4.5G, Next Step Toward MBB 2020
Why Gbps ?
Gbps represents a significant increase in the peak rate, which is five times or more than the 150 Mbps peak rate currently provided by 4G. Today's 4G networks can support high-definition (HD) video and audio, web browsing, social media, and similar services. However, it won’t be long before higher peak rates are required to support 2K/4K video, virtual reality, enhanced reality, telemedicine, and other new services. For example, virtual reality requires 1Gbps to ensure user experience, which can only be available on a 4.5G network.
Gbps increases the average capacity of a single 4.5G site to 600Mbps, which is six times that of a single 4G site. The high penetration rate of smartphones drives the rapid growth of video traffic on platforms such as YouTube. Video traffic accounts for over 50% of total traffic on many 4G networks. Each subscriber consumes on average more than 3GB of traffic per month, increasing by 60% each year. Network capacities must be expanded to accommodate more video service connections.
Gbps increases the cell edge rate of a 4.5G cell so that the rate is 10 times that of a 4G cell. This ensures an unintereupted user experience at the cell edge when watching HD videos or performing other latency-sensitive services.
How Gbps ?
Gbps is implemented through 4x4 MIMO, 3D beamforming, 4CC/5CC CA, 256 QAM, and other technologies.
4x4 MIMO: The eNodeB can transmit signals over four transmit channels. The signals can be received by the UE on two or four receiver channels, depending on the UE capability. 4x4 MIMO makes full use of space dimension and greatly improves spectral and power efficiency.
3D beamforming: Beams of a cell are vertically and horizontally split through the multi-antenna technology. This greatly increases the cell capacity and cell edge rate.
4CC/5CC CA: Four or five carriers are randomly aggregated to increase the user peak rate, cell edge rate, and average cell rate.
256 QAM: This high order modulation technology improves the peak rate by 33%, as compared with 64 QAM.
The target rate of Gbps proposed by Huawei promotes the development of chips and terminals supporting multi-antenna, multi-carrier aggregation, and 256 QAM technologies. Both Snapdragon 820 and HiSilicon Kirin 950, respectively unveiled by Qualcomm and Huawei at the end of 2015, support 4x4 MIMO, 256QAM, and CA with over 3CC. These two chips will become a standard configuration for medium- and high-end smartphones in 2016, significantly contributing to the commercialization of 4.5G.
Large-Scale Commercial Use of 4.5G in 2016
Huawei launched the concept of 4.5G in 2014, teasing the introduction of Gbps connections. Since then, world-leading operators in cooperation with Huawei started deploying gigabit-capable 4.5G networks.
At the 2015 Global MBB Forum held this past November, HKT (a Hong Kong telecom operator) demonstrated the downlink peak rate of 1.2 Gbps by using 4CC CA (with a total of 70 MHz bandwidth), 4x4 MIMO, and 256 QAM.
In December 2015, TeliaSonera (a Norwegian telecom operator) and Huawei announced in Oslo the deployment of the world's first LTE-Advanced Pro (4.5G) network with an outdoor peak rate reaching 1 Gbps. This 4.5G network is the fastest mobile network around the world.
As of now, telecom operators in Europe, Middle East, China, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and Canada have tested the data rate of 1Gbps on their commercial networks. It is expected that a great number of 4.5G networks will be under construction in 2016, making 1Gbps a new benchmark rate for mobile broadband networks. As a strategic partner to global leading telecom operators, Huawei will continue to help telecom operators construct ultra-broadband mobile networks to expand their business opportunities and to build a fully connected world.
The rapid development of information and communications technology (ICT) greatly enriches people's communication and life, shortening our distance from a fully connected world. The unstoppable technical innovation enables the cellular network technology to advance and continue to extend the fields for connections. The 4.5G technologies have extended connections in the fields of Internet of Things (IoT) and trunking communications. The representative 4.5G technologies include Narrow Band Internet of Things (NB-IoT) and LTE integrated Trunked Radio (LiTRA).
NB-IoT for Connection+
The traditional Internet connects people, while the IoT connects people and things and also things themselves. The essence of IoT is data perception, acquisition, and transmission. Data can be perceived and acquired through intelligent devices, monitoring devices, and sensor-embedded terminals (such as the residential water meter). Connecting water meters greatly improves the working efficiency and facilitates residents. As we can predict, the IoT will penetrate into people's daily lives, creating tremendous social value.
In the future, there will be a large number of IoT applications based on a variety of terminals serving their purposes in daily life (such as pet tracing) and in vertical industries (such as manufacturing and asset tracking). All these applications require low power wide area network (LPWAN) networks that have the following characteristics:
• Using licensed spectrums for high reliability and safety.
• Providing wide coverage, which is available even in basements, remote suburban areas, and other locations where signals are not usual.
• Consuming low power. When being powered by batteries, terminals can have a battery life of 10 years.
• Supporting a large number of connections. A single cell can support 100,000 connections.
• Requiring low cost. The cost of the communications module group is low.
• Insensitive to transmission latency.
• Providing extensible capabilities, such as mobility, roaming, and locating.
