PARTNER INTERVIEW: Edward Deng, Huawei’s president of wireless solutions (pictured), in an interview with Mobile World Live outlined the company’s vision for an “all-cloud” mobile network and the technology’s role in enabling diversified services in the future.
MWL: How important is an all-cloud mobile network strategy?
Edward Deng: First of all, a cloud-based wireless network is the most crucial part in Huawei’s all-cloud strategy. It marks the strategic direction of our wireless development for the coming decade. Secondly, a cloud-based wireless network is the inevitable trend in the evolution of mobile networks and is the only way to meet the requirements of diverse services, traffic bursts, intelligent operation and maintenance, business agility, and efficient resource utilisation.
Our innovative “all-cloud” solution is not limited to RAN architecture, which is what everyone’s talking about, it also includes air interface resource cloudification. It’s a process of wireless network full cloudification – hence the “all-cloud” strategy. Mobile network cloudifcation is different from IT cloudification, which brings efficiency to storage and computation resources.
Our all-cloud mobile network strategy has received wide recognition in the industry, with 3GPP accepting the proposed spectrum sharing mechanism in a standards meeting in January this year. Across the industry, leading carriers have recently doubled down on their investment in the mobile cloud sector, reaffirming their commitment to expediting research, development and commercialisation.
What’s the difference between an IT cloud and all-cloud mobile network?
IT cloud stands for the geographical centralisation and pool-based sharing of calculation and storage resources. This approach significantly improves the resource utilisation efficiency. However, the two major physical resources for mobile access networks, baseband resources and air interface, are geographically dispersed and located in close proximity to users.
The deployment of cloud-based wireless network differs from that of IT cloud. We are looking to realise the true value of the cloud, which features efficient utilisation of all resources, on-demand deployment of all network elements, and the rapid provision of all services. To mobile operators, the air interface resources, including spectrum, transmission power, transceiver etc., are the most essential resources, thus air interface resource cloudification should be considered as one of the most important aspects for an “all cloud” strategy.
How can the all-cloud mobile network strategy help operators face dynamic network requirements?
CloudRAN and CloudAIR are two solutions for our cloud-based wireless network. CloudRAN addresses the cloudification of the baseband resources. It enables on-demand deployment, auto scaling, swift service provisioning, and additional cloud benefits through the introduction of mechanisms such as hierarchical decoupling and function modularisation.
In addition, Huawei is exploring the possibilities of mobile edge computing (MEC), which can support things like precise advertising, video acceleration and the internet of vehicles. These applications will help unlock latent network potential for operators while boosting return on investment.
Our CloudAIR improves the efficiency of air interface resource usage through spectrum cloudification, power cloudification, and transceiver channel cloudification. In particular, spectrum cloudification enables operators to share existing spectrum for new radio access technologies, in order to maximise spectral efficiency and help carriers get new radio access technologies online faster.
Why is uplink and downlink decoupling such an important feature of CloudAIR?
Uplink and downlink decoupling technology entails two plausible scenarios. On LTE networks, through decoupling, we can allocate high frequency bands for downlink, low frequency bands for uplink, and effectively resolve the issue of asymmetric coverage between the two. This greatly improves the user experience. Uplink and downlink decoupling can also expedite 5G deployment. For instance, it allows 3.5GHz networks to share the LTE 1.8GHz frequency band for uplink. That way a 3.5GHz network can enjoy similar coverage to that of a 1.8GHz network.
What type of resources are you putting behind the all-cloud initiative?
Huawei is committed to the continual investment in all-cloud technologies to facilitate operators’ transformation. We are now exploring cloudification technologies with leading operators through a joint-venture organisation called the Mobile Innovation Centre. Our global research centres also are devoted to pushing breakthroughs in core CloudRAN and CloudAIR technologies. We have established dedicated labs for cloud-based wireless network to further assist in the rapid development of this challenging endeavor.
Has it moved beyond the proof-of-concept phase?
This year CloudRAN will be primarily engaged in the proof-of-concept stage (POC). Huawei has launched CloudRAN POC testing with five major operators. CloudAIR on the other hand is already established for commercial use. For spectrum cloudification, India and Nigeria have assumed the lead in deploying GSM to UMTS spectrum sharing, allowing both countries to enjoy enhanced 3G coverage and a 30 per cent to 55 per cent increase in 3G data traffic, while 2G network performance remains stable. For transceiver channel cloudification, we have tested distributed multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) with China Mobile and SoftBank in Japan, and observed a 35 per cent increase in average cell throughput, and an 80 per cent increase in data rate for cell edge users.
What are your near-term plans in pushing forward the all-cloud mobile network strategy?
We intend to lay the foundation for the commercial launch of CloudRAN in 2018 by conducting POC tests with major operators like China Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica and Orange. In terms of GSM/UMTS and GSM/LTE spectrum sharing, Huawei expects to have around 50 commercial deployments by 2018 in about 20 countries, including Bulgaria, Poland, Egypt, Turkey, Tanzania, Uganda, Laos, Sri-Lanka and Thailand.
Huawei held its annual Global Analyst Summit in Shenzhen 11-13 April 2017 to highlight its key initiatives for the coming fiscal year. At the summit last year, the company announced its all-cloud strategy.