5G Insights: To retain customers, operators must ensure a consistent and enhanced mobile broadband experience for subscribers. How do they do that using existing LTE sites?
Zhou Yuefeng: It will be a challenge to achieve contiguous 5G coverage during the early phase. In order to provide a more consistent enhanced mobile broadband experience for subscribers, LTE will have a 4G long-term evolution, and coexist with 5G as well.
To continuously enhance the user experience, 4.5G evolution will take this responsibility, using technologies like Massive CA, high Order MIMO (4T4R/Massive MIMO), high Order Modulation (like 256QAM) and so on, so that the user experience can be achieved beyond gigabit speed in existing LTE networks.
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Aside from network architecture readiness, spectrum is a critical issue. What spectrum strategies must be implemented for maximum 5G core competitiveness?
ZY: 5G network competitiveness is based on all-spectrum capability instead of just 5G new spectrum alone.
When 5G New Radio (NR) arrives, due to the NR high bands limited coverage (mainly uplink-limited), achieving continuous coverage will require a higher level of investment.
With the 5G NR UL/DL decoupling solution, LTE legacy frequency bands will carry the 5G uplink data and ensure the 5G C-band coverage range in the initial 5G deployment. Huawei’s CloudAIR solution will realize LTE and 5G NR spectrum sharing. LTE and 5G NR spectrum sharing will enhance spectrum utilization.
Meanwhile, legacy frequency bands will be the foundation of 5G networks. The should also evolve for higher capability to guarantee a consistent user experience in the 5G era.
The low bands (700, 800, 900 MHz) will carry voice and support massive IoT service-they will also provide wider coverage.
Bands of 1.8, 2.1, 2.6GHz will carry video and enhanced mobile broadband service as capacity layer. Multi-antenna technology such as 4T4R for network-wide coverage and massive MIMO for hotspots can be used to improve capacity in existing LTE sites.
NR C-bands and mmWave bands with large bandwidth like 100MHz-1GHz will increase capacity significantly and can be deployed especially for high capacity purposes.
How do operators retain their value from existing networks once 5G arrives?
ZY: Operators will still be running multi-RAT networks when 5G arrives. And LTE will continue to dominate the market until 2025. Hence, evolved LTE networks will continue to generate revenue.
For 5G deployment, the 3GPP has defined non-standalone (NSA) architecture whereby 5G NR connection is anchored on existing LTE sites. This means that operators’ LTE networks constructed today will still be significant in the 5G era.
5G-like use-cases and new commercial models (such as NB-IoT, WTTx, VR/AR, etc) can be incubated in current LTE networks. These new services will help operators maximize the value of current 4G network investments Once 5G is deployed, 5G commercial use-cases will occur naturally.
5G investment is a gradual process. Huawei’s SingleRAN and CloudRAN solutions will help to maximize operators’ investment protection in terms of site and network architecture.
This article first appeared in Telecom Asia 5G Insights October 2017 Edition