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“The full range of ZTE’s 5G Flexhaul products use their in-house chips which have high performance and low power consumption to address the needs in the full 5G lifecycle. The 5G Flexhaul solution has completed commercial deployments and pilot tests of more than 30 5G transport networks for global operators. And ZTE has begun massive deployment of 5G commercial transport network in China. Currently, over 20,000 sets of 5G Flexhaul products are delivered. ” 

Telecom Review Asia managed to secure an exclusive interview with Mr Hailong Li, the Vice President & General Manager of Packet Transport Product Line at ZTE to discuss the benefits of applying ZTE’s 5G transport solutions, with a focus on the 5G Flexhaul solution and how the commercialization of this technology can not only add value to companies’ portfolios, but also allow operators to create a performance-leading and cost-effective 5G transport network.

1) Could you give us an overview of how the ZTE’s 5G Flexhaul solution can add value to operators’ business models?

The innovative Flex-Slicing solution included in ZTE’s 5G Flexhaul solution can provide both physically isolated hard slices and logically isolated soft slices in one network to meet all diverse requirements of different services.  This implements “one network, all industries”, and is vital to operators to start new value-added B2C/B2B/B2X services other than the traditional B2C services.

For instance, for high-value B to B (Business To Business) services like Internet finance and telemedicine, the Slice Ethernet-based hard-slicing technology provides physical-level security isolation, deterministic bandwidth and <0.5µs deterministic ultra-low-latency slices. Latency-sensitive and small-bandwidth-granule applications such as smart grid and Industrial Internet can adopt the solution based on the ZTE TSN+ to support flexible granule scheduling and deterministic latency forwarding. The requirements of B to C (Business To Customer) and other mobile communication services can be met by VPN-based soft slices. In this way, the slice is used as a link to integrate 5G network pipelines and cloud services so as to build an operational 5G transport network, providing a foundation for operators to transform towards a B to B (Business To Business) business model.

2) What kinds of pilot tests or trials have you conducted for 5G Flexhaul? Could you share your results with us?

Over 30 pilot tests and commercial deployments have been completed so far, and over 20,000 sets of 5G Flexhaul products are delivered.

For the verification of new technologies, ZTE and Telefonica has completed the 5G transport test in Madrid, Spain, verifying that the 5G Flexhaul solution has an ultra-low latency of less than 0.5µs and a fast switching of under 1ms. China Mobile and ZTE jointly fulfilled the industry's first "ultra-high-precision synchronous network" demonstration supporting accurate positioning applications. The single-point time synchronization performance was within 1ns.

 For the piloting trails, ZTE and China Unicom Shenzhen branch carried out the industry's first end-to-end IPRAN2.0 pilot in existing networks.  ZTE cooperated with China Unicom Zhejiang branch to finish the 5G smart MAN pilot.

For the commercialization, ZTE has begun large-scale deployment of 5G commercial networks in China Mobile.

3) In your opinion, in what way does the launch of the 5G Flexhaul solution separate you from your competitors operating in the same market space?

First of all, ZTE’s in-house chips has been used in the full range of 5G Flexhaul products, which achieve high performance and low power consumption.In-house chips support a 4T high-capacity platform, and the embedded L1 FlexE technology offers ultra-low-latency forwarding, fast protection, and physically isolated slices. The industry's largest 20-layer SR label can provide programmable, most flexible service chains, and the ultra-high-precision synchronization of 1ns fully satisfies the requirements of basic service transport and 5G base stations for time synchronization, saving GPS investment.

Secondly, in core and aggregation layer of 5G Flexhaul, ZTE suggests use IP+Optical solution to achieve extensionable ultra-large bandwidth to meet the explosion requirements in the long run.  ZTE is leading in IP+Optical solution, fully integrating the advantages of the dynamic and flexible IP technology and the large-bandwidth and low-latency optical technology. The solution builds a flat network and dynamically adjusts IP and optical network resources according to traffic features, fulfilling the requirements for large traffic and simplified O&M in the 5G era.

In addition, ZTE is one of the few vendors  who can provide end-to-end networking and slicing capabilities. As early as 2018, ZTE released and demonstrated the industry's first real-time orchestration of 5G end-to-end network slices at the MWC2018 in Barcelona. ZTE’s 5G end to end network slices allows intelligent network adjustment, comprehensive optimization and end-to-end resource coordination, offering operators fast, agile, and accurate SLA network services, greatly optimizing network resources, improving resource utilization and accommodating complex and diverse network needs in the 5G era.

4) What challenges do you foresee when it comes to deploying this kind of technology commercially?

ZTE believes that the main challenge for operators to deploy 5G is how to grasp the balance between network technology leadership and investment, that is, how to reduce the investment cost while meeting the needs of 5G transport and new services.

Faced with the challenge of 5G, the new network has too high construction cost, but upgrade and expansion cannot address the needs of 5G SA, support the operation of new services, and enable the transformation of service models in the new technology era.

It is recommended that in combination with their own development as well as wireless and core network deployment strategies, operators remain the moderate leadership to build a new transport network oriented to 5G and fulfilling the requirements of 5G full-lifecycle evolution and development.

5) As a pioneer of 5G transport technologies, how closely do you work with operators when it comes to promoting this network and escalating the commercial process?

ZTE has been maintaining in-depth cooperation with world-renowned operators. For example, ZTE and the China Mobile Research Institute have cooperated in research and testing of 5G new network architectures and cutting-edge technologies since 2016, carried out technology pre-research and prototype verification for FlexE, SR-TP, high-precision synchronization, Inband OAM and other technologies.

At present, ZTE has begun to deploy 5G transport networks on a large scale in tier-1 cities in China, and the largest 5G transport network has been deployed with more than 3,000 5G transport NEs. In addition, ZTE worked with some international operators to take end-to-end slicing tests from base stations to core networks via transport, achieving service isolation and quality assurance. Now ZTE has deep cooperation with operators in more than ten countries such as China, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Austria, Russia, Thailand and India. Relying on the advanced 5G Flexhaul transport solution, ZTE promotes 5G commercial deployment.

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