Digital Transformation Driving APAC Growth says ZTE's Mei Zhonghua

Interview: ZTE's SVP Mei Zhonghua

Digital Transformation is driving APAC growth according to ZTE SVP and head of Asia, Mei Zhonghua. Developing Telecoms caught up with Mei during MWC 2023 to discuss the vendor’s growing operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Read the full interview here.

Who are ZTE’s key customers in the Asia region? Can you tell us about ZTE’s recent activity in APAC?

In the Asia-Pacific region, ZTE's market pattern of Tier 1 operators has rapidly improved, including Thailand’s AIS, Indonesia’s Telkomsel, Malaysia’s CelcomDigi and TM, Bangladesh's GrameenPhone, etc.

It is positive to see ZTE's wireless access, fixed network access, bearer network, converged core network and other communication equipment continue to grow in these countries on the one hand and on the other hand, ZTE has achieved rapid growth in second-curve businesses such as servers, data centers, new energy, and terminals.

How far along are they on their digital transformation journey, and how is ZTE helping them?

Governments in the Asia-Pacific region are increasingly recognizing that the digital economy will be a key lever for the competitiveness of companies and countries, and that digitalization is increasingly become a key to efficiency across economic value chains. In order to promote digital transformation and digital economy development, many countries have issued national digital strategies,such as Indonesia's MSMEs Digital Technology Intervention, Malaysia's Digital Economy Blueprint, and Singapore's Smart Nation 2025 Blueprint.

Telecom operators are enablers of digital transformation and are undertaking a variety of digital transformation projects in a range of areas. Japan's NTT Docomo has launched Smart Life services focusing on health and medical care. In Singapore, Singtel and the Building Construction Authority of Singapore are trialing the use of 5G technologies to make building sites safer and more efficient. Thailand's AIS is jointly developing IoT products based on 5G smart network technology with Tata Consultancy Services, providing solutions in manufacturing, logistics, transport and smart city sectors. Operators in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Bangladesh are experiencing a peak in data center construction. The data center plays an important role in digital transformation by storing, transferring, and analyzing the data.

As a driver of digital economy, ZTE is willing to work with all partners in the industry and ecosystem, to shape digital innovation and embrace a new digital future by providing infrastructure construction such as large-scale communication networks and data centers and innovative industry applications.

ZTE has launched an end-to-end efficient network deployment solution for ultra- efficient networks, helping operators achieve ultra-efficient green connectivity in all scenarios. ZTE has launched the full-scenario UniSite solution for wireless access to help operators efficiently deploy full-band and multi-RAT networks with optimal TCO and ready for 5G-Advanced evolution.

For wired access, ZTE offers the industry's highest integrated 16-port 10G PON to enable efficient FTTx evolution; it has also launched the industry's first 50G PON Combo card, which supports the coexistence and smooth evolution of three technology generations, thus effectively protecting investment.

For bearer networks, the company has provided high-performance 400G transport solutions for all scenarios, with doubled capacity and the longest backbone transmission distance in the industry.

ZTE focusing on energy saving of wireless sites and data centers. Bolstered with innovative solutions such as a full-scenario solar solution, intelligent power saving PowerPilot Pro, intelligent energy storage Smart Li, and green data center, ZTE has been committed to saving energy throughout the entire process of transmission, use and storage, reducing energy consumption per bit, and building an extremely energy-saving and low-carbon telecommunication network.

Furthermore, ZTE offers ZTE Axon, ZTE Blade, Nubia full consumer electronics products and the entire family of MBB, FWA and IoT through four scenarios including sports & health, audio & video entertainment, business & travel and home & education, so users can access digital networks wherever they are.

Meanwhile, ZTE actively expands new digital applications, develops unified services of "connectivity, computing, and digital capabilities", and contributes to the digital economy. Among vertical industries, ZTE collaborates with operators and other partners to explore new industry applications and business models, and promote digital transformation of traditional industries. . ZTE can provide a "private network as a service" solution with the industry's smallest Mini5GC, the industry's only wireless base station with built-in computing power NodeEngine solution, and industrial gateways with various forms such as optical network access, video & TSN, and optical access products for campuses. With partners in countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, ZTE has explored various applications across a range of fields, including smart manufacturing, energy, tourism, and health care.

ZTE regards connectivity as the foundation of home services. If offers products and solutions that deliver the ultimate whole-home gigabit-plus experience by increasing bandwidth, enhancing coverage and improving experience. With Beyond Video as the key, ZTE supports operators in expanding their digital ecosystem and achieving value- added innovation by providing experience, value, and ecosystem beyond expectations.

Could you discuss some specific cases where ZTE has helped its customers to implement digital transformation to improve efficiencies and enhance revenue?

By providing cutting-edge technology and low TCO solutions, ZTE assists operators in building networks to develop users and new services, thereby improving efficiency and revenue. For example,

ZTE provides SuperMIMO indoor connectivity solutions for Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) in Malaysia. The throughput of between 3 – 4 times that of traditional cells. This ensures superior coverage and signal stability for 5G users, even in highly built-up areas. ZTE assists DNB to build a high-quality 5G network. DNB's 5G network has close to 50% population coverage at the end of 2022.