While existing cellular network technologies fail to meet the LPWAN requirements due to coverage, power consumption, and cost reasons, NB-IoT has become a major development direction. NB-IoT features wide coverage, a large number of connections, low data rates, low costs, low power consumption, and optimized architecture. It can be concluded that NB-IoT suits the LPWAN market requirements the most and therefore is the optimal choice for telecom operators to enter the LPWAN market.
In 2013, Huawei and Vodafone pioneered the research on low-bandwidth network connection technologies. In 2014, they submitted a technical proposal to 3GPP, officially starting the research on NB-IoT. In September 2015, NB-IoT has become an official Work Item in 3GPP R13. Its standardization is expected to be finalized in June 2016.
The LPWA market has been rising. To adapt to market requirements, Huawei has been performing pre-R&D on the E2E NB-IoT solution and launched the pre-standardization solution ready for the test purpose. Based on this pre-standardization solution, Huawei has successfully constructed the world's first showcase site with China Unicom in Shanghai in June 2015. In December of the same year, Huawei, together with Vodafone, completed tests on the commercial network in Spain.
Providing IoT communications services for vertical industries is one of the most important application directions of NB-IoT. Its innovation requires close cooperation with industry partners. To this end, Huawei and partners will establish eight open labs globally as innovation platforms. Currently, substantial progress has been made in smart parking, remote meter reading, and other directions. Huawei welcomes more partners to join in the cause of building a fully connected world.
LiTRA LTE Public Trunking Communications Solution for Connection+
The trunking communications system was invented in late 1960s and early 1970s. Different from the common point-to-point full-duplex mobile communications, trunking communications adopts half-duplex and point-to-multipoint communications mode and therefore is referred to as Push to Talk (PTT). Featuring low latency and large capacity, the trunking system meets the requirements for real-time onsite dispatching and is therefore widely used in the public security, public utility, and enterprise fields.
The trunking communications has been evolving from narrowband to broadband and from private to public. The traditional trunking technology complies with narrowband standards for private communications networks. Narrowband networks mainly provide voice services and cannot support high-speed data services such as video and multimedia. The technological architecture of private communications networks cannot meet service requirements due to the exclusive industry chain, high costs in device procurement and construction, expensive terminal price, excessive maintenance expenditure, as well as many other issues.
LiTRA, a representative technology in the LTE public trunking communications system (PTT over LTE) can resolve the issues on narrowband private networks. By leveraging the advantages of high bandwidth and low latency of LTE networks, LiTRA provides not only supreme trunking performance but also provide multimedia services including video call, video surveillance, file transfer, and GIS collaboration. More importantly, LiTRA can be deployed on existing LTE networks, helping operators greatly reduce construction and maintenance costs while offering better network coverage and roaming services. LiTRA is compatible with LTE smartphones, breaking the restriction of industry chain exclusiveness and providing professional and efficient trunking communications services.
Currently, 3GPP is leading the formulation of the new-generation trunking communications standards. The world's major trunking standardization organizations and government agencies, including OMA, ETSI, TCCA, TIA, UK Home Office, USA FCC, and U.S. Department of Commerce, are cooperating with 3GPP. A full set of professional trunking communications standards based on the LTE public networks and oriented towards public security and critical mission application scenarios are expected to be formulated in 3GPP R12, R13, and R14.
LiTRA is a professional trunking communications solution based on the 3GPP standards and LTE public networks. Huawei developed LiTRA to enable operators to offer a safe, efficient, and professional Public Safety LTE (PS LTE) network for customers in the public security field.
There will be inevitable challenges when LTE commercial networks are directly used for the public security application scenarios. To overcome these challenges, Huawei has enhanced LTE-based LiTRA’s capabilities in coping with emergencies by implementing MCPPT QoS management, MCPTT voice management, connection management, congestion control, and security protection. In addition, Huawei has provided an E2E product solution for LiTRA, including the application platform, dispatch console, APP, and rugged terminals. This helps operators quickly deploy trunking services to seize market opportunities.
An increasing number of governments are preparing to deploy national public security networks based on the existing LTE networks. LTE-based national security networks are expected to enter the pre-commercial phase in 2016.
VoLTE HD Voice for Experience 4.0
During the initial phase of an LTE network, the CS Fall Back technology is used. When a user on the 4G network is making a phone call, they will have to fall back to the 2G or 3G network and cannot use high-speed data services until they go back to the 4G network. In addition, the CS Fall Back scheme has shortcomings such as long call setup delay and poor voice quality.
VoLTE offers a significant improvement by enabling users to enjoy HD voice over LTE and Experience 4.0.
In the 4G era, CS Fall Back was the major voice solution. VoLTE had a small deployment scale and only a few subscribers. With the advent 4.5G, more subscribers will shift to VoLTE services for a better voice experience. To attract more users, operators place tremendous importance on VoLTE coverage and voice quality, with the expectation of offering Experience 4.0 anytime and anywhere.
