As 5G construction accelerates globally, deployment is trending from outdoor to indoor, from single-frequency to multi-frequency and from low/medium-frequency to high-frequency networks.
This requires superior SA (standalone) network performance; in outdoor scenarios, SSB 1+X solution is proposed to enhance the coverage of high buildings as it can increase cell throughput by 60%. For indoor coverage, the SuperMIMO solution combines the technology of Super Cell, MU-MIMO and Joint Beamforming to achieve peak throughput of 5Gbps.
Performance must also be efficient, which is where ZTE’s FAST solution excels. It uses complementary FDD and TDD-NR spectrum to improve uplink coverage and capacity via in-depth aggregation of time and frequency domain resources. The FAST solution supports less than 5ms non-ideal transmission delay under inter-site CA scenario. Relying on the intelligent orchestration solution, the subcell-level intelligent aggregation prediction is introduced to reduce the handover delay by 90%.
Millimeter wave features high bandwidth and can be used as an ultra-large-capacity solution in hot-spot areas. ZTE’s mmWave solution solves the problem of increased uplink service demand for various site types, including 4T4R macro stations and 2T2R small cell stations.
This year, ZTE launched the industry's first intelligent orchestration solution – Radio Composer. Based on the AI-based engine, it provides multi-dimensional network perception through the BBU's built-in intelligence and heterogeneous computing power to improve user experience and network efficiency. Network orchestration uses network resources as orchestration objects to achieve orchestration for spectrum, frame structure and beam, while user orchestration can be used to achieve intelligent user steering and scheduling.
PowerPilot to Help Achieve Carbon Neutrality Target
At present, many countries have set carbon-neutral targets, with energy saving solutions becoming the focus of operators - including at equipment level, site level and network level.
The introduction of new spectrum and networks will bring about a large increase in the network peak capacity, but the traffic load will increase gradually and will take some time to match the peak capacity. 5G networks will also bring advanced products and features with higher power consumption, such as the 5G Massive MIMO AAU.
To cope with these challenges, ZTE is continuously developing low power consumption product and features, and launched PowerPilot solution in 2019.
Atomized Capability to Support Vertical Markets
Vertical markets cover many industries, and so have very diverse and fragmented requirements. Even within same industry, the requirements of different companies can span a very broad range. Thus, it is very important to capture the key requirements of vertical markets and develop atomized capabilities to support these requirements.
An example of this is the Binjang Manufacturing Base near the city of Nanjing, in Jiangsu province, where ZTE’s 5G equipment is manufactured. The manufacturing base fully utilizes 5G technology to make it more efficient, in what the vendor calls 5G Made by 5G. The benefits are huge; previously, quality inspections were carried out manually by staff, but the accuracy rate was relatively low at 80%. 5G technology helped to increase this rate to 97% and reduce costs by around US$10,000 annually per manufacturing line.
Further Evolution to 5G Advanced and Beyond
ZTE has been actively involved the development of technology and standards of 5G and beyond, with over 2500 3GPP 5G Standards Essential Patents and over 200 standard experts working on 5G. The vendor is actively involved in 3GPP standards activity.
While 5G is entering its prime, R&D departments are moving on actively to 6G - ZTE already has set up five joint labs on 6G.
AI Technologies towards an Intelligent 5G Advanced Network
AI is expected to be the core functionality in 5G Advanced networks, evolving hand-in-hand with wireless technology. AI functionality can be implemented at different layers of the network; at the physical layer, AI can be used to better handle mobility and beam management as well as improve positioning accuracy. These benefits translate into better system performance in terms of throughput and reliability.
At higher layers, machine learning can be utilized to leverage on the data collected in the RAN network. Thus, machine learning algorithms may predict the energy efficiency and load state of the next period. Based on the predicted load, the system may dynamically configure the energy-saving strategy to keep a balance between system performance and energy efficiency and to reduce the total energy consumption.
AI can also be used for federated learning among multiple terminals at the edge, while maintaining the data privacy, integrity and security of the edge terminals.
RIS, 6G Technology Brought Forward to 5G Advanced
RIS (Reconfigurable Intelligent Surface) is a new key technology; effectively a 6G technology brought forward to the 5G Advanced era, similar to ZTE’s Pre5G Massive MIMO (a 5G technology brought forward into the 4G era). Normally, with the electro-magnetic signal reflection from ordinary material, the wireless channel can be considered as Passive or Fixed - but with RIS material, it can instead be viewed as Active or Reconfigurable. Thus, it is able to tremendously improve the overall wireless system performance. Using RIS and 5G together could deliver benefits such as a 30% reduction in sites and power consumption.
RIS is now widely regarded by the industry as a key candidate technology for further 5G evolution. In the past few months, the vendor has trialed the solution with China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile.
The 6G era will arrive within the next decade, and its requirements are obviously more challenging than those of the current 5G era – for example, throughput of one Terabit per second, user speeds of 20 Gbps, and connection density of 100 per square meter.
Areas actively being researched include frequency, such as Terahertz frequency. Space utilization is another area to work on, such as smooth virtual cell as well as spatial convergence.
On the air interface side, AI will be tightly integrated into MIMO technology and wireless channels will become more adaptive and configurable. Sensing networks and communications networks will see further convergence, and the network operations concept and logic will further shift from managing pieces of hardware and software to managing services.