We speak to Zhang Jianguo, VP of ZTE Corporation
In recent years the global market for LTE network deployment and construction has grown quickly. What has ZTE been doing in terms of LTE?
ZTE has signed 145 LTE\EPC contracts and is one of the world’s top three LTE suppliers. At present we are in approximately 70 percent of countries that have invested in LTE. We have successfully launched commercial LTE services for operators including Bharti, China Mobile, China Telecom, Hutchison, Softbank, Telenor, TeliaSonera, VimpelCom, and Vodafone.
In the international market, ZTE is working with VimpelCom, KPN, Telenor and other multinational telecom operators in the development of commercial LTE networks in Russia, Belgium and Hungary. In addition, we are helping major international operators implement commercial 4G strategies and build high-quality networks.
According to a recent IHS report, ZTE became the fastest-growing LTE supplier, and the third largest, with over 100,000 LTE eNodeB shipments, accounting for 17.9 percent of the global LTE market.
ZTE is also the largest LTE solution provider in China. At the end of 2013 China began the construction of its 4G infrastructure and by mid-2014 had already witnessed the construction of more LTE networks than most countries in the world, behind only the USA, Japan, and South Korea. The sheer size and speed of construction in China has taken the industry and the world by surprise.
In the bid for the China Mobile (Phase 1) 4G-LTE project, ZTE secured 26 percent of the business. In China Telecom’s bid for major 4G LTE network equipment, ZTE’s LTE products were adopted for 90 percent of the provinces, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the tender. In addition, ZTE built the core networks for 15 provinces, cities, and autonomous regions, and ranked first in the market share for both wireless and core networks.
By 2016, China will be the global centre of LTE construction, which puts ZTE in a strong position for further overseas expansion.
Why has ZTE been so successful in achieving this growth in the 4G market?
We believe that our success is based on our strong understanding of customer demands, the ability to respond rapidly, continuous innovation through a focus on R&D, and the ability to provide cost-effective but efficient and high quality solutions.
Through the market ups and downs of the last 25 years ZTE has consistently spent 10 percent of revenues on R&D, keeping us at the forefront of the industry in technical knowledge and development. We are focused on technical innovation that improves lean operation and delivers lower overall costs for operators, and we have a focus on sharing platforms to enhance product competitiveness and help our customers gain market advantages. For operators, ZTE also specializes in enhancing partnerships in TD-LTE with first-class operators such as China Mobile, Softbank, and Bharti.
In addition, ZTE works with the Global TD-LTE Initiative (GTI) to promote global TD-LTE application and to convert the technology’s industry-leading product advantages into market advantages. For FDD-LTE, ZTE will continue to focus on major markets and operators, further explore the existing markets, and optimising the market structure to enter more markets.
What advantages do you think ZTE’s LTE products have over your competition?
ZTE is driven to achieve independent innovation, and has 13 per cent of the total required patents in the 4G LTE industry. ZTE hopes to use those innovations to lower communication network costs for operators, and to provide better services for users at the end of the industry chain.
More operators have started deploying LTE networks around in the world, and they are facing two major challenges: high bearer requirements of LTE networks, and complicated LTE network interference. ZTE’s pioneering Cloud Radio solution, which achieves intra-eNodeB and inter-eNodeB physical-layer collaboration in LTE networks, addresses the interference problems caused by co-channel and heterogeneous LTE networks, optimises network performance, and maximises user experience.
Incorporating over 200 patents and more than 20 innovations, we believe that the Cloud Radio solution is technically the most sophisticated and conceptually the most cutting-edge coordination solution for radio access networks in the mobile communications field. It has lower requirements for bearer networks than the standard coordination solution but can still deliver over 90 percent coordination performance gains, allowing operators to achieve significant traffic performance gains with much lower bandwidth costs. In May 2014, ZTE and China Mobile in the Fujian province won the 2014 Global Telecoms Business Innovation award for wireless network infrastructure innovation with the Cloud Radio solution for TD-LTE networks.
