Huawei and Spark showcase separated 5G network in New Zealand

Following the Australian government citing a lack of separation of edge and core in 5G, Huawei has demonstrated what it says is full isolation of each network component in New Zealand on a trial network with Spark.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Huawei has revealed a 5G trial network with New Zealand carrier Spark, emphasising the separation of core and edge, with the companies already having achieved a 5G millimetre-wave (mmWave) call through the network.

The network, which uses both C-band and mmWave spectrum, is located in the Spark 5G Lab in Auckland.

Huawei said the multi-vendor trial network -- which consists of Cisco evolved packet core and Huawei 5G NR and RAN -- has "fully isolated" each component.

"The Auckland live multi-vendor 5G trial emphatically proves it is possible to retain the critical access-core network separation, which enables operators such as Spark to operate in a multi-vendor network environment, and retains the ability of governments to regulate the vendor technology mix while maintaining a competitive market," Huawei New Zealand deputy MD Andrew Bowater said.

"This is the fourth year of Huawei's strategic partnership with Spark, and we are proud to have brought this multi-vendor 5G trial alive right here in Auckland. The live trial is designed in full accordance with the 3GPP Release 15 industry standards and proves the ability of existing networks to evolve from 4G to 5G."

Huawei had been banned by the Australian government in August due to concerns that the separation between edge and core networks has diminished, meaning vendors cannot be confined to the edge.

Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) Director-General Mike Burgess last month said his agency had therefore recommended the Huawei and ZTE 5G ban because the stakes surrounding 5G could not be higher, as it will see telecommunications networks move to the top of critical national infrastructure lists.

"The distinction between core and edge collapses in 5G networks. That means that a potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network," Burgess said.

"In consultation with operators and vendors, we worked hard this year to see if there were ways to protect our 5G networks if high-risk vendor equipment was present anywhere in these networks."

"At the end of this process, my advice was to exclude high-risk vendors from the entirety of evolving 5G networks."

Huawei and ZTE were banned by the Australian government from playing a role in any 5G rollouts in August due to national security issues stemming from concerns of foreign government interference in critical communications infrastructure.

Huawei at the time slammed the Australian government's decision, saying the decision was not based in fact or a result of a transparent process, but rather, motivated by political instability thanks to infighting within the Liberal party.

On Thursday, Spark director of Technology Mark Beder said his carrier is winning the 5G race in New Zealand.

"For Spark, 5G will drive the next evolution of our business and we are motivated to push the boundaries of this new technology," Beder said when announcing the trial network with Huawei.

Spark had announced in August that it was planning to deploy a 5G network to go live by 2020, with the New Zealand telecommunications carrier outlining its trials and cell site densification program.

"We are undertaking detailed planning to 'map' expected 5G cell site densities in New Zealand and, as a result of this planning and the learnings we have taken from our 5G testing, we are forming a good understanding of how many new sites we will need for 5G, and where," Spark managing director Simon Moutter said at the time.

"We have already begun a build program to increase the number of cell sites in our existing mobile network -- which will enable us to meet near-term capacity demand as well as lay the groundwork for network densification required for 5G."

Spark undertook the first live trials of 5G in New Zealand back in March, attaining speeds of 9Gbps outdoors and 18Gbps indoors in Wellington, with the telco also planning to launch a 5G Innovation Lab in Auckland's Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct in Q4 of this year.

The 5G lab will enable Spark and its technology partners to trial and develop 5G applications using a test network.

"We will build New Zealand's best 5G network and we've already started laying the groundwork for that network so that once 5G spectrum is made available, we are in position to build our network and launch 5G services in short order," Spark added.

Spark said its 5G network will initially launch in metro areas due to mid- and high-frequency spectrum -- which do not have the signal reach for rural and regional areas -- likely being made available first by the New Zealand government.

Huawei earlier this week also announced that it is working with Three UK on a 5G home broadband demo in London, with the service attaining download speeds of up to 2Gbps.

The demonstration utilised its 100MHz C-Band spectrum and Huawei's commercial 5G home broadband routers, with the companies stating speeds will average around 1Gbps for each user.

Three UK and Huawei have been working on pre-commercial tests this year, and said they will continue testing the service ahead of the public launch in dense urban areas and train stations in 2019.

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