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Huawei Promises 4.5G & LTE-M in 2016

Ahead of MWC, vendor pitches details of next step from LTE-A, unveils its LTE-M strategy for cellular IoT, talks up new video optimization capabilities and unveils a digital-friendly BSS.

February 24, 2015

6 Min Read
Huawei Promises 4.5G & LTE-M in 2016

LONDON -- Huawei upped the pre-MWC ante Tuesday by promising to deliver what it calls 4.5G mobile broadband capabilities in 2016 that will be able to deliver downlink speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s.

The vendor even believes devices will be ready next year to support some of the enabling capabilities of 4.5G.

That was one of several pre-MWC announcements the Chinese vendor made at a press and analyst briefing session Tuesday in the swanky Dorchester Hotel in London. (HOLLYWOOD STAR ALERT -- Anthony Hopkins was eating kippers for breakfast just outside the presentation room!) (See MWC: Let the Madness Begin.)

Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. aims to deliver high quality HD, 4K and ultra high-definition video services over mobile and fixed networks, with no buffering, no pixelation, and immediate availability. Huawei also has the goal of helping connect up to 100 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices using multiple wireless technologies, most particularly cellular.

Huawei also spent a considerable amount of time talking up its open networking credentials, reminding all and sundry about its involvement in multiple industry bodies such as OpenDaylight, ONOS, ETSI NFV ISG, OPNFV and others, and highlighting the development of its SDN and NFV Labs, which are available for multivendor testing projects. (See Huawei Launches Global NFV Open Lab and Open NFV Group Uncloaks Its Platform Plan.)

So what were the key takeaways? Here are the highlights:

The generation game
Huawei is already working with operators such as Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and likely the UK's EE on the next step from LTE-Advanced, which Huawei is calling 4.5G. The vendor had touted this advance late last year but has now added extra details and believes 4.5G will roll out during the course of the next five years as the industry moves towards 5G. (See Huawei Targets 4.5G Mobile by 2016 .)

The enabling capabilities for 1 Gbit/s mobile broadband -- carrier aggregation of licensed and unlicensed bands, massive MIMO, 256 QAM modulation (compared with 64 QAM for LTE) -- will become available piece by piece during the course of the next year or so, ultimately enabling downstream speeds that are more than three times faster than is possible with current LTE-Advanced networks (which enable top end rates of around 300 Mbit/s, if you're lucky).

These capabilities are being addressed in Release 13 and Release 14 from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) , so Huawei feels confident of being able to deliver commercial upgrades, which comprise mostly software for operators that already have Huawei 4G radio access network infrastructure, though some baseband upgrades will be needed. The vendor believes this technology, which will have much lower latency than 4G -- about 10 milliseconds rather than 50ms -- will enable applications such as virtual reality, real-time automated industrial applications, 4K video and cellular IoT connectivity.

LTE-M is on its way
Huawei believes 4.5G rollouts will make cellular IoT applications a reality. For LTE-M (a 4G specification developed for machine connectivity), the vendor has developed its own low power (10-year battery life), long-life machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity chipset that enables a single cell site to connect up to 100,000 IoT devices using technology from the white space specialist Neul, which it acquired late last year. By contrast, a current 4G cell can manage about 1,000 connections, it stated. (See Huawei Spends $25M on Neul's IoT Smarts.)

The vendor says it will make an announcement during MWC about an LTE-M engagement with an unnamed UK operator and expects the technology to be deployed commercially by next year. It says there is interest from companies such as utilities (for water meter connectivity, for example) as well as mobile operators.

One particular application, which Huawei has been testing with South Korean mobile operator LG U+ , is connected drones, which can be controlled via a 4.5G connection and which can then deliver back real-time communications, including 4K video, from a drone to a device. Seriously.

Huawei, by the way, isn't the only company developing chips specifically for 4G M2M applications. (See Does M2M Need LTE?)

For all of our Mobile World Congress 2015 coverage, check out the dedicated MWC show news channel here at Light Reading.

Secret sauce video optimization
The vendor also unveiled a development it called High Throughput Routing (HTR), which "paves the way to ultra-high definition video," said Jean-Marc Cabrol, senior director of the American Branch of the Global Solution Elite Team (real job title!).

Basically, Huawei has developed a set of video optimization algorithms that can be deployed at aggregation points (in a BRAS, for example) or in edge routers, that can determine network status and allocate the appropriate bandwidth to deliver high quality video services, Cabrol says. The system, which includes video proxy (caching) capabilities, also allows a service provider to enable the controlled delivery of third-party content (for example, OTT video) and manage capacity on a per user basis.

The result, according to Huawei, is that throughput can be more than tripled.

But the vendor doesn't want to disclose the exact nature of its (secret sauce) algorithms just yet, with Cabrol adding only that the technology is due to be available for field trials by the middle of this year and commercially available in 2016.

Virtualization and next-gen BSS
Huawei is heading to MWC with a truck-load of proof points about how it is embracing open standards and promoting multivendor interoperability within the SDN and NFV community via its testing labs and participation in multiple industry bodies such as OpenDaylight, ONOS, OPNFV and many more. (See ON.Lab Intros Open Source SDN OS.)

Huawei has been pushing its SDN and NFV credentials for a while and has gained significant traction with major operators, including Vodafone, with which it has developed a cloud experience center. It's also working with operators to help them introduce DevOps processes that can help them reduce their development and service introduction times.

The vendor also today unveiled a new BSS system, called BES (business enabling system), designed to help operators manage and monetize applications and relationships with customers and partners via multiple offline and online (digital) channels, as well as improve customer experience through the use of advanced analytics.

As usual, Huawei has reserved itself a MWC space the size of some small European nations to show off all its wares at MWC (and that doesn't even include its smartphones, which are being shown at a separate location at the Barcelona event). It will attract a great deal of attention because it has many developments in keys sectors -- virtualization, 4G evolution, IoT connectivity, video optimization, enhanced analytics/monetization/customer experience capabilities -- and is engaged with nearly all of the major operators around the world, which is why it's the largest telecom vendor by reported revenues. (See Huawei Expects 2015 Revenues of $56B.)

But is this what the mobile operators want? We'll have to ask them next week.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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