ZTE believes its Pre5G solution, which promises five times as much capacity as LTE, could open up a path to major European sales.
But to do that it will have to overcome one key drawback: it's for TDD networks only. The FDD version won't be ready for two or three years. Until then, FDD operators will be able to deploy it only if they acquire LTE-TDD spectrum.
Even so, Xiang Jiying, chief scientist at ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), says European operators are attracted by the capacity improvement as well as the ability to work with legacy handsets.
"This is the most important reason why the customer is very much interested in this. European customers, even if they have FDD only, are very interested," he said.
Because TDD works in a single band rather than FDD's paired spectrum, a single TDD carrier on Pre5G could support twice as much throughput as FDD, according to Xiang.
"With one Pre5G basestation they can replace two FDD basestations. And they can replace at least four TDD basestations and use just half the frequency band," he said.
The improvement in Pre5G mostly comes from Massive MIMO, although it also uses signal interference cancellation that improves performance at the cell edge. (See ZTE Pre5G Massive MIMO Basestation Sets Record for Capacity and Holy HetNets! It’s Super Macros & Massive MIMO.)
It is currently being trialed by China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), and other trials are planned elsewhere in Asia and Europe. It will deploy commercially by year-end, Xiang said.
Xiang expects Massive MIMO to be an important part of 5G as well. While the standard has yet to be defined, it could involve different radio interfaces for different spectrum bands, he believes.
He says ZTE is proposing an enhancement of its cloud radio solution for 5G. Called virtual cell, it would allow the creation of "ultra-dense networks," with basestations as close as 10 meters.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading