pre-5G solutions, ZTE unveiled its Gigabit Phone that it touts would be the world’s first smartphone with download speeds reaching up to 1Gbps.
ZTE Mobile Devices vice president Luo Wei said the Gigabit Phone would be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile platform along with an integrated Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, 4x4 MIMO antenna technology and 256-QAM modulation to achieve LTE download speeds that are up to 10x faster than first generation LTE devices.
The Gigabit Phone challenges world limits and boasts an impressive list of features including a 360 degree panoramic VR, instant cloud storage, and allows for the listening of high definition music and movies over its network.
Owing to ZTE’s technology strength in 5G and Pre5G Giga+ MBB solutions, the Gigabit Phone is said to be three times as powerful at improving data processing capability on current networks.
However, when asked to show the Gigabit Phone during the media briefing Luo said the phone is still a prototype as of now, with no actual casing. At best he expects the Gigabit Phone to be commercially available in the next one to two years.
That may be a long while away but Luo assures that ZTE is working on the next best version of its flagship Axon smartphones though he did not disclose any details of the next version of phone or its release date.
(Chong Jinn Xiung reports from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the invitation of ZTE Corp . All editorials are independent.)