Opportunities on the road to 5G

Staff writer
10 Oct 2016

Mao Dun (pictured), VP of Huawei Global Wireless Network Marketing, explains how 4.5G will not only pave the way for 5G, but also create new revenues streams in its own right, from WTTx and verticals to public safety and the IoT

5G Insights: The term 4.5G gets thrown around a lot - what is Huawei’s definition of 4.5G?

Mao Dun: 4.5G has been officially named by 3GPP as LTE-Advanced Pro. However, LTE-Advanced Pro is more related to 3GPP standards. Huawei uses the term “4.5G” for more extensive meanings. 4.5G enables wireless B2X, which helps operators extend their business from traditional individuals (B2C) to households (B2H), and also vertical industries (B2V). Especially regarding vertical industries, NB-IOT (Narrow Band Internet of Things) and LiTRA (public safety) are the next blue oceans, and we fully believe vertical industries will be the next growth point in the following five years globally. 4.5G will allow operators to play a key role in this industry chain and gain new revenue streams.

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How exactly is that different from 5G? In other words, once 4.5G is in place, how will 5G build on that?

4.5G is the natural evolution of 4G and a necessary transition to 5G. What we mean is that 4.5G is the bridge to 5G. Many 5G architectures and technologies will be used in 4.5G ahead of time - for example Cloud RAN, nTnR, and Massive MIMO. This can effectively protect operators’ investments and enable them to provide faster services and better user experiences on the basis of existing infrastructure.

How is wireless broadband a business proposition, as opposed to residential?

One billion families are without broadband connections. In some scenarios, it is very difficult and expensive to deploy traditional fixed broadband. WTTx introduces wireless technology as a compliment to traditional technologies and will quickly accomplish the target of connecting the unconnected with lower costs.

WTTx allows operators to explore wireless broadband opportunities such as home users, SOHOs, SMEs, schools and rural areas. WTTx offers a competitive or equivalent user experience to FTTx with a better ROI. The typical statistics in developing countries show that WTTx offers lower deployment costs and shorter deployment time compared to fiber deployments, with plug and play functionality.

How big an opportunity is the public safety space for 4.5G? Is this a niche play or something bigger?

Global investment in Public Safety LTE will be $2 billion by 2020. If we take a look at the terrorist attacks that have happened in many countries in recent years, a more efficient public safety service is necessary. We also find that traditional private trunking networks have very high investment and maintenance costs.

But 4.5G provides another way to reuse wide coverage of existing operators’ commercial networks to provide better services such as push to talk, push to video and GIS services using the 3GPP’s standardized LTE integrated trunked radio access technology (LiTRA).

Besides public safety, many other vertical industries can also be served by LiTRA - for example hospitals, police, harbors, mines, airports, etc. So this is not a niche, but a big market.

What kinds of applications will we see initially for cellular IoT?

A few applications have already successfully undergone end-to-end demonstrations in several projects, such as smart parking, smart water meters, smart gas meters and logistics tracking. More and more vertical devices are under development, including grid meters and streetlights. Hopefully these devices will be released to the market in 2017.

This article was first published on Telecom Asia 5G Insights September 2016 edition

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