Huawei sets out technology options to create a 5Gigaverse society
Speaking at the Huawei webinar "5Grows Together: Innovation for a 5Gigaverse Society" on 13 January, Daisy Zhu, VP of wireless marketing, outlined how 5G is rapidly on the rise around the world, growing to over half a billion users since mobile operators started launching the technology two and a half years ago.
The number of networks has reached about 200, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), while publicly available data indicates that around 2.3 million 5G sites have been deployed. Zhu said the evidence was promising given some of the results being returned by early adopters, showing significant hope for others progressing with their rollouts across the globe.
“If you look at operators who already have a very good 5G coverage, their market performance happened to be very prominent,” she said. “5G gives these operators the opportunity to improve their DoU [dataflow of usage] growth and improve their ARPU as well.”
Zhu noted that some of the foremost players in 5G around the world to date were already seeing growth in ARPU of up to 80% compared with 4G, with data per user growing between 1.2 and 5 times. She added that the rollout of 5G has been faster than that for the previous generation, while various reports have predicted that the technology will be the fastest-adopted mobile generation so far.
Referring to the extent to which 5G has already proliferated in the market, Zhu noted that more than 1,200 devices have been released that support the technology, covering every segment of the market from low- to medium- and high-end users – with devices available from below US$300 up to thousands of dollars.
Pointing to some of the key markets, China, which is right at the forefront of the latest mobile generation, has already seen 5G users hit about a third of total connections just over two years since the country’s operators launched services, with Huawei predicting that this will rise towards half by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, some of the country’s big cities have already hit a ratio of one-to-one for 5G sites deployed against those for 4G, said Zhu, though the proportion is closer to 50% in most urban areas. At the same time, users have seen a tenfold improvement in their experience in terms of data speeds.
Moving on to South Korea, the first country where operators launched commercial networks in April 2019, that country now sees 5G accounting for close to 30% of mobile subscriptions. At the same time, data traffic is much higher per user than for 4G, with estimates suggesting that 5G recently hit the 60% mark as a proportion of overall mobile traffic. In South Korea, users consume a large amount of innovative, high-data services, said Zhu, with technologies such as virtual and augmented reality showing promise.
Other countries and regions that Zhu points to have seen successes in different areas of 5G so far. In the Middle East, for instance, 5G fixed-wireless access has gained traction, while Thailand has seen a rapid increase in the proportion of traffic via 5G in urban areas, and Europe is looking to harness FDD modernisation for fast coverage with the technology.
Making the most of 5G
But this is only the beginning, with operators needing to look carefully at the next steps to assess how to make the most of the technology. While the numbers show promise so far, Zhu points out that in many countries 5G coverage only amounts to about 10% that of 4G base stations, so there are still many gaps to fill.
With the massive growth therefore anticipated worldwide, this calls for changes to accommodate customers’ increased data use and overcome the network complexity of adding a new network layer for every new technology. Products are also needed that widen coverage into less-populated areas, enable a better, uninterrupted experience, and incorporate the urgent need in today’s environment to cut power consumption.
Huawei has various technologies that it believes place it at the cutting-edge and can help put partners ahead of the curve as user numbers ramp up, pushing the world closer to what the vendor envisions as a “5Gigaverse society”.
One of these is the vendor’s MetaAAU offering, which it launched last September and that incorporates extreme-large-antenna-array (ELAA) technology. The service has already been rolled out to some 20 cities in China, covering 20 million people.
Zhu explained that this development represents the next generation of massive multiple-input multiple-output (mMIMO) technology, leading to both a significant performance boost by 30% compared with previous generations and cutting power consumption by the same amount. These dual aims have simultaneously been achieved as a result of the ELAA technology supporting 384 antenna arrays, double the number of the previous generation.
“Everybody is talking about how to reduce carbon emissions, so we had to find a new way to address the issues of power consumption but at the same time maintain or increase performance,” said Zhu. This innovation fits the bill, she said, adding that the technology puts Huawei ahead of the game.
BladeAAU: an extra cutting edge
Key to the vendor’s mMIMO offering is also its BladeAAU series, which wraps 5G active antenna units (AAUs) and passive antennas into a small form factor to enable deployment where there is limited antenna space. With a height of just two metres or less, compared to other three-metre offerings on the market, and support for multiple spectrum bands, Zhu estimates that the product is two years ahead of the industry.
One Nordic operator that has installed the BladeAAU at the top of antennas has seen coverage improve by 20 to 35%. “This is a very good position on the antenna pole [because] it can offer extra coverage,” said Zhu.
The convenience of the product also provides another key benefit to help solve 5G deployment challenges and ramp up rollout. “Just with one site permission, you can accommodate so many bands, so it features fast deployment,” she said.
Meanwhile, Huawei’s support for 64T64R (64 transmit and 64 receive antenna elements) in its massive MIMO products for 5G facilitates better coverage, performance, and downlink and uplink speeds than other configurations such as 32T32R and 8T8R.
Zhu explained that this means a need for a lower density of sites, while the performance gains have been demonstrated in many tests in live networks – showing five times the capacity improvement for 64T compared with 8T, and a 60% coverage gain compared with 32T. “Huawei is the king in providing 64 massive MIMO,” said Zhu, adding that the technology is “the first choice for continuous coverage”.
Expanding the 5Gigaverse
In addition, while mMIMO has been successfully commercialised to a high level of performance on TDD bands, Huawei has also introduced products to improve the performance on FDD bands. These harness the power of ultra-wideband technology and aid operators with limited or no high TDD bandwidths, and those seeking to combine rollouts using the two technologies.
On top of all this, to further boost the 5Gigaverse concept, Huawei has pole-based products that help expand macro coverage, helping fill in coverage holes. These include Book RRU 3.0, Easy Macro 3.0 and EasyBlink 2.0, which the vendor describes as the industry’s smallest and lightest 5G AAU pole site product. The products help fill in residential coverage, and street coverage and capacity, creating a denser, high-quality deployment for 5G.
Complementing these is Huawei’s LampSite offering, which enables distributed mMIMO to enhance 5G indoors, supporting high-performance rollouts into environments such as offices and hotels.
With all these innovative technologies, Zhu emphasises that deployment in a “green”, highly energy-efficient way is a must and is thus at the heart of Huawei’s considerations.
Apart from reiterating the power-saving capabilities of MetaAAU, she also points to the dynamic power-sharing enabled by the vendor’s FDD ultra-wideband radio remote units (RRUs). “Power can be dynamically shared across different bands using different modes – so it can perfectly leverage the power output [and so] reduce the power consumption,” said Zhu.
Meanwhile, Huawei’s recently launched PowerStar 2.0 offers intelligent energy-saving features for base stations that the company says reduce energy consumption by more than 25%.
These include intelligent prediction and optimisation as network performance requirements change, supporting shutdown in milliseconds based on service load to help extend energy-saving periods from off-peak hours to the whole day.
Zhu described how businesses in multiple industries have struck 5G contracts, in sectors from manufacturing, mining and health to shipping and energy, with many thousands of contracts and sites deployed across them. “5G enables industry digitalisation, and there will be more requirements for 5G construction in the future,” she said.
Deciding how to roll out high-quality networks to fulfil these needs is therefore of crucial importance right now, helping to make the best of the technology both for consumers and critical industries into the future. Many options are available from players such as Huawei to maximise and improve the quality of 5G rollouts, so it is up to them to choose the best mix to turn early promise into long-term performance and success.