As is widely known, an ideal VoLTE network must meet the requirements of "three Always", that is, Always On LTE, Always On MOS4.0, and Always Online. Coverage and voice quality are the most important factors in meeting the "three Always" requirements. Huawei VoLTE Plus is the solution of choice for operators as it not only improves the VoLTE coverage but also ensures VoLTE voice quality in strong-interference, heavy-traffic, and other typical scenarios.
Approximately 20 worldwide operators in Hong Kong, Korea, Germany, and other countries have selected Huawei to deploy its VoLTE Plus solution in order to provide a better network experience. At the 2015 LTE Summit held in the Netherlands this past June, the HKT VoLTE network constructed by Huawei in Hong Kong won the Best VoLTE Innovation Award.
HD Mobile Video for Experience 4.0
•Network Experience, the First Principle in the MBB Era
User experience is an important factor in stimulating increased profit. While being price sensitive, consumers are willing to pay more for better services and higher quality products to obtain a satisfying experience. A customer survey on online video services conducted in China indicates that 36% of participants would pay more for better video service. This desire is correlated to regional level of economic prosperity. People in eastern China have stronger willingness to pay for a better video experience than people in western China.
•Mobile Video Accounting for Over 50% of Network Traffic
Social video applications are boosting the rapid increase in mobile data traffic. According to statistics, a total of 300 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Half of that is viewed on mobile devices, and traffic from mobile devices takes up 40% of the total traffic. In addition, 75% of Facebook video browsing is performed on smartphones. As it turns out, the quality of social media video content is becoming increasingly professional while social networking apps are the major portals for mobile video traffic. On networks in the United States, Japan, Korea, and other developed markets, 50% of traffic comes from video and is continuing to grow.
•HD Mobile Video Becoming Popular
With advancements in technology, the cost of producing HD screens has decreased drastically producing smartphone screens with increasingly higher resolution. According to statistics compiled by Huawei’s mLAB, 77% of smartphones delivered in the first half of 2015 have a resolution of 720p or above. Screens from flagship smartphones of all device vendors reached or exceeded 1080p. In addition, videos with a resolution of 720p or above are becoming more and more mainstream. On YouTube, available videos with a resolution of 720p or above reach 51%. Offering video services with a resolution of 2K has become a focal point for industry leaders. The most common 2K resolution is 2048 x 1080. The resolution of iPhone 6 Plus is 1920 x 1080, which is very close to the 2K resolution. Currently, the standard 2K resolution on smartphones is mostly 2560 x 1440, which is three times higher than 720p. By now, there are over 40 smartphone models offering a resolution of 2K. It is expected that over 10% of newly delivered smartphones will be equipped with 2K-definition screens in 2016. A premium 2K video experience will be one of the objectives of mobile networks and will become the mainstream requirement in 2018.
Smartphones equipped with 4K and 8K screens will soon be available on the market, providing users with an experience previously only imagined.
•HD Videos Posing Huge Challenges on Networks
HD videos require high data rates. To achieve a quality video experience, the initial buffer rate and the rate during 720p video play must reach 5 Mbps and 2 Mbps, respectively. As well, the initial buffer rate and the rate during playback for 1080p videos must reach 21 Mbps and 4 Mbps, respectively. Meanwhile, 2K and 4K Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) videos require even higher rates. Indeed, the initial buffer rate and the rate during playing for 2K videos must reach 13 Mbps and 8 Mbps, respectively. And the initial buffer rate and the rate during playing for 4K videos must reach 32 Mbps and 18 Mbps, respectively. Due to the fact that there is currently no unified standard, different video websites require diversified data rates for 4K videos. Watching Sony 4K videos requires about 100 Mbps, while watching 4K videos on Netflix requires 15.6 Mbps.
HD videos require shorter E2E latency. 720p videos require E2E latency shorter than 100 ms. 1080p and 2K videos require E2E latency shorter than 50 ms. To ensure a satisfactory user experience, 4K videos tolerate E2E latency shorter than 10 ms.
HD videos are imposing great challenges on the LTE networks, which cannot yet fulfill all requirements of 1080p and 2K videos. The capacity of a single LTE cell must be increased to accommodate more video connections while data rates at the cell edge must be increased to meet the minimum rate requirements of video watching.
•vMOS, the Mobile Video Experience Evaluation Standard
MOS has been widely recognized as a subjective quality measurement method for traditional voice services on mobile networks. However, there is no standard for measuring the user experience for mobile HD videos. By analyzing the entire experience of a user watching mobile HD video, several major key factors determining the user experience can be identified. These include whether the video can be played, waiting time before watching, video play fluency, and whether the video resolution selected by the user can be supported. These factors can be further subdivided into four measurable indicators, which are the initial play success rate, initial buffer delay, play rate, and proportion of video freeze duration. These four indicators are correlated with one another.
To normalize the video experience evaluation standard, Huawei has proposed video Mean Opinion Score (vMOS) as a new measurement standard of video performance in the mobile environment and submitted vMOS to ITU and other standardization organizations. Currently, vMOS has entered the ITU model selection phase. The phase 1 standardization results are scheduled for release in 2016.