Staying ahead of the field in the digital race
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Staying ahead of the field in the digital race

Xu Ziyang final (22.2.24).JPG
Xu Ziyang

Maximising the digital transformation calls for new, green business models as 5G-Advanced and AI take centre stage.

Early last October, a huge sporting extravaganza was drawing to a close in the Far East. The 19th edition of the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, was the largest ever, seeing 12,000 athletes from 45 nations competing for glory in 40 sports and almost 500 events over the course of two weeks.

But aside from the spectacular action on the track and field, and in the multiple assorted sporting arenas, the event provided the stage for showcasing some of the latest cutting-edge communications technologies. With 5G becoming properly established around the world and China a hotbed that’s set to hit 1 billion users by 2025, the next phase is now getting under way.

That next phase comes in the guise of 5G-Advanced. As a step on the pathway to 6G, which is expected to arrive around 2030, the technology promises to support a wider, richer set of uses including immersive experiences harnessing extended reality (XR), AI and machine-learning, while improving network performance and energy efficiency.

‘Era of revolution’

“This is an era of revolution, with faster convergence of energy and digital technologies, booming large-language models and generative AI, as well as fierce internal and cross-industry competition,” says Xu Ziyang, CEO of ZTE. “All these are giving birth to new business models.”


One capability that 5G-Advanced helps enable is reconfigurable-intelligent-surface (RIS) technology, which aims to boost network coverage and signal penetration by facilitating the dynamic control of radio signals between a transmitter and receiver.

At the Asian Games, RIS was used to help provide ubiquitous coverage to support multiple 8K live video broadcasts, XR and glasses-free 3D. A peak download speed of 25Gbps was achieved, allowing up to 100,000 users to surf the internet at the same time. In venues such as the badminton stadium, the video capabilities of RIS enabled viewers to get real-time slowed-down ‘bullet time’ playback of players and helped referees in giving more accurate judgments.

Going private

Such capabilities, offered by ZTE as the vendor pushes forward with 5G-Advanced, have clear benefits for large-scale events. But they are also bolstering opportunities in all types of industry vertical when it comes to rolling out the likes of private networks.

The technology can enhance relationships on this front like that between ZTE and Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation (WISCO), for which the vendor has collaborated on building a private 5G network. Enabling greater digitisation and automation in the factory, as well as reducing the need to have people on board machines, it has seen 25 steel applications rolled out to aid in areas including intelligent logistics, production control, digital equipment management, and energy and environmental control.

The network has already produced clear benefits for operational transformation, leading to a 19% rise in efficiency, and slashing labour and energy costs by 23% and 10% respectively. Such benefits are only set to surge as 5G-Advanced gains more traction, while enhancing safety, enabling the creation of smart cities and transport networks, and ensuring that businesses evolve into this new technological era.

Among an almost endless host of applications, AI will contribute to the development of smart factories and businesses by enabling even more efficiencies and the harnessing of data to boost operations. The race is therefore on to accelerate training and inference – or applying that training – to seize on the full benefits of AI. In addition, effective AI systems have the potential to lead to advances in sustainability.

“We are further improving the efficiency of AI training and inference, while cutting the total cost of ownership,” says Xu. “In doing so, we aim to build efficient, low-carbon and intelligent digital infrastructure, enabling connectivity and computing power everywhere.”

Green drive

As technology advances, this green push is one of the most important concerns of our time – calling on players across the entire digital ecosystem to engage in the transition to a decarbonised economy.

ZTE for one is taking this need seriously throughout its operations. The company, for instance, has more than 650 green innovation patents and added 22MW of photovoltaic power-generation capacity in 2023 – equating to massive 700% growth from the previous year. It has also collaborated on the development of an end-to-end carbon-neutralisation initiative for green transportation and last year joined the Science Based Targets initiative aimed at driving down emissions.

As a result of its wide focus on sustainability, ZTE was one of just 346 companies among more than 21,000 scored to be put on the ‘A List’ by non-profit organisation the Carbon Disclosure Project, denoting biggest contributors to mitigating climate change.

In embracing this ‘intelligence for all’ scenario, as Xu refers to, keeping a keen eye on the need for a green and sustainable future will be a cornerstone for all successful digital strategies.

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