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Huawei emphasises importance of 4.5G, gigabit-speed broadband for IoT

DOCSIS 3.1, 10 GPON, and MIMO will allow Huawei to upgrade fixed and mobile networks worldwide in preparation for the IoT.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

In response to the increasing influx of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices, Chinese technology giant Huawei will leverage multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) to boost mobile coverage to "4.5G" prior to the introduction of 5G, in addition to attaining gigabit-speed fixed broadband through DOCSIS 3.1 and 10 GPON.

Speaking at the Huawei Analyst Summit in Shenzhen on Monday, Huawei's president of Products and Solutions Ryan Ding outlined the company's efforts in improving both fixed and wireless broadband networks, with plans to continue testing and moving from 4G towards a 4.5G mobile network before the arrival of 5G in 2020.

"Last year, I was very glad to see that 4.5G was accepted ... the official name is called LTE-Advanced," said Ding.

"In wireless broadband, we are focusing on 4.5G; we're using MIMO to realise high peak rates.

"In 2016, we're going to deploy more than 60 4.5G networks."

In a practical application of this, Huawei in February attained download speeds of 1.41Gbps during a live trial of 4.5G network technology in partnership with Australian telecommunications provider Optus. To do so, it aggregated 5x 20MHz of Optus' network frequency bands, combined with 4x4 MIMO and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) technologies.

Huawei also worked alongside Singapore's third-largest telecommunications carrier, M1, in January to attain 4.5G 1Gbps download/130Mbps upload speeds through the combination of four network technologies: 4x4 MIMO; Higher Order Modulation 256 QAM; two-component carrier (2CC) uplink carrier aggregation; and 3CC tri-band downlink carrier aggregation.

Wang Jun, president of LTE FDD Product Line and Wireless Network Product Line, said 4.5G will continuously evolve over the next few years, and will coexist alongside 5G in future.

Huawei is experimenting with network slicing in preparation for 5G and use across 4.5G, with the company announcing a trial at Mobile World Congress earlier this year.

"The fragmentation problem ... is why we are thinking about network slicing," Ding added.

"It is a key tech for 5G."

The spectrum bands already in use for 4G are also being used for 4.5G, Wang Jun said, with Huawei recommending that telcos make use of high-frequency bandwidth such as 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz to allow for faster speeds and a better user experience.

Speeds of up to 1Gbps will be achievable over the next year across 4.5G networks, and handsets will soon need to be introduced that support this, Wang Jun said.

"According to my prediction, a 1Gbps smartphone will launch next year," he said during the Huawei Analyst Summit on Monday afternoon.

Gigabit-speed fixed-line broadband is also under development, with Ding reaffirming Huawei's intent to help construct such networks across the globe.

"We are dedicated to build a giga-band ultra broadband infrastructure network that is the foundation of the connected world," Ding said.

For wired connections, the company will be utilising 10 gigabit passive optical network (GPON) and Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) 3.1 technologies in order to attain speeds of 1Gbps and over.

"We will support 10 GPON in coax and cable," Ding explained.

"We're going to use DOCSIS 3.1 and all the technologies to support a high-speed rate. We would like to have commercialisation of giga-band."

Huawei announced in January that it would be upgrading Denmark's fixed network to deliver download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second by the end of 2017. Under a deal with Tele Danmark Communications, Denmark will become the first nation to upgrade a broadband network in its entirety to DOCSIS 3.1 giga coax technology, with the upgrade to begin in June 2016.

Denmark's DOCSIS 3.1 giga coax network will implement orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing, which carries data on multiple parallel data streams across existing coaxial cables to increase transmission by 50 percent in comparison to DOCSIS 3.0.

Ding did, however, acknowledge that deploying these technologies for enabling faster speeds does not necessarily guarantee a good user experience, saying that Huawei has other plans to ensure this.

"We also have to support latency and high throughput as well as wider coverage," he said, adding that networks should always be driven by user experience.

While the president of Products and Solutions outlined the three critical scenarios for the necessity of 5G -- enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-to-machine communication, and highly reliable and low-latency communications -- Huawei's rotating CEO Eric Xu recognised that there are still a number of regions where 3G remains critical.

Huawei will continue supporting and improving the 3G network technology, Xu said, including a convergence of 2G and 3G, and multiple-band aggregation.

"3G business represented over $4 billion for Huawei in 2015," Xu revealed.

"For Huawei, we want to work together with the industry to turn 2G and 3G into a converged technology to fundamentally change the landscape of the 900MHz [spectrum frequency band] so that more consumers can be able to enjoy the benefits from the 3G technology.

"At the same time, where the telecom services cannot have an LTE band, we can leverage the 3G technology with three-carrier technology so that they can boost their capacity. Huawei is the most important equipment provider to a large number of telecom service providers in developing markets, so we are not forgetting those areas."

Ding also discussed the company's core strategy for the Internet of Things (IoT) itself, outlining a three-pronged approach.

The foundational layer of this involves what he called Huawei's "lite OS", which enables low-latency and energy-saving things to be connected to the IoT. The second layer involves collaboration between wired and wireless connections to ensure that connectivity is ubiquitous and coverage is enhanced. The third and final step is to invest in a cloud-based IoT connectivity management platform by which Huawei can ensure tens of millions of connections of devices, and fast integration of these.

"Our strategy on IoT is to focus on connectivity," added Xu.

"And that's going to be an intrinsic part of our mission around building a better-connected world ... connecting more things to the network."

Huawei has been working on a chipset and modules to promote the development of IoT for its partners to take advantage of, while also collaborating with telcos to come up with a standard that is "conducive for the carrier network to carry more IoT connections".

While the chief executive recognised the importance of securing a much higher number of connected things to the internet, he said service providers shouldn't wait for this to be solved before innovating on the IoT.

"Security is a very, very important part of the IoT. It's the very issue that the entire industry has to work on through innovation and through technology," the CEO said.

"Having said that, I think there is no need for us to wait until the security issue is fully resolved, as that may take years."

The level of required security varies between IoT devices, he pointed out, and the industry can begin in areas where it is not much of a concern, such as with connected parking spaces.

Huawei has more than 79,000 employees focused on research and development, 16 R&D centres worldwide -- including a AU$30 million National Training and Innovation Centre in Sydney, as well as centres in China, Germany, Sweden, Russia, and India -- and R&D investment amounting to approximately 190 billion yuan ($29 billion) over the last 10 years.

The company invested 14.2 percent of its 2014 revenue in R&D, to which it attributed its revenue of more than $20 billion over calendar 2015.

Huawei also filed the highest number of patent applications worldwide during the course of 2015, making 3,898 patent applications, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization , while Qualcomm filed 2,442 applications, ZTE filed 2,155, and Samsung filed 1,683.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to the Huawei Analyst Summit in Shenzhen as a guest of Huawei

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