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MWC Shanghai 2018: 5G Revs Up

2018-06-29 10:26:04


The show floor at Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2018 features enormous 4K screens with huge cartoon xenomorphs (this species looked like rounded humanoid creatures with arms) looming over sponsor booths. As ever, the demonstration robots (invariably white plastic with large “eyes”) draw crowds of attendees with smartphone cameras.


For years, big telco shows have teased the promise of 5G. But a spirited keynote by Eric Xu, rotating chairman, Huawei, began with Xu declaring that MWC Shanghai 2018 featured that so many show-demos 5G-related that it re-ignited his passion for the much-discussed tech paradigm.


Standards solidifying

“On June 14, the 3GPP approved the freezing of the standalone specifications for 5G New Radio (NR), which marks the official release of the R15 standard,” said Xu. “The non-standalone NR specification was released in December of last year. At present, the first phase of full-featured standardization work has been completed.”


Xu pointed out that 5G is not a single technology, but the application of multiple technologies. “The 3GPP R15 standard focuses on improving mobile Internet experiences,” he said. “By the end of 2019, R16 and subsequent standards will address the challenges that come along with massive numbers of connections and ultra-low latency, thus enabling industry digitization.”


The Huawei chairman said his firm is a “major 5G standards contributor and patent holder,” and that Huawei had released a statement on May 15 announcing their commitment to the FRAND principle (Fair, Reasonable, and Non-discriminatory). “During the standardization process, Huawei will continue to recommend innovative technologies to other industry players, and we will never squeeze other companies or society as a whole,” said Xu. “We aim to build a robust 5G ecosystem through fair and open collaboration.”


Statements like these are proof-positive that 5G is rounding the corner and heading into the home stretch. But just when it cross the finish line is still not finalized.


5G expands 4G's potential

“5G supports faster speeds, lower latency, and more connections than 4G,” said Xu. “But if we look at the architecture and protocol stacks, 5G and 4G use the same architecture. Their baseband units and remote radio units are the same, their protocols are largely the same, and mobile internet services [form] the bulk of data traffic in both 4G and 5G networks.


Xu said that 4G networks are hard-pressed to meet current user demand. He used a Chinese carrier as an example: “in the top 30 developed cities where it provides services, the average speed perceived by users has decreased by 53%, from 51 Mbps in early 2017 to 20 Mbps—this shows that network capabilities are failing to keep up with user needs and service growth. User experience faces a bottleneck in these regions—it's a common problem that user experience is poor in hot spots in developed regions.


Xu said he hoped that 5G would bring the mobile internet—especially mobile video—to a level comparable to mobile voice service today, and: “we also hope that 5G will nurture new basic services such as mobile AR and VR.” Xu expressed his expectation that 5G would nurture new basic services and drive the sustainable growth of the mobile communications sector. And, emphasized Xu, enhanced encryption algorithms and privacy and authentication mechanisms will make 5G more secure.


“To help global carriers roll out 5G networks, Huawei will launch E2E NSA 5G commercial systems on September 30, 2018, and E2E SA 5G commercial systems on March 30, 2019,” said Xu. “Huawei will also launch a 5G-ready Kirin chip in 2019, and a 5G smartphone in June 2019.”

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