ZTE committed to 'pioneering' 5G

ZTE has said it is committed to aiding carriers worldwide in their transition over to 5G technology, and is now pouring over 12 percent of its total revenue into R&D.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Chinese telecommunications technology provider ZTE has said it is committed to pioneering 5G, with plans to enable mobile carriers to transition to the faster network standard worldwide by leading the industry in technology and commercialisation.

"Underpinned by its leadership in 5G technologies, the company is committed to helping carriers deploy the latest network innovations and smoothly evolve from 4.5G networks, supporting the ongoing digital transformation of operators globally," ZTE said in its financial results presentation for the first half of calendar 2017.

"The company will be committed to becoming a pioneer in 5G technologies, taking the lead in standardisation, technical perspective, and commercialisation."

Overall net profit was up by 29.8 percent to 2.3 billion yuan for the six-month period, and first-half revenue increased by 13.1 percent to 54 billion yuan, which it attributed to growth across its mobile network and smartphone businesses.

Its Carrier Networks division accounted for almost 60 percent of all revenue, with ZTE saying it is "further strengthening its investment in key 5G technologies including wireless and 5G bearer networks".

"In the first half, ZTE's pre-5G multi-mode software baseband chips were shipped to top international operators, and the company's IoT chips have been put into interoperability tests with different vendors," it said.

"Also, the company launches uSmartAI, an intelligence robot solution."

As of June 30, ZTE has deployed more than 60 pre-5G networks, along with 240 software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) networks across the globe, last month announcing that it would double its R&D spend on 5G to reach 2 billion yuan (almost $300 million).

ZTE said its handsets are now ranked fourth in the US smartphone market, and within the top five in Australia, Germany, Canada, and Spain. It intends to continue growing its US market share, last week unveiling the ZTE Blade Z Max.

ZTE, which was ranked first in World Intellectual Property Organization's annual list on technology patent applications in March, spent 6.68 billion yuan on research and development (R&D) during the six-month period, amounting to 12.4 percent of its total revenue.

"This takes the company's R&D spending past 10 billion yuan in the past 12 months, as ZTE focuses on innovations in 5G, IoT, and cloud computing to sharpen its overall competitiveness," it added.

ZTE filed 4,123 applications for patents during 2016, including 1,500 on 5G alone, followed by Huawei, at 3,692; Qualcomm, with 2,466; Mitsubishi Electric, with 2,053; and LG Electronics, with 1,888.

The company has 20 R&D centres across Asia, Europe, and North America, and more than 30,000 R&D employees working on 5G, IoT, NFV, SDN, cloud computing, big data, and smart city applications.

ZTE last month announced completing 5G New Radio (NR) field trials with China Unicom, attaining data rates of up to 2Gbps for single-user equipment, using its pre-commercial sub-6GHz 5G base station at the 3.5GHz frequency with 100MHz bandwidth alongside Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (Massive MIMO) technology -- along with the global release of its narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) Intelligent Energy Management System.

ZTE also completed several major 5G scenario trials during phase two of China's national 5G tests in July, including network slicing, in an effort to test its chips and equipment ahead of commercialisation.

ZTE's enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) across sub-6GHz test attained a peak cell throughput of more than 19Gbps with 28 spatial division streams using a 3.5GHz pre-commercial 5G base station, while its eMBB millimetre-wave (mmWave) test saw a four-stream rate of more than 13Gbps.

Its latency tests achieved 0.416ms on a unified test platform using its own chipsets for eMBB, and a test of ZTE's massive machine-type communications achieved a rate of 90 million connections per MHz, per hour, per square kilometre.

ZTE then used network slicing to construct a unified network on sub-6GHz base stations to test the above applications of speed, latency, and massive machine communications, achieving a single-cell peak rate of 15Gbps.

It is also working on 5G in Japan, in June announcing a partnership with SoftBank to trial 5G over sub-6GHz spectrum at 4.5GHz across Tokyo, and working with the Japanese carrier on Massive MIMO and 5G NR R&D.

ZTE had announced its plans to release 10Gbps-capable 5G mmWave and sub-6GHz base stations that are compliant with 3GPP and 5G NR standards and identified spectrum bands back in February. It launched its modular 5G IT baseband unit with Intel, which is compatible over 2G, 3G, 4G, and pre-5G networks thanks to the use of SDN and NFV technologies, at the same time.

The Chinese company unveiled its frequency division duplex LTE (FDD-LTE) Massive MIMO solution, powered by its MSC2.0 vector processing chip, at the end of last year after trialling it with China Unicom and China Telecom.

ZTE in April announced a quarterly net profit of 1.2 billion yuan -- following on from its full-year net loss of 2.36 billion yuan for 2016 -- just weeks after the US Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security removed ZTE from its trading blacklist following the company pleading guilty to illegally exporting products to Iran.

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