To ensure that the transport network is ready for 5G, Beijing Unicom has already started to reserve infrastructure resources.

November 17, 2018

6 Min Read
Beijing Unicom: 4G IP RAN Evolution to Build a 5G Transport Network

Mobile communication is entering a new era. 5G, the next-generation standard in mobile communication, will not only boost user experience in mobile Internet, but also enable the large-scale networking of billions of IoT devices. It will allow everything to be connected and facilitate the deep integration of many important industries, such as manufacturing, healthcare, and transportation, creating a smarter and more connected world.

While bringing significant benefits to people's lives and society as a whole, 5G also brings huge challenges to existing networks. It has higher transmission speed, larger bandwidth, lower delay, and wider connection requirements than traditional 4G transport networks can meet. Transport networks must therefore become more flexible and intelligent. They must be ready for the coming 5G era, which is widely anticipated by many carriers. Beijing Unicom believes that the readiness of the transport network is critical in bringing 5G to market quickly. Therefore, infrastructure resources need to be reserved, and 5G-oriented planning and reconstruction need to be started and completed for the transport network before the wireless and core networks.

Beijing Unicom has started to reserve infrastructure resources in preparation for 5G

To ensure that the transport network is ready for 5G, Beijing Unicom has already started to reserve infrastructure resources. 5G-oriented network construction requires a significant amount of infrastructure resources, including space, optical cables, and electricity. The infrastructure resources required by 5G for transport network reconstruction or new deployment differ from those required by 4G. 5G also requires wireless sites to be distributed more densely and needs to support both CRAN and DRAN construction modes. Therefore, before 5G construction, Beijing Unicom clarified the infrastructure resource requirements of different construction modes on the wireless, transport, and core networks.

Back in 2017, Beijing Unicom started to check infrastructure resources, including equipment room and optical fiber resources, for each comprehensive service access area. These checks allowed Beijing Unicom to identify resource gaps and bottlenecks that would affect 5G construction. According to the gaps and bottlenecks identified, Beijing Unicom accelerated its removal of copper cables, integration of equipment rooms, and reservation of resources. It also specified a plan for infrastructure resource reconstruction. Currently, Beijing Unicom has reconstructed equipment rooms in pilot areas and some hotspots, gaining valuable experience that will facilitate subsequent reconstruction and lay a foundation for the upcoming 5G commercial use.

Beijing Unicom prefers the 4G IP RAN-based 4G and 5G co-transport solution

In 2018, Beijing Unicom launched a pilot 5G project. One of the key factors in determining what pilot solution to use was whether the solution could implement the commercial use of 5G in the future. After comprehensive analysis, Beijing Unicom determined that the most feasible and cost effective solution was the 4G IP RAN-based 4G and 5G co-transport solution.

All core and aggregation devices and more than 96% of access devices on Beijing Unicom's 4G IP RAN can evolve to support 5G. In addition, a Layer 3-to-edge solution that meets the low-delay forwarding requirement has been deployed on the live network. Therefore, both flexible connection and 5G time synchronization requirements can be met. In terms of device capabilities and solution deployment, the 4G IP RAN has a high degree of 5G readiness and can be used to implement 5G transport through evolution and capacity expansion.

This 4G IP RAN-based 4G and 5G co-transport solution can minimize infrastructure resource and power consumption, speed up network construction, protect 5G construction investment, and improve network O&M efficiency.

On July 28, 2018, Beijing Unicom opened its first 5G site at Daoxianghu Road, Beijing, and piloted autonomous vehicles together with Huawei and Baidu. It then completed service provisioning at a site in Financial Street, Beijing, and verified whether the network could carry both 4G and 5G services.

To keep pace with the evolution of networks, Beijing Unicom actively explores new technologies. It has verified new technologies such as 50GE on a single interface, segment routing (SR), and FlexE slicing and has established strong technical capabilities in preparation for 5G.

5G services drive the cloudification and downstream move of core networks, and have ubiquitous connection requirements. Therefore, Beijing Unicom believes that future networks must be more flexible and intelligent. Beijing Unicom has piloted the network cloud engine (NCE), with SR enabled, to implement agile tunnel adjustment and meet flexible 5G access requirements in the initial phase. The NCE will then replace existing network management systems on the live network to not only implement fast service provisioning, automatic site deployment, and intelligent maintenance, but also meet the requirements for fast commercial deployment and intelligent O&M of 5G services.

Beijing Unicom has started future-oriented 5G transport network planning

The pilot use of 5G is just the beginning. Beijing Unicom is planning a target transport network that can meet requirements over the next three to five years. Planning is based on the unlimited 4G package currently in use and the requirements for 5G service development. It also takes into account the predicted service model of each service area and even each node, and considers whether existing networks and devices can meet 5G service requirements. Beijing Unicom will upgrade or expand the platforms at the core and aggregation layers, and upgrade or reconstruct the existing access network based on whether the DRAN or CRAN mode is used and whether an area is a hotspot. The pace at which the transport network will be constructed will be determined by the pace of wireless network construction, ensuring that the transport network is 5G ready before the wireless network. Currently, Beijing Unicom has completed the planning of the target 5G transport network in the main aggregation areas and formulated the implementation plan.

Beijing Unicom will continuously promote 5G, helping build a 5G-capable Beijing

Beijing Unicom not only researches 5G technologies, standards, and applications, but also actively promotes the development of 5G industries and applications, especially applications that combine production, life, society, and culture as well as IoT service applications.

At the beginning of 2018, Beijing Unicom signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Huawei. The two parties set up a joint work team to build a showcase 5G network, provide intelligent communication services in the upcoming Winter Olympics Games, fully verify 5G solutions, incubate 5G industry applications, and attract and foster 5G talents. Since then, Beijing Unicom's 5G strategy has been put into practice.

On August 13, 2018, Beijing Unicom officially launched its "5G NEXT" plan, covering five key scenarios and five key applications, to promote the development of the 5G industry and build a future-oriented 5G network in Beijing. The five key scenarios involve Beijing's sub-civic center, new airport, World Garden 2019, Winter Olympics Games 2022, and Chang'an Street. The five key applications are autonomous driving, big healthcare, industrial Internet, smart city, and ultra HD videos.

Beijing Unicom will continue to focus on the five key scenarios and five key applications, and adhere to the concept of "technology innovation, people-oriented, characteristic leading, and benchmark demonstration" to implement 5G for Beijing.

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