PARTNER FEATURE: Huawei, the largest telecoms equipment supplier in the world, is highlighting the need for more open and simplified site design which supports resource sharing and reduces site costs as mobile operators prepare to deploy 5G networks.
Speaking at the Huawei Analyst Summit in Shenzhen last week, Peter Zhou, CMO for Huawei Wireless Solution (pictured, below), said “the 5G game is truly on”, with countries around the globe fast-tracking the commercialisation of the next-generation technology and distributing spectrum as more devices become 5G-capable.
The first major change in consumers’ daily lives will be enhanced mobile broadband, which he expects to lead industry digital transformation. With 5G networks serving as infrastructure for ICT, companies will need to be futureproof and capable of responding to societal needs.
Zhou stressed to the group of analysts: “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 by providing an open and simplified networking concept in its SingleRAN Pro, operators can roll out commercial 5G networks more quickly. SingleRAN Pro also makes 5G networks more open and agile for future expansions and upgrades via ‘open sites’, ‘open networks’ and ‘open ecosystems’.
“Operators need to act quickly and efficiently to meet current demand, while ensuring networks are flexible and adaptive to meet future challenges. SingleRAN Pro aims to streamline the upgrade to integrated networks to allow for quick 5G deployment through simplified sites, simplified networks, and simplified operations and maintenance,” he explained.
The Shenzhen-based company has been pushing for increased site openness, moving from a closed site structure to an open structure. This requires tower companies and municipalities opening up access to their assets. Huawei estimated opening access to towers can reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) by as much as 30 per cent. For lamp posts, the TCO reduction could be as much as 50 per cent.
For example, traditional base stations are deployed in cabinets, but to ensure space for more 5G sites in the future, modern stations must be able to use an array of site resources, he suggested.
The first step towards this is switching out cabinets for modular designs and unified physical installation interfaces, so sites can be easily combined. Huawei plans to share its design standards for interfaces, heat dissipation and traditional site weights with third parties – such as lamppost suppliers, tower companies and the public sector – which can then design their own services based on the standards. This will allow for scheduled resource use, resulting in reduced site costs. Open sites will also have access to social resources through the re-use of existing sites, such as wooden poles.
Huawei released its three-layer automation architecture at its 2018 Global Mobile Broadband Forum, opening up APIs to operators and third parties. Operators can then customise the APIs based on their own service workflows to manage their networks more efficiently and with more flexibility.
For large outdoor sites, the company launched the Super Blade site solution, which uses a special ASIC chip design to improve integration. This allows for wider bandwidth, multi-channel 5G base stations which can be lighter and smaller, while delivering a larger capacity. It uses a 1+1 antenna to lay the foundations for 5G development and an outdoor modular design that make its Super Blade site well-suited for greenfield macro sites, rooftops and new poles, he said.
The simplified sites make construction far less complex and slashes the total costs of operation. For smaller indoor cells, there is also the 5G LampSite which uses digital indoor system architecture for faster cell deployment.
Zhou said there are five levels of mobile network automation, with the industry currently at Level 2 and expected to move to Level 3 by 2022. Huawei’s MBB Automation Engine and new base stations aim to support automation and make network maintenance more application-focused, automatically including complex elements such as network configurations, optimisation and maintenance. The shift will mean operations and maintenance can be ten-times more efficient, while improving service provision fivefold and boosting network performance by 20 per cent.
The CMO argued that Huawei hasn’t joined the O-RAN Alliance because it believes the group’s approach will actually increase site TCO, as its concept of open interfaces separates components, which would raise costs in the longer term.
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, said: “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 the 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.
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”?
“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, mobile operators and governments.
He closed the session by stressing the company’s vision for simplified sites: “have fewer boxes and a modular design so components can be combined. Within ten years, perhaps we’ll only have one box for a base station supporting all mobile technologies and spectrum bands”.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back