Achieving the "impossible" with 5G

Staff writer
5G Insights

5G Insights: ZTE chief scientist XiangJiyingDr. Xiang Jiying, chief scientist of ZTE, details the company’s latest developments in 5G and Pre5G- including bringing Massive MIMO to FDD-LTE and the key technologies that will shape the industry’s future

5G Insights: How far did the telecoms industry progress with 5G in 2016?  

Dr. Xiang Jiying: In 2016, a lot of progress was made in 5G in many countries. Verizon announced their proprietary 5G standard, which is focused more on fixed wireless access. AT&T promoted millimeter wave (mmWave) technology for the trial. China completed Phase 1 of nationwide tests, and is going to start Phase 2 shortly. Japan, South Korea and Europe are developing their own 5G projects and ecosystems at the same time.

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5G Insights February 2017

Among many key 5G technologies, we believe Massive MIMO has the most potential to deliver the required 5G eMBB spectrum efficiency improvement. So for several years, Massive MIMO has been a major focus for ZTE, and we are working on several implementations including Pre5G Massive MIMO, 5G NR Massive MIMO, sub-6GHz Band Massive MIMO, mmWave Massive MIMO and distributed MIMO.

ZTE is also leading the way in implementing Massive MIMO on FDD-LTE. This had been regarded as an “impossible task” because unlike TDD-LTE, it is not feasible to predict the downlink channel from uplink measurement for FDD-LTE. In the past, this limitation had resulted in unacceptable levels of overhead when implementing Massive MIMO on FDD-LTE.

However, ZTE made a key breakthrough in this area and we became the first provider in the industry to announce a FDD-LTE Massive MIMO system with a customer.

What has ZTE been doing to develop its 5G technology? What is ZTE’s 5G roadmap and timeline?

ZTE gained a lot of traction in 5G in the past year. At MWC 2016, ZTE showcased many new key technologies, such as Pre5G Massive MIMO, which won the “Best CTO Choice” award. The mmWave prototype, MUSA, and FB-OFDM prototypes were also introduced to the market. ZTE also became the first company to successfully complete Phase 1 of National 5G Tests in China.

ZTE is now working on the development of new frequency and air interfaces for 5G.

Could you update us on the progress of the collaborations and demonstrations ZTE has conducted with its operator customers related to 5G? What are the developments we will see in 2017?

ZTE is very active in collaborating with multinational operators such as China Mobile, Softbank, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom and Korea Telecom. For example, ZTE successfully completed all 5G test requirements that we had so far proposed to China Mobile. ZTE also conducted tests for 5G core and RAN functions with Telefonica in Spain. In 2017, ZTE will be involved in many more 5G tests with operator partners.

ZTE’s Pre5G solutions have been successfully deployed by many operators globally. In 2016, ZTE cooperated with China Mobile in pre-commercial Pre5G Massive MIMO deployments in 90% of provinces in China. In September 2016, Pre5G Massive MIMO was put into large-scale commercial use by SoftBank in Japan, which deployed the world’s first commercial Massive MIMO system. On December 30, 2016, ZTE released the world’s first FDD-LTE Massive MIMO solution, following successful verification through joint field tests with China Unicom. In December 2016, Indonesia’s largest mobile operator Telkomsel announced the commercial deployment of its Pre5G network. ZTE also worked with Telefonica Group and Hutchison Drei Austria to run Pre5G Massive MIMO trials in Spain and Austria, respectively. Using the Pre5G FDD Giga+ MBB solution combined with key multicarrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and 256QAM technologies, ZTE successfully completed tests achieving speeds of over 1 Gbps in Malaysia, Belgium, Hungary and Austria. All this paved the way for Pre5G FDD commercialization. ZTE’s Pre5G solutions are now deployed in commercial networks and field tests in China, Japan, Korea, Austria, Singapore, Spain, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. They will be more widely deployed around the world in 2017.

What are key priorities for your operator customers during the demonstrations?

Different customers have different priorities based on their own requirements. Most carriers prioritize enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) with the sub 6-GHz band as the first priority. However, Verizon and AT&T are focusing more on mmWave technology because they want to explore the “last mile wireless access” effect. The 5G-IA organization has predicted that not only eMBB but also massive machine-type communications (mMTC) will be great technology enablers for 5G networks.  

ZTE has recently joined the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA). How do cars fit into 5G?

The development of 4G-LTE networks has set up a good platform for the vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication service. In the 5G era, high-speed user cases are important, this applies not only to eMBB, but also Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communication (uRLLC) and mMTC. In addition, 5G can provide a solid platform for IoT networks. For the evolution of V2X networks, ZTE believes that the V2X should initially be based on the 4G network, and gradually evolve into 5G New Radio (NR). ZTE and our partners are working on solutions corresponding to this roadmap.

What are the potential apps/services will we see initially for 5G?

3GPP has defined three scenarios - eMBB, uRLLC, and mMTC - but has initially focused on more on eMBB in the first phase. Regarding eMBB, besides the traditional handset and data card, VR/AR devices are potential key services for eMBB.

What key announcements related to 5G do ZTE plan to make at the MWC 2017 in Barcelona?

 At Mobile World Congress 2017, ZTE will introduce new solutions for both Pre5G and 5G. ZTE will showcase our Pre5G FDD Massive MIMO solution, which is the world’s first Massive MIMO solution based on FDD-LTE. Our solution makes it possible to deploy Massive MIMO on all FDD-LTE networks, which account for 85% of the global LTE market, making Massive MIMO a much more commercially-compelling technology. It will help the operators to increase network capacity by multiple times without even getting new spectrum resources.

TDD Massive MIMO 2.0 supports multiple frequency bands and adapts to the mainstream TDD frequency band. With a small size, it fits into the BBU+AAU architecture and is conducive to 5G evolution. It also supports multicarrier CA to meet large capacity requirements of operators. Through 16-flow transmission, the single peak flow rate reaches over 2Gbp. It enables a new era of G+ speed.

ZTE’s 5G High/Low frequency series solutions will also be released during MWC 2017, covering most major frequency bands, with support for 5G NR/Beam tracking/Beamforming/Massive MIMO. This will put ZTE in a strong position for the next phase in 5G development.

This article first appeared on Telecom Asia 5G Insights February 2017 Edition

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