Looking forward to the network of 2025

18 February 2021 | Staff writer

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Huawei is already preparing for what network operators will need in 2025 — only four years away. The company’s Peng Song has reviewed what the target network of 2025 will need

What will be the key features of the future network? Huawei executive Peng Song gave some clues at a preview of Mobile World Congress Shanghai.

There will be five key features, said Peng, the President of Huawei Carrier BG Marketing & Solution Sales Department. And Huawei has summarized the five key futures of target network as GUIDE, as a way of remembering.

Peng said that the five key features of the target network are:

  • Gigabit Anywhere;
  • Ultra-Automation;
  • Intelligent Multi-Cloud Connection;
  • Differentiated Experience;
  • Environment Harmony.

“We believe GUIDE can provide guidance for future target network planning,” said Peng. “But how?”, he asked how operators can build a target network for future business success? “It is well known that in the 2G era, mobile voice services exploded. In the 4G era, broadband data applications began to dominate our lives.”

Now, he said, it’s time for operators to respond, he said. “How do operators respond to these challenges well and grasp the opportunities?” The answer: “We have to start the preparations today, by changing our planning from traffic-centric to service-centric.”

He noted that 5G has commercially launched in over 100 networks, and that cloud and big data have been already adopted in many sectors. “And automation is also widely used to boost productivity,” said Peng. “At the same time, digitalisation is accelerating in all industries.”

But why that change from traffic-centric to service-centric? “The customer is changing,” said Peng. “The service type is also changing. The application scenarios are changing too.”

That’s why Huawei’s views on what it calls “target network 2025” are so illuminating. “According to a World Bank report, if broadband speed is doubled, GDP growth rate will increase by 0.3%,” he said. “National broadband infrastructure has become one of the most important government strategies in many countries.”

“Many countries, such as Germany and UK, have already published their Gigabit 2025 plan,” he said. “We’re quite confident that gigabit is essential for target network 2025.”

Look at the services. High-definition video is evolving to 4K quality, or even 8Km driving capacity demands yet further. Virtual reality and augmented reality (VR and AR) “will become more and more popular”, he said, forecasting that they “will drive 10 to 100 times traffic growth”. But “good experience requires seamless network coverage”, he added.

What technology will be needed for all this? “Technology keep on innovating,” said Peng. In the wireless sector, 5G will gradually evolve to 5.5G. In fibre, GPON will evolve to NGPON. “Even 50G PON will be commercially deployed in some markets.” Huawei launched 50Gbps PON two years ago and there are already live trials.

“Second, big data and intelligence have been applied in many industries already,” said Peng. “For example, to fight against the pandemic, the Singapore government required people to install a mobile app, TraceTogether. Before you enter a shop or a restaurant or any building, you need to check in with this app, and later to check out with it when you leave.”

This means, if anyone is later diagnosed positive with Covid-19, the app will help trace where that person has been and who they were in contact with. “The government is also able to make the proper lock down policies based on the traffic model out of all the data.”

But telecoms operators are also using intelligence in their networks. “New sites can be commissioned using the ‘plug and play’ model,” said Peng. “Users can also speed up specific services, such as online education.”

The need for this will grow over the next 10 years, he said. “The scale and complexity of networks, services and operation will grow greatly,” with ultra-automation “a must” and automation assigned the task of handling the complexity, in order to simplify manual operations.

Meanwhile, “the pandemic is accelerating industrial digitalization”, said Peng. “Migration to multi-cloud is becoming normal.”

He gave an example of a logistics company that might use Office 365 on the Azure cloud and the Welink video conference service on Huawei Cloud. “Meanwhile, their production system is deployed on their private cloud to ensure security,” he added.

Peng said that “84% of large enterprises and 61% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have selected a multi-cloud strategy. As a result, this multi-cloud trend drives the need for flexible multi-cloud access.”

Enterprises want to have a good experience with high-quality multi-cloud services, he warned, with a simple, one-stop process to subscribe to both cloud and connection, and “one link to access multi-cloud and quick provisioning services from cloud to the network connection”.

Fortunately, he added, “the network technology evolution from MPLS to IPv6 also provides a foundation for carriers to meet those requirements, including multi-cloud aggregation, one hop to the clouds, smart route optimisation, and so on”.

Huawei believes that intelligent clouds connection will be one of the key features of the target network, he said.

“The direct driving force of business is customer requirements. Traditional best-effort experience supports carriers’ basic business models, but customers are willing to pay more for a better experience for certain services,” he added — lower latency, for example. “A stock exchange company is willing to pay 10 times more to reduce latency by 1ms.”

Meanwhile other features are emerging, such as liquid optical transport networks (liquid OTN), “which will enable operators to monetise their network capability much better”, promised Peng. “We believe a differentiated experience, which includes best-effort and deterministic experience, should be one of the key features of target network.”

Finally, he addressed environmental experience — the E in Guide. “Today, there are already 120 countries in the process of developing 2050 net zero carbon legislation,” he said. “Green has become one of the sustainable development strategies for leading operators.”

But there’s more to be done. “To be greener, to achieve environmental harmony is key when we talk about target network 2025,” he said. “Green should be implemented in all dimensions.”

He gave some examples: “For instance, 5G can achieve one twenty-fifth power consumption per bit of 4G. Ultra-automation enables intelligent power saving based on traffic prediction, reducing energy consumption by another 15% to 30%.”

Slicing technology will also play a part. It “can virtualise a physical network into multiple private networks, greatly reducing carbon emissions”, he said.

“So what we are planning is the real greener target network.”

And that will help network operators over the next few years to meet market needs and achieve those vital targets: Gigabit Anywhere, Ultra-Automation, Intelligent Multi-Cloud Connection, Differentiated Experience, Environment harmony.