PARTNER CONTENT: At the 2023 Global Mobile Broadband Forum, Huawei took its mission to bring 5.5G into reality to the next level, launching the industry’s first full-series of solutions for 5.5G. Here, Cao Ming, President of Wireless Solution, explains the core benefits of its new offering, the current state of the 5G market, how it can drive cutting-edge services and the technology’s potential across the globe.

Speaking at MBBF 2023 in Dubai, UAE, Huawei’s President of Wireless Solution Cao Ming opened an exclusive media roundtable by providing a background on where 5G stands today, and how the network technology is developing to 5.5G to usher the next connectivity revolution.

With large-scale 5G now deployed for around half a decade, it is stated that there are 260 million commercial networks in operation, while the number of 5G base stations has hit the 4 million mark. By the end of this year, GSMA Intelligence forecasts the global 5G user base will reach 1.5 billion.

“The rapid deployment of 5G networks globally has brought business value to telcos. The industry has enjoyed the dividends of 5G so far,” said Mr. Cao.

Pointing to some of the services enabled by the network technology, he noted capabilities of 5G are ten-times stronger than 4G, resulting in fast development of HD video calling, cloud gaming and a host of other use cases.

However, this is not the whole 5G application offering, this is just the start. Through 5.5G, which in turn results in ten-times stronger network capabilities and the ability to offload on to the cloud, there will be greater demands for services such as 3D games and extended reality (XR) services, which the executive tipped to become mainstream.

That’s why Mr. Cao believed it is important for the whole industry and ecosystem to pursue these market trends and ensure development of a 5.5G ecosystem, such as chipsets, applications, devices and tools to enrich future applications.

“With stronger 5.5G network capabilities, telco business scopes can increase, as can the scopes of content providers, device providers and chip manufacturers, enabling new revenue streams in the 5.5G era.”

Where 5.5G stands today
With hype growing, where does 5.5G sit in the market today? Mr. Cao hailed current momentum for 5.5G around the world, stating it is already in the phase of accelerating commercialisation and there are key reasons why it should be introduced.

First, it is simply because the industry is already ready for it. With Release 18 set for 2024, the completion of this phase will finalise the definition of 5.5G specifications, while Sub-6GHz is the band capable of scale deployment, and its development is to be discussed at the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (also held in Dubai) in November.

Secondly, in total, nearly 20 international operators have verified the functions and capabilities of 5.5G, according to Mr. Cao, meaning networks in some key developed markets could pull the trigger.

Finally, Mr. Cao again pointed to applications and services. “Today, we’re seeing the initial achievements of 5G development and the scope of business has increased as a result. 5G today is not just about connecting people, but also connecting homes, things, vehicles and industries. All of these services are on a fast track.”

Huawei’s suite of solutions
With the launch of Huawei’s 5.5G portfolio, Mr. Cao said since the key elements that support the development of the mobile communications industry, such as the ecosystem, network and technology, are ready, the company believes 2024 will be the year of full-scale commercialisation of the technology.

Huawei’s full-series of 5.5G products can enable ultra-high energy and O&M efficiency and spectrum utilisation.

At a high level, Mr. Cao explained the vendor’s 5.5G solutions can help operators efficiently build networks through continuous innovations across five pillars of basic capabilities: broadband, multi-band, multi-antenna, intelligent and green.

These complement the core benefits and iconic features of its 5.5G offering, which can enable 10Gb/s downlink, 1Gb/s uplink, 100 billion connections, ultra-low latency and full scenario ‘0 bit 0 Watt’ for optimal energy efficiency.

On the first pillar, Mr. Cao explained ultra-wideband was essential for telcos as it provides the ability for the equipment to support a large-range of dis-continuous bands, rather than requiring operators to deploy multiple pieces of kit.

Multi-band is equally important, as through the development of the industry, the spectrum varies from Sub-1GHz, Sub-3GHz, C-band, and Sub-6GHz as well as mmWave in the future. Huawei’s products can support multiple bands across a range of spectrum within one box. “For telcos, this can reduce deployment costs and reduce pressure on antenna space, leading to lower tower rent.”

Coming to multi-antenna, Mr. Cao said “Huawei has been promoting this for years”, explaining that as spectrum was a limited resource, there is a need to deploy and define technologies that can increase spectral efficiency. Through a multi-antenna approach, “this technology has provided end users with multi-fold better experience, and has reduced the cost for telcos to licence the spectrum,” he added.

A fourth critical pillar is a very on-trend topic in the industry – green. The deployment of technologies always mean the consumption of a large amount of energy. Here, Mr. Cao explained the complexities of taking the correct approach because the volume of traffic often varied in the same sites or same areas, and its innovations set out to ensure a reduction in energy consumption when traffic is low.

Finally, Mr. Cao outlined the benefits of IntelligentRAN, a solution which supports high level autonomy to a network. He explained that in the 2G era for example, there was mainly a requirement to make phone calls and send SMS. In the 5G era, services are a lot more diverse and complex, due to gaming, live streaming, short videos and other examples, meaning there is a need to reduce the cost and difficulties on the network O&M. Through IntelligentRAN and creating a more intelligent network, telcos can provide these “enhanced capabilities”, supporting optimised service experience and network energy efficiency.

Delegates listen to a presentation during Huawei's MBBF 2023

Summing up Huawei’s 5.5G solutions, Mr. Cao believed 5.5G will be a key mobile technology in the coming years. Compared with 5G, its network capabilities are ten-times stronger. “Huawei’s 5.5G solutions can help operators smoothly evolve their 5G network resources and infrastructure to 5.5G.”

Mr. Cao added that the company’s fundamental principles of innovating products and solutions are designed to “protect long-term telco investment”.

Global 5.5G potential
Many telcos today already have sufficient spectrum resources and they are “in a position to provision 5.5G services”, according to Mr. Cao.

In China for example, China Mobile and the shared wireless networks China Telecom and China Unicom are in that very position. However, Mr. Cao acknowledges that China might be different from other countries, with operators in other markets having both limited spectral resources and a high demand for access to new bands.

A market with huge opportunity is the Middle East. The region has been a pioneering 5G market and several operators have already begun discussions with Huawei on the development of 5.5G “several years ago”.

Ongoing discussions with du, for example, resulted in two major developments. At this year’s MWC in Barcelona the operator signed an MoU with Huawei on 5.5G, and at MBBF 2023 the companies jointly showcased the world’s first 5.5G villa, allowing users to enjoy a range of experiences powered by the technology such as VR gaming, use of 3D glasses and access to 8K HD videos.

Zain also signed an MoU with Huawei in March, and the pair completed the verification of Passive IoT in warehouse scenarios in July, and jointly held a 5.5G Smart City Summit in Riyadh.

Turning attentions to Africa, Mr. Cao added Huawei was dedicated and committed to providing diverse solutions for different scenarios and for markets at different phases of development.

He pointed out that progress of the mobile industry in the continent was different to others because even several parts of the same country are at different stages of development.

For example, in South Africa 5G has already been deployed in major cities, but in many rural areas 3G still is the dominant form of connectivity.

Mr. Cao explained it was a market decision as to when 5G and even 5.5G would be available in African countries, based on the maturity of the device ecosystem and market development.

And learnings can be taken from leading 5G markets, such as the Middle East, China, Europe and countries in Asia-Pacific, on how to ensure the market is ripe and ready for the introduction of advanced technologies.

“Huawei has been collaborating intensively in different regions. We hope that through our efforts, countries and regions can enjoy the convenience brought by 5G sooner, so that we can help to eliminate that digital divide,” concluded Cao Ming.