China Mobile Partners With ZTE for World’s First 5G Non Terrestrial Network Field Trial

ZTE is collaborating with China Mobile Research Institute, China Transport Telecom & Information Group, the Beijing Branch of China Mobile and other partners to showcase what it calls the world’s first 5G NTN (Non-Terrestrial Network) field trial at the 5G-Advanced Industry Development Summit in Beijing.
ZTE said in a press release that this brings achievement breakthroughs in two aspects, ultra-long distances as far as 36,000 km and direct connection between mobile phones, that are enabled by two innovations including dynamic compensation of big latency and RF data conversion between the satellite and terrestrial.The trial was end-to-end and demonstrated services such as short messages and voice services, both with satisfactory performances.
The trial included a comprehensive set of tests of the direct connection between the mobile phone and the satellite, which supports a network with ubiquitous connectivity, more use cases, highly integrated industry chains and low O&M costs.The trial was based on the 3GPP Release 17 and on a network architecture using high-orbit satellites for transparent forwarding to implement end-to-end link interconnection among terminals, satellites, terrestrial gateways, base stations, core networks and servers.The L-band satellite and terrestrial gateways, located between the NTN terminal and the base station, were responsible for air-interface message transmission. The terrestrial gateways were interconnected with the 5G NTN base station. The terminal was connected to the terrestrial core network and service platform through the satellite, gateways and NTN base station in turn to implement end-to-end service interconnection.
During this trial, communication cases such as synchronization, broadcasting, accessing and data transmission, and services such as short text messages and voice messages were successfully tested. The latency of 64-byte ping is about 4s.
The performance met the expectations, indicating the solution is very likely feasible. In the future, there will be emergency communication service pilot projects in Beijing, Yunnan and other provinces.
Together with the terrestrial network, the 5G non-terrestrial network (5G NTN) forms an integrated ubiquitous network with a variety of use cases, highly integrated industry chains and low O&M costs. It uses satellite communication for powerful coverage to meet people’s demands for better accessibility of the mobile internet around the world and provide emergency, marine, remote areas and IoT communication services, facilitating the comprehensive development of CHBN (Customer, Home, Business, New).The satellite telecommunication network can reuse the cellular network and significantly reduce terminal cost.
In addition, the number of cellular network base stations and centralized deployment can significantly reduce deployment and O&M costs.
In this new stage of 5G-Advanced, this end-to-end 5G NTN field trial’s success helps build a solid foundation for a direct phone-to-satellite communication business model. This service provides users with more reliable and consistent experiences and connects space, air, ground and sea, forming an integrated ubiquitous network.

Separately, ZTE says they’ve produced the industry’s smallest 5G Core network product, dubbed the Mini5GC.  The new Mini5GC features miniaturization, light weight, simple networking and ultra-high integration. The company states that it can well facilitate safe production, flexible adjustment of work sites, and efficient and accurate emergency rescue in mining areas.

This is part of its continued innovations in 5G core network products to boost the in-depth development of 5G private networks.  For Mini5GC, the number of general network functions is customized from more than 10 to just four, and the network communication and resource occupation are optimized. Thus, a lightweight 5GC can be deployed on one 1U server.Moreover, the size of the server is reduced to A3 paper, and its weight is reduced to less than 5kg.
With high integration, the 5GC product has 5Gbps forwarding capability and excellent performance for the same size in the industry.
With simple deployment, the Mini5GC can adapt to any rack, and its power consumption is about 100 watts. Also, through pre-installation of software and hardware upon delivery, on-site one-click modification, and plug-and-play the required services can be quickly launched in several hours.To date, ZTE’s Mini5GC has carried out pilot verification in five typical fields, including mining, transportation, manufacturing and government affairs. ZTE and SHAANXI ZHIN TECHNOLOGY CO., have jointly built a mine-use 5GC based on the Mini5GC to provide in-place data distribution for underground mining, so as to improve mining service efficiency and provide a high-availability network to ensure safe production in the mining area.Moving forward, ZTE says it will work with more industry partners to integrate product innovation and business model innovation to help operators explore intelligent digital development and boost the prosperity of the 5G industries.


ABI Research: 5G-Advanced (not yet defined by ITU-R) will include AI/ML and network energy savings

Despite no work even started by ITU-R WP 5D (responsible for all IMT xG’s), global technology intelligence firm ABI Research expects that 75% of 5G base stations will be upgraded to 5G-Advanced by 2030, five years after the estimated commercial launch in 2025.

3GPP approved their Release-18 package in December 2021, making the official start of 5G-Advanced with the planned freeze date in December 2023.

But that really doesn’t mean much since Release-16 was frozen in June 2020, yet 2+ years later the spec for URLLC in the RAN has not been completed.  As a result, neither 3GPP or ITU-R recommendation M.2150 (formerly IMT 2020) meets the ITU-R M.2410 performance requirements for URLLC use case.  Also, less than 5% of deployed 5G networks are 5G SA with a 5G Core network, which is required for implementation of ALL 5G features, e.g. network slicing, security, automation, as well as MEC.

Some network operators like Verizon have already admitted that it could take up to a decade before they profit from their 5G investments.

ABI Research claims that 5G-Advanced will bring continuous enhancements to mobile network capabilities and use case-based support to help mobile operators with 5G commercialization, long-term development of Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML), and network energy savings for a fully automated network and a sustainable future.

“In 5G-Advanced, Extended Reality (XR) applications will promise monetary opportunities to both the consumer markets with use cases like gaming, video streaming, as well as enterprise opportunities such as remote working and virtual training. Therefore, XR applications are a major focus of 3GPP working groups to significantly improve XR-specific traffic performance and power consumption for the mass market adoption,” explains Gu Zhang, 5G & Mobile Network Infrastructure Principal Analyst at ABI Research. “Another noticeable feature is AI/ML which will become essential for future networks given the predictive rapid growth in 5G network usage and use case complexities which can’t be managed by legacy optimization approaches with presumed models. System-level network energy saving is also a critical aspect as operators need to reduce the deployment cost but assure network performance for various use cases.”

The upgrade of 5G network infrastructure is expected to be faster in the consumer market than in enterprises. ABI Research forecasts that 75% of 5G base stations will be upgraded to 5G-Advanced, while in the enterprise market the ratio is about half. 5G-Advanced devices per radio base station will quickly gain traction around 2024 to 2026 at the early stage of the commercial launch because devices will grow more aggressively than network deployments over the period.

“The commercial launch of 5G-Advanced will take two or three years, but the competition has already started, Zhang points out. “Taking AI/ML development as an example, industrial leaders such as Ericson, Huawei, Nokia, ZTE, and Qualcomm have trialed their solutions with mobile operators across the world. Ongoing development in this area will continue to bring improvements on traffic throughputs, network coverage, power saving, anomaly detection, etc.”

Different from previous generations, 5G creates an ecosystem for vertical markets such as automotive, energy, food and agriculture, city management, government, healthcare, manufacturing, and public transportation. “The influence on the domestic economy from the telco players will be more significant than before and that trend will continue for 5G-Advanced onward. Network operators and vendors should keep close to the regulators and make sure all parties involved grow together when the time-to-market arrives,” Zhang concludes.

These findings are from ABI Research’s 5G-Advanced and the Road to 6G application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s 5G & Mobile Network Infrastructure research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights. Application Analysis reports present in-depth analysis on key market trends and factors for a specific technology.

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ABI Research is a global technology intelligence firm delivering actionable research and strategic guidance to technology leaders, innovators, and decision makers around the world. Our research focuses on the transformative technologies that are dramatically reshaping industries, economies, and workforces today.