David An, CTO of ZTE, speaking at this year's Broadband Asia in Singapore
There is still some time before the world recognises the full potential of next-generation 5G mobile technology but ZTE has already laid the groundwork to pave the way forward.
Building on the hype around 5G, Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, has birthed its own concept of 'pre-5G' technology, which it first announced at last year's LTE World Summit in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
According to David An, Chief Technology Officer of ZTE, this pre-5G concept will incorporate certain key 5G technologies; and involves developing "5G-ready" technology to provide commercial 4G end-users with a 5G-like experience, offering high throughput and low latency.
The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance, which provides recommendations to standards bodies, defines 5G as supporting data rates of tens of megabits per second for tens of thousands of users simultaneously. It also stipulates that for a network to be considered 5G, it must be able to connect hundreds of thousands of sensors to the Internet, and offer speeds of 1 gigabit per second to tens of workers in the same office or factory floor. The upshot of all that is that 5G stands to have 1,000 times more capacity than 4G for many applications, as echoed by An himself.
The new 5G spectrum will only be officially defined at the World Radio Conference in September 2015, with real-world implementation probably in 2020. Still, Korean telco KT is already looking to launch 5G in time for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, making it the first ever 5G-ready Olympic Games.
"This means that despite its official launch in 2020, standards will be finalised in 2018 and we will most likely see its first commercial use in that year as well. The main takeaway here is that we do not have to wait until 2020 to enjoy the full benefit of 5G," said An.
As part of this project, ZTE has developed a Multi-User Shared Access (MUSA) technology that it claims can more than triple the overload capacity of wireless access networks. Its other pre-5G technologies include massive MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) and ultra-dense networks (UDNs), which the company expects to commercially deploy this year.
In January, ZTE boasted a "world first" by completing pre-commercial field testing of multi-user and multi-stream transmission on a massive MIMO base station, claiming it had set "new records" in single-carrier transmission capacity and spectral efficiency.
Zhang Jianpeng, Vice President of Asia Pacific, ZTE Corporation, said pre-5G technologies can help operators fill the growing demand for capacity and speed ahead of the anticipated commercialisation of 5G in 2020.
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