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Moving towards the era of intelligent connectivity

2021.04.01 By David Wang, Executive Director of the Board, Huawei

In 2020, telecom operators around the world played an important role during the pandemic and the value of networks has never been more evident. 

Wang Tao

Looking back, every upgrade in connectivity has driven social development. In agrarian societies, “post stations” connected remote cities. The Silk Road, a connection built on the post station system, promoted the exchange of goods and information between East and West. During the industrial era, telegraphs and telephones transformed long-distance communication. In the information era, mobile, fiber, and data communications have supported the explosive growth of the Internet and rapid development of the global economy.

Now, we’re entering the intelligent era. Individuals, homes, and enterprises require more from connectivity, which is increasingly embedded with new technologies such as cloud and AI.

The connectivity industry is experiencing 5 exciting changes

Change 1: From IoT and intelligent IoT to connected Intelligent Twins

In an era where people and homes are the focus, connectivity is the main goal – specifically, the connectivity of everything. As the integration of intelligence in our lives and enterprises accelerates, we need to connect more things, more intelligently. The goal of this phase is to connect everything intelligently. At HUAWEI CONNECT 2020, the entire industry reached a consensus that it requires industry-specific intelligent twins to make enterprises intelligent. 

Change 2: From office to office + production

Home networks are expanding from simply providing information and entertainment services to supporting online education and telecommuting, and enterprise networks are extending from offices to production environments. Third-party data shows that 18 million enterprises in China allow telecommuting and 420 million users are taking online classes. According to Huawei's report on digital transformation, the focus of digital transformation has shifted from digital office to digital production, transactions, and operations.

Change 3: From best effort to differentiated deterministic services

Connectivity requirements vary with industries and service scenarios. For example, smart city services require massive connections, while smart factory services require deterministic latency. Providing differentiated services is fundamental, and deterministic assurance is mandatory. Only after operators develop these two capabilities can they gain a foothold in vertical markets.

Change 4: From Mbps to Gbps via any medium

There are many connectivity technologies, including cellular, Wi-Fi, and fiber technologies, which will coexist for the long term since service scenarios are diverse. No single technology can do it all. The good news is that all of them now support gigabit connectivity.

Change 5: From manual O&M to hyper-automation

New technologies such as 5G, AI, and cloud enhance network capabilities, but also bring challenges to network O&M. Compared with 4G networks, 5G networks increase connection density by more than 100 times and the number of network configuration parameters by more than 10,000. As networks increase in complexity, manual O&M is no longer sufficient. Big data and AI must be integrated to simplify decision-making, implement hyper-automation, and free people from complexity. 

The five changes above show that the value of connections depends not only on the number of connections, but also on the quality, bandwidth, latency, and network slicing of these connections. For financial transactions, a reduction of 1 ms latency can increase revenue by US$1 million. According to the test data of an OTT cloud data center, a 0.1 percent network packet loss will cause a 50-percent loss in computing power. In the era of traditional connections, Metcalfe's law interprets the value of connections, which is directly proportional to the number of connections squared. 

For new connections, several variables need to be incorporated into Metcalfe's law, including bandwidth, latency, and slicing. These redefine the value of connections to form the "new Metcalfe's law".

Winwin 38

where

  • k: value coefficient
  • Bw: bandwidth
  • T: latency and jitter
  • N: number of connections
  • slice (ranging from 1 to N): number of network slices

The new Metcalfe's law redefines the relationship between connectivity and productivity in the era of intelligent connectivity.

Moving towards intelligent connectivity with AI

To address these five changes and increase productivity, connectivity needs to be upgraded. First, bandwidth is the bedrock of connectivity. In home and enterprise scenarios, the widespread use of ultra-HD video, VR/AR applications, AI cameras, and drones requires ubiquitous gigabit-level connections. Second, networks must provide a deterministic experience to ensure smooth telecommuting and online classes at home and secure and reliable production in enterprises. Third, as the scale and complexity of networks increase exponentially, big data and AI must be introduced to implement hyper-automation. Therefore, connectivity in the new era needs to offer ubiquitous gigabit connectivity, deterministic experiences, and hyper-automation. That is intelligent connectivity.

What does intelligent connectivity mean for operators? Huawei proposes two propositions for home broadband and enterprise services.

Proposition 1: Powered by intelligent connectivity, realizing the value of home broadband experience with "1 + 3 + X"

"1 + 3 + X" enables smart connectivity to transfer home broadband from demographic dividends to experience dividends.