  • In the Philippines, ZTE constructed over 1,700 full-turnkey sites, more than 5,000km of optical cables and 30 data centers for the new operator DITO within 18 months, creating a new pace in the telecommunications industry.
  • In Bangladesh, Banglalink together with ZTE proactively introduced high-power dual-band 4T ultra broadband RRUs (UBR) to replace traditional single-band RRUs, and reduce the number of RRUs from 6 to 2 for a three-sector site, saving 75% of tower space and 60% of the load bearing capacity, greatly saving space for OPEX of rental and electricity fees.
  • ZTE teamed up with Jazz, Pakistan's leading digital operator, to deploy 5G technology based 4G FDD massive-MIMO (Multi Input Multi Output) on Jazz’s 4G network. The deployment brings an average network traffic gain of 15% and average single user speed gain of 160%.
  • In terms of new business development, ZTE and Thailand's AIS jointly launched a number of 5G industry applications, including 5G Natural Navigation AGV, 5G Machine Vision, and 5G holographic applications.

What is ZTE's perspective on the next development direction of Telecommunications industry in APAC? Which sectors are you seeing the most activity in?

Digital transformation drives the growth of ICT demand. In 2023, the Asia-Pacific telecommunications industry is expected to usher in more innovations in 5G networks, services, and business models. Market growth for fixed broadband will remain strong, transactions between towers will become more frequent and Data center businesses will flourish in emerging Asia-Pacific countries.

As 4G reaches its peak, operators will focus on deploying 5G as soon as possible. According to GSMA's data, 18 countries and regions in Asia-Pacific have launched 5G services as of January 2023, but about half are small-scale deployments. The 5G network will be launched or expanded by more countries and operators in 2023, and the scale effect will promote operators to achieve 5G profitability as well. In the consumer sector, operators are exploring 5G applications and service binding strategies to promote 5G subscription penetration, such as SKT’s metaverse platform “ifland”in South Korea. Among the other benefits of 5G is its ability to support the digital transformation of vertical industries. A number of developed countries, such as Japan and South Korea, have already explored and applied this technology, and emerging Asia-Pacific countries are also experimenting more. For example, AIS and ZTE have partnered to create the A-Z Centre, Thailand’s first-ever hub for 5G innovation. The two parties will jointly developing solutions for the business sector, for industry and for the wider public, and enhancing competitive capabilities under Thailand 4.0.

Fixed broadband will grow strongly in Asia-Pacific. More operators are offering high-speed fiber optic products and upgrading their fiber optic services. For example, TPG Telecom in Australia and PLDT in the Philippines launched high-speed fiber optic services with speeds up to 10Gbps in 2022. In Asia-Pacific, 5G FWA will lead the development of the fixed broadband market, with markets including Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Philippines launching 5G FWA services already. Omdia predicts that from 2023 to 2027, fixed broadband subscribers in Asia Pacific (excluding China) will increase by more than 10 million annually.

Diverting tower assets has become an industry trend for telecom operators due to monetization of assets and carbon reduction efforts. More than 11,000 telecom towers were sold by PLDT and Globe in the Philippines in 2022. Such infrastructure is actively acquired by investment institutions in order to obtain stable income and attract new investments in new energy.

Emerging markets will lead a new round of growth in data centers in the Asia-Pacific region. In Southeast Asia, Indonesia is now the data center market's growth engine. Data centers in Indonesia have grown rapidly due to Indonesia's favorable demographic structure and supportive policies. It is the country's goal to occupy 40% of ASEAN's electronic economy market by 2025.

During MWC Barcelona 2023, will ZTE have any good news for us about the Asia region?

On Feb. 27, Telkomsel and ZTE Collaborate announced that the two parties in the latest collaboration to synergize to test the 5G network capability improvement based on the 2.3 GHz frequency band, which can increase the coverage of broadband services for the maritime area. In this collaboration, the solutions used to improve the quality and coverage of broadband networks in Indonesia's maritime area is a 5G radio device from ZTE with Active Antenna technology that can reach up to a radius of 60 km. In addition to providing high-performance network services, the solution can also provide new services such as precise positioning, real-time environmental monitoring, and fish disease monitoring based on 5G networks to support more economic activities such as shipping, fishing, and tourism. Further, we have signed a cooperation agreement with Telkomsel. The two of us will collaborate to develop new solutions for Indonesian enterprises in various fields, such as intelligent manufacturing, ports, transportation, mining, and aviation.

In the next few days, ZTE and Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison will sign a network innovation strategic cooperation memorandum to build a new-generation 5G transport network. We and IOH will carry out in-depth research and cooperation on technologies such as FTTx, intelligent orchestration of wireless networks, and fixed wireless access networks, to provide Indonesian users with seamless network connection and coverage and high-quality network service experience. Furthermore, we will release a glasses-free 3D PAD with Thailand's AIS. Traditional 3D hasn't been widely adopted because of wearing glasses, and glasses-free 3D PAD products are likely to revolutionize the consumer electronics market.


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