Huawei Proposes 5.5G As Major Development Goal for Operators

Huawei’s Win-Win Innovation Week in July was an event intended to provide development solutions and strategies for operators and to demonstrate the company’s thought leadership in several areas: emerging technologies such as “5.5G”, sustainability, digital transformation and the role of 5G and multi-access edge computing in driving growth in operators’ enterprise business. The event hosted sessions led by different business units, each focussing on aspects of next-generation networks and showcasing new products and solutions. Here are some of the highlights.

Huawei executive director and chairman of ICT infrastructure David Wang set the scene by proposing the era of 5.5G — the company’s vision for the next phase in the evolution of 5G’s capabilities. According to Huawei, this comprises 5.5G enhanced mobile broadband, fixed access and fibre networks and a 5.5G core, to create a transformational platform. Outlining this vision, Mr Wang said that in combination with artificial intelligence, edge computing and data analytics, 5.5G would enhance network performance and enable new uses for operators, enterprises and consumers.

This evolution of 5G will be a cornerstone of the tech industry’s innovation road map for the next five to 10 years. Huawei expects deployments of 5.5G to start by 2025, but urged operators to begin as soon as possible. It sees 5.5G as the key to operator success in enterprise, because it offers not only improved connectivity, but a broader range of capabilities, and therefore, industrial uses. This makes it an attractive long-term solution for enterprises, which need value-added services and solutions, including enhanced computing, data storage and energy-efficient performance.

Yang Chaobin, president of Huawei’s wireless product business line, elaborated on the need for 5.5G to develop, noting that Huawei has introduced the 5.5G concept to the 3GPP mobile networking standards body, with a definition expected to be completed soon. It will be likely to support 10 Gbps downlink and 1 Gbps uplink speeds in fixed-line and mobile networks, scale to 100 billion connections (mostly non-human) and feature native network intelligence.

With 5G uplink currently a network bottleneck, Huawei believes it’s vital to decouple the uplink and downlink and offer each separately on demand. Native intelligence would enable this, along with control of network slicing, orchestration of different frequency bands, and improvements in energy efficiency of base stations and the whole network.

In outlining the work needed for these capabilities, Mr Chaobin said that Huawei’s MetaAAU 5G base station antenna now incorporates 384 antenna array elements, more than the 192 in competing providers’ solutions, and claimed that in a replacement test, this enabled a cell site to support 43% more traffic and 28% more users by the following day.

The theme of performance and user experience was taken up by Richard Liu, president of Huawei’s cloud core business unit. Mr Liu made the case that networks need to evolve from being public and consumer-orientated to private and focussed on enterprise needs, and to delivering immersive experiences, for example, moving from “flat” video to spatial video. He outlined the main principles of this evolution as being “simplified, intelligent and green”, before demonstrating how they play out in three new Huawei solutions:

  • Mobile VPN: harnessing 5G and multiaccess edge computing to bypass the general Internet and instead use an operator’s internal transport network. According to Huawei, it delivers simpler access, more reliable connectivity and a better user experience than traditional virtual private network solutions, and can divert traffic and control users through network slicing.
  • New Calling: a real-time, rich communications platform that uses high-definition video and voice and interactive features including intelligent translation, speech recognition and voice-to-text conversion for hearing-impaired users, multiparty calling, hand-gesture interpretation and emoji insertion. It promises a host of potential business and industry applications, as well as societal benefits.
  • Go 3D: a video enhancement solution that uses an intelligent transcoding server to convert 2D content to 3D and send it to an IPTV device in a livestream — a global first, Huawei claims. Not only does this reduce the high cost of 3D content creation but it also allows users to watch 3D video on a smartphone without needing 3D glasses.

Guest speakers from China Mobile, a car insurance company and China Telecom delivered video testimonies of their positive experiences with these three solutions, respectively.

In the next session, Richard Jin, president of the optical product line, talked about the need for operators to build deterministic all-optical networks for cloud computing, because as computing processing power increases, the performance requirements of the network also increase. He described a vision in which optical networks work in concert with mobile technology: fibre everywhere, with optical transport networking to every 5.5G site, delivering ultralow latency, ultrahigh bandwidth and ultrareliable connectivity.

Mr Jin highlighted optical capabilities and solutions that Huawei is launching, including all-optical cross-connect and gateway products, and said it now delivers all-optical 400 gigabit Ethernet network capabilities.

Next came the official release of Huawei’s Intelligent Cloud Network 2.0 solution in a presentation from Steven Zhao, vice president of data communication products. Building on its predecessor, the new solution offers upgrades in architecture, experience, model and services. Its aim is to widen the boundaries of intelligent cloud network connectivity as well as the service portfolio of operators beyond connectivity, helping them drive digital transformation for their customers. He outlined those enhancements:

  • Architecture: new hyperconverged and high-performance data centre architecture, incorporating unified transport, computing and storage networks, unified multisupplier service orchestration, supporting granular, customized provisioning of new services.
  • Experience: improvements in the wide area network (WAN), using the NetEngine 8000 F8, which Huawei claims is its most powerful metro core router to date. This four-in-one product supports segment routing, carrier-grade network address translation, broadband network gateway and Internet Protocol security, with higher port density and energy consumption savings of over 40%. The “brain” of this product is its Path Computation Element feature, which can calculate optimal traffic pathways and support service-level agreement requirements of over 2,500 applications.
  • Model: in private networks, this means enabling operators to extend their digital transformation capabilities from the WAN to the enterprise LAN by implementing cloud-managed network services that integrate WAN and LAN services and support intelligent operations and management, fault diagnostics and troubleshooting. This integration also supports Huawei’s newly released Wi-Fi 6 access point, which features high-density omnidirectional antennas in a compact, wall-plate design.
  • Services: specifically cybersecurity, enabling online, on-demand subscription to a suite of security services and scenario-based security solutions, based on Huawei’s Qiankun platform.

According to Mr Zhao, an intelligent cloud network is akin to the “power grid” of the digital economy, with Huawei having deployed more than 260 intelligent cloud networks and 40,000 intelligent clouds, using the original Intelligent Cloud Network, citing examples including MTN and Singtel.

Dr Fang Liangzhou, vice president and chief marketing officer of Huawei’s digital power business unit, wrapped up the first day with a presentation about the importance of energy saving in networks, setting up nicely the content of the second day of the event, focussed on green development solutions, which I’ll be reporting on in a subsequent article.

Deployments of 5G began more than five years ago, and 6G remain on the horizon for arrival in around 2030, so the 5.5G concept sounds like a sensible and necessary developmental waypoint for operators to aim toward — a defined next-phase technology and services environment that goes beyond the lower-hanging fruit of faster broadband that basic 5G offers. With a suite of products and solutions geared toward developing operators’ network and service capabilities, 5.5G represents not just faster, but better-quality connectivity from which new user experiences can be created.