Operators face a series of networking problems (for example, poor network coverage due to insufficient sites) when deploying high-frequency 4G LTE networks. To solve these problems, ZTE has launched an LTE network coverage enhancement solution that meets the coverage enhancement requirements for 4-antenna reception and 8-antenna reception by using the most compact multi-antenna RRU in the industry. ZTE’s multi-antenna coverage enhancement solution is easily deployed and significantly enhances frequency efficiency, improves network performance, and provides better user experience. This solution has been proven in China Telecom’s large and complex networks. ZTE and China Telecom won the Wireless Network Infrastructure Innovation award for the multi-antenna LTE coverage enhancement solution at the GTB Innovation Awards 2014 ceremony on May 14.
ZTE provides a full series of industry-leading LTE eNodeBs, including distributed eNodeBs, indoor and outdoor macro eNodeBs, and Small Cells, to meet operators’ deployment requirements in different scenarios. ZTE first launched the 365 Mbps ultra-wideband miniaturised RRU product (12L, 12 kg, 2T2R, 2 × 80 W), which we believe is the most highly integrated device in the industry and provides more flexible multi-RAT networking solutions. ZTE launched a BBU (backup battery unit) product with the smallest size and largest capacity in the industry. This product supports multiple RATs, including GSM, UMTS, LTE FDD, and TD-LTE, and can meet the processing capacity of commercial networks and operators’ requirements for multi-RAT deployment.
In addition, ZTE is bringing the convenience of wireless broadband networks to some professional fields by providing innovative solutions. For example, on April 16, the ATG demonstration was performed on two Chinese flights, which indicates that ZTE has broken the limitations of telecommunications technologies at the speed of 800–1000 km/h in the air. ZTE is conducting technical research and innovations to make it possible for people to access mobile communications networks on a plane in the coming years.
What has ZTE been achieving with operator network construction outside China?
ZTE’s aim is to become a strategic partner for operators worldwide. Many commercial networks built by ZTE are providing industry-leading performance, gaining recognition for their performance in major third-party assessments. For example, Hong Kong’s CSL ranked first in an independent network performance indicator test, H3G Austria was given the highest score in a third-party KPI test, and Base Belgium ranked first in a third-party assessment. The network construction and delivery of major projects such as the Telenor Hungary and German E-Plus projects have been highly praised by customers. In May 2014, ZTE and China Mobile Fujian won the GTB Wireless Network Infrastructure Innovation award for the TD-LTE network deployed using the Cloud Radio solution, and ZTE and China Telecom also won the same award for the multi-antenna LTE coverage enhancement solution. ZTE was also awarded ‘Supplier of the Year 2013’ by E-Plus in Germany, which is a subsidiary of the Dutch KPN Group.
There has been a lot of discussion about 5G recently. What is ZTE’s view on 5G?
5G research is still in the initial stages. It is focused on user requirements, scenario analysis, and possible technology development trends. Future 5G technologies will focus on large capacity (1,000-fold capacity), low delay (less than 5 ms), and multi-service support. The 1,000-fold capacity improvement will become a special focus for the industry. ZTE has been conducting research on these issues and has formulated a number of opinions.
ZTE views the future of 5G networks as more of an evolution than a revolution. Post-4G development can also be included in 5G research. Based on existing technologies, future 5G networks will focus more on technical integration and user experience. By integrating the achievements of IEEE wireless access technologies and IT technologies, 5G networks will truly become intelligent and integrated ICT mobile communications network platforms. Compared with previous generations future 5G technologies may not include a new transitional technology as a distinct feature. The research on 5G networks will focus on user requirements and the selection of solutions based on each separate scenario. 5G networks will be intelligent networks that integrate multiple wireless technologies, and the scenarios will be defined, and services selected, based on user and service requirements.
ZTE has proposed technical ideas, such as the cloud-based network architecture, Cloud Radio networking, and SDA multi-service air interface adaptation, for the future development of 5G. The future of 5G is an open ecosystem, and ZTE is working closely with the industry to contribute to the future development of 5G networks.
In addition, ZTE is investing more strategic resources in 5G, and undertaking activities in major technology research, product prototype development, system simulation, and patent reserves.