LIVE FROM HUAWEI ANALYST SUMMIT 2019, SHENZHEN: Huawei pushed the need for open design and resource sharing to simplify base station installation and reduce site costs, but is taking a very different path than open networking group O-RAN Alliance.

Peter Zhou, CMO for Huawei’s wireless network product line (pictured), said: “We really need site simplification. All components need a modular design so they can be deployed on any type of site.” Automating infrastructure is essential “to reduce operating and maintenance costs.”

He said Huawei hasn’t joined the O-RAN Alliance because it believes the group’s approach will actually increase the total cost of ownership of sites. The group’s concept of open interfaces separates components, which would raise costs in the longer term, Zhou explained.

The O-RAN Alliance aims to enable operators to mix and match base station components from different technology vendors: the value proposition is flexibility and, theoretically, the ability to combine best-of-breed components.

Phil Marshall, chief research officer at Tolaga Research, told Mobile World Live: “The downside, however, is O-RAN can introduce inefficiencies because of the need to integrate the components via open interfaces. To achieve compatibility across open interfaces, compromises are inevitable.”

“The alternative that Huawei favours is to have vertically integrated solutions, where the interfaces between components can be optimised specifically for its architecture.”

While on the face of it O-RAN Alliance seems appealing, Marshall believes it falls short in terms of the raw performance and sophisticated capabilities needed for advanced 5G radio base station architectures.

Open discussion
Zhou also noted there are plenty of forums, including the GSMA and 3GPP, to discuss site simplification and automation, so asked “why create a new one”? But he called on the GSMA to be more active in driving such conversations.

“This is not just a Huawei focus. We just put the idea out there. We need to work together with all parties”, including vendors, tower companies, operators and governments.

Zhou also teased the release of its next-generation Massive MIMO unit at MWC19 Shanghai in June, noting it “will make a huge difference” and “show what is necessary for site simplification”.

He said the 70,000 5G base stations Huawei shipped to date have gone to South Korea, the Middle East, Europe and China, where deployments are limited to trials.