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Private 5G networks are on the rise as transformative applications support digitalization and IoT. Telecom Review Asia Pacific speaks to Wang Quan, vice president of ZTE Corporation, to find out how private 5G networks provide operators with new opportunities as 5G brings strong impetus for transformation across industries.

How do private 5G networks add value to operators and transform industries?

The concept of private networks is not exclusive to 5G. In the 2G, 3G, and 4G eras, industries with special requirements on network security and stability, such as railways, airports, power and oil already rely on customized private networks to power secure and robust connectivity. However, traditional private networks have their limitations – they are unable to support massive connectivity and can only be used to complement mainstream public networks. Increasingly, traditional private networks can no longer support the demands of real-time and remote operations in the intelligent era where man-machine interconnectedness grows.

With the maturity of 5G technology and the dawn of Industrial 4.0, more enterprises are now embracing digital and intelligent transformation. To address future demands, enterprises that depend on traditional private networks are now exploring new network technologies.

The need for deterministic networks in vertical industries with high demands on latency, reliability and security makes private 5G networks the best choice going forward. For example, in extreme work environments such as mines, UHD videos, high bandwidth, and ultra-low latency are requirements to remotely control excavators and other industrial devices in real time. In smart factories, a large number of sensors are connected to networks to carry out real-time automation and monitoring to execute safe processes.

Across many industries, intelligent networks demand deterministic networks with low latency and low jitter. In these scenarios, private 5G networks are capable of providing customized SLA guarantees for a wide range of customized industrial applications, therein presenting enormous opportunities for operators to realize private 5G as a service to tap on new economic growth points.

Can you tell us about the benefits of ZTE’s private 5G networks?

As a key provider of integrated communications and information solutions, ZTE has always been at the forefront of private 5G networks innovations and applications.

ZTE provides an all scenario private 5G network covering RAN, core network, transmission, industrial gateway and other end-to-end products. For example, ZTE's dedicated industrial core network, industry 5GC (i5GC), integrates and optimizes more than 10 key network functions of the 5G core network, requiring just one server to complete the deployment of an entire network. This brings ease to deployment, especially in underserved areas with limited resources.

In addition, ZTE’s iCube all-in-one cloud network solution supports customer-centric 5G industry private networks and edge cloud services. The solution offers agility and scalability as voice, BBU, OLT, MEC and industry applications can be loaded on-demand to provide customers with highly-customized integrated private industry cloud network services.

ZTE's private 5G network solution encompasses private network consultation, planning, design, customization, integration, installation and deployment. This new "Private 5G as a Service" business model supports operators in rapidly customizing private 5G networks for industries.

ZTE has also built Openlab, a center for innovation, to flexibly construct customized end-to-end private 5G networks and provide an incubation environment for 5G application innovation. Together with operators and industry partners, ZTE can incubate innovative solutions. To date, ZTE has joined hands with more than 500 partners to explore innovative 5G application scenarios across verticals including smart manufacturing, power grid, port, mining, healthcare, education, and agriculture. ZTE will continue to work with global operators and industry partners to fast track industrial developments.

Can you share with us ZTE’s latest innovations in cloud infrastructure? 

Cloud platforms manage and shield underlying hardware through the hypervisor virtualization layer to provide services such as VMs, containers, and bare metals to achieve resource sharing. However, having the hypervisor virtualization layer deployed on the server results in server performance loss and serious security risks.

ZTE's new-generation cloud infrastructure addresses these concerns by uploading the management control module and hypervisor virtualization layer of the cloud platform from the server to the NEO cloud card. Only the lightweight hypervisor resides on the server, hence reducing the CPU load of the server to achieve zero performance loss. At the same time, the NEO card is pre-integrated with the hypervisor virtualization layer, such that users can conveniently deploy the layer to ensure ease of use.

Suited for use with general servers, the ZTE NEO card enables server cloudification to be easily achieved by merely inserting the card into the server to power the widespread use of private and public cloud.

Network functions virtualization (NFV) has evolved from dedicated hardware to general hardware. The most important feature of NFV is that it provides unified operating resources for upper layer virtualized network functions. However, general hardware such as x86 does not meet large bandwidth and low latency requirements – found lacking in terms of data forwarding efficiency and data parallel processing.

As such, hardware acceleration is critical to improving network performance in the 5G network. Through hardware acceleration, the system can accelerate the decoupling between hardware and servers to achieve resource pooling and improve network resource utilization.

There are two decoupling approaches for hardware acceleration – software and hardware decoupling for standardized hardware acceleration cards, as well as software and hardware decoupling for dedicated NE functions. To achieve unified management of NFV heterogeneous acceleration hardware, the ETSI has formulated the software framework standard of unified management for NFV acceleration hardware, while OpenStack provides a general hardware acceleration management framework.

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