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In line with the Huawei Global Analyst Summit (HAS) 2022, Telecom Review interviews Daisy Zhu, vice president of wireless network marketing, Huawei, on 5.5G as the next evolutionary step in the 5G journey to deepen digital and intelligent transformation.

Increasingly, countries around the world are embracing and accelerating 5G adoption. With the widespread commercialization of 5G and the advent of the IoT, operators are pressured to upgrade network capabilities to power diversified 5G and IoT use cases and address more demanding service requirements.

Defined to be the architecture of future networks, 5.5G becomes the next evolutionary step in the 5G journey to raise network capabilities and values in the 5G era to catalyst industry development.

Highlighting Huawei’s vision for 5.5G networks, first unveiled in MBBF 2020 and reiterated at the Huawei Global Analyst Summit (HAS) 2022, Daisy Zhu, vice president of wireless network marketing, Huawei, delved into the concept of “1+1+N” 5.5G networks to deepen digitalization and intelligence, and deliver ubiquitous 10Gbps experience with milliseconds latency.

“1+1+N” for 10Gbps seamless converged experiences

“Currently, 5G is supported by the ‘1+N’ network architecture, where ‘1’ represents a foundation network delivering continuous coverage for quality experiences, while ‘N’ refers to the various capabilities and scenarios it can be deployed in,” said Zhu. “However, a second layer is needed in addition to the foundation network layer to deliver ubiquitous 10Gpbs experiences required for executing certain services. Hence, Huawei proposes the ‘1+1+N’ network architecture.”

5G needs to keep evolving to keep up with newer requirements. In China’s major cities, for instance, Huawei is already helping operators provide 1Gbps ubiquitous experiences. To enable 10Gbps experiences, especially for those living in major cities where data traffic is significantly higher, the added experience network layer is instrumental.

Zhu noted that the “1+1+N” architecture leverages an operator’s initial investments in 5G. In China, where the foundation 5G network is based on mid-band 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz, dialogues are ongoing for the second experience layer to utilize the 6GHz frequency or mmWave.

6GHz and mmWave to support 5.5G development

Spectrum is arguably the most valuable asset to tap into the full potential of wireless capabilities. Its efficient management and use have profound impacts on industries and countries. As such, Zhu believes that the industry must work hand in hand to overcome band resources and availability.

She noted that whilst downlink connections are currently supported by the TDD band, the existing TDD band cannot yield 10Gpbs downlink speeds, and subsequent uplinks reaching 1Gbps. Given the limitations of TDD, coupled with the fact that FDD fragmented bands or C-bands fall short of achieving the vision of 5.5G networks to support 10Gbps speeds, 6GHz is looked upon as the next golden mid-band to drive the industry forward. Alongside other industry stakeholders, Huawei advocates the use of the 6GHz frequency band for wireless connections – and not solely for Wi-Fi connections.

“New bands must be designated to address the bottlenecks of downlink connections,” Zhu opined. In addition to the 6GHz frequency band, mmWave is yet another promising band to support the development of 5.5G, to which Huawei’s range of mmWave solutions and products is already deployed by some operators.

Noting that the current fixed slot configuration for uplinks and downlinks, as deployed in China, is not ideal for increasing uplink speeds to support scaled-up industrial digitalization, Zhu cites the importance of greater flexibility in the use of spectrum bands to yield improved uplink rates. To achieve this, the industry needs to rally together to define and standardize 5.5G.

Green 5.5G technologies

5.5G requires continuous upgrades of uplink capabilities. 5.5G will also move to higher frequency bands, thus posing further challenges to coverage. To address these issues, Huawei has been researching and advancing 5G technologies to create innovative solutions for future 6GHz and mmWave use.

Launched at the HAS, Huawei’s extremely large antenna array-Massive MIMO (ELAA-MIM) is the proposed solution to ensure co-coverage between C-band and higher bands based on extremely large antenna arrays.

Last year, Huawei launched the MetaAAU as a third-generation massive MIMO solution featuring twice the number of dipoles, from 192 to 384. For future 6GHz connections, massive MIMO solutions require at least 1,024 dipoles.

“With more dipoles inside the antenna, operators can benefit from increased antenna gains. Together with a greater number of channels in the ELAA-MIM, operators can deliver an enhanced experience, increased capacity and wider coverage,” Zhu explained.

With green technologies increasingly under the spotlight, it is worth noting that the ELAA-MIM is also a green technology that contributes toward bit energy efficiency. Other green products launched by Huawei at the HAS include the green air interface, a technology designed to optimize the use of spectrum resources, as well as the IntelligentRAN, compatible with both 5G and 5.5G networks.

Compared with previous generations, 5G will witness increased frequency bands, as well as more types of devices, services and customers, making networks more complicated for operators to manage.

“5.5G needs to fully integrate native intelligence, leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to autonomously address these complexities. Intelligent networks will be able to accurately predict faults and enable optimal resource scheduling. This way, operators can unleash greater network potential to yield enhanced capacity, experience, coverage and energy efficiency, and accelerate the intelligent upgrade of industries,” added Zhu.

At present, 5.5G is a new industry that is still in its initial phases of vision, definition and incubation. Huawei ambitions to work with industry stakeholders to fully unleash the power of 5G in creating a fully connected, intelligent world.

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