"1" refers to the "one" fiber that will provide gigabit-level broadband access, and "3" refers to the three measures over the fiber: full gigabit-level Wi-Fi coverage, optimized experience, and precise operation planning. This "1 + 3" initiative enables the development of more innovative broadband services such as office broadband, education broadband, eSports broadband, live streamer broadband, and smart homes. This is the "X".

Proposition 2: Powered by intelligent connectivity, inspiring new growth in enterprise business

Deeper: Intelligent connectivity extends LAN services to WAN services. Enterprise digital transformation must be based on high-quality and high-reliability enterprise campus networks. By leveraging the advantages of WAN networks and hyper-automation technologies, operators can extend their services to enterprise LAN networks to open up new market space.

Better: Intelligent connectivity refines the quality of interconnections between enterprise branches. As an increasing number of enterprise applications are deployed, branch interconnections need to meet diverse service requirements and ensure deterministic experience. Operators need to provide high-quality private lines by utilizing their advantages in network coverage and diverse connection capabilities.

Wider: Intelligent connectivity builds more extensive cloud connections. Enterprise cloudification is a huge opportunity. Operators can leverage their advantages in network coverage and integration to provide agile and secure cloud access for enterprise customers, and achieve strategic cloud-and-network synergy.

Huawei's all-scenario intelligent connectivity solutions

For home broadband scenarios, Huawei's intelligent distributed access solution upgrades home terminals, CO devices, and NMS systems. Fiber to the room (FTTR) builds an all-optical home network, providing gigabit-level Wi-Fi for each room. AI is integrated into home terminals to intelligently identify service types and ensure high-quality service experience. Second-level data sampling and intelligent analysis capabilities monitor user experience in real time and accurately identify users suffering a poor network experience.

For SME campuses, Huawei's intelligent campus network solution extends operator services to the campus, and implements unified LAN and WAN management and control, Gbps-level all-wireless access, and AI-powered intelligent O&M.

Based on the successful practices of the OTN premium private line in the financial, government, electric power, and OTT industries, Huawei has upgraded its intelligent premium private-line solution. The latency is decreased with all-optical switching to 1 ms. In addition, Liquid OTN technology is used to implement flexible bandwidth increments ranging from 2 Mbps to 100 Gbps to make premium private lines more affordable. Moreover, by binding the channel resources of wavelengths or sub-wavelengths, wavelength-level private networks are provided for enterprise customers.

To support cloud migration in different industries, Huawei has launched the intelligent cloud network solution. Based on the intelligent IP network, this solution builds a high-quality private network to provide multi-cloud services for enterprises. For the cloud backbone, multiple clouds are pre-connected to access multiple clouds through one private line. For cloud access, network slicing is used to provide differentiated SLAs for different industries. Finally, for cloud private lines, the wide coverage of the mobile transport network is leveraged so that 90 percent of enterprises in urban areas can connect to the cloud within one day.

Key strategic moves

To support and promote the development of the intelligent connectivity industry, Huawei is implementing three key measures. First, we continuously invest in basic research and system engineering capabilities to develop leading products and solutions. Second, we’re working with the entire industry to overcome the challenges of deglobalization and maintain a unified global standard for the connectivity industry. Third, Huawei is working with ecosystem partners to continuously improve solutions based on industry scenarios, the IPv6 expert committee to promote network capability openness, and alliances such as NGOF and ONA to jointly develop scenario-based Optical Network solutions.

Society is at a critical stage of evolving from an information society to an intelligent society. People will increasingly utilize intelligence to experience the immersive interactive experience of the virtual and physical worlds, strengthen collaboration, and break limits. The fifth generation of connectivity technologies, such as 5G, Optical Network, IPv6+, and Wi-Fi 6, provide ubiquitous gigabit connectivity, deterministic experience, and hyper-automation, bridging the virtual and physical worlds and enabling the intelligent world.

In the future, the sixth generation of connectivity technologies will continue to develop in multiple aspects such as space, time, and scale. They will provide 100-fold bandwidth improvements, lower latency, and widen coverage to evolve an intelligent society into a futuristic society. Huawei will explore the sixth generation of connectivity technologies such as 6G, F6G, next-generation IP, Wi-Fi 7, and Wi-Fi 8, continuously make breakthroughs to achieve optimal network performance, and provide the best connections for the world. 

Any assumptions about the future of connectivity may be underestimates. The best way to predict the future is to create the future. Let's advance towards the intelligent connectivity era together.

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