In a majority of countries around the world, 4G currently serves as the foundation of mobile broadband (MBB), and its penetration rate is still growing. As such, it is crucial that carriers unleash the full potential of existing 4G networks while laying a simplified and efficient 4G foundation to maximize network value.
At the MBB Foundation Summit of the 11th Global MBB Forum (MBBF) on November 12, 2020, Mr. Yang Chaobin, President of Huawei's Wireless Network Product Line, shared Huawei's insights in this regard.
Mr. Yang emphasized that, even though 5G development is varied among countries, the target network in the next decade will be based on 4G+5G, which will both continue to coexist for a long time. Carriers must adapt to this trend by phasing out or downsizing the frequencies of 2G and 3G networks and developing Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) to take over 2G and 3G networks in providing voice and IoT services. At the same time, carriers must adopt 5G-ready approaches in improving the basic coverage and experience of 4G. This way, carriers will stay in an advantageous position to improve the overall profitability of mobile networks.
4G and 5G Will Coexist in the Next Decade
In 2020, the whole world is faced with innumerable severe challenges following the outbreak of the pandemic. In the fight against this unexpected disease, broadband connectivity has been playing an essential role in mitigating the impact by enabling people to shop, learn, and work online within the safety of their homes. Mr. Yang acknowledged that MBB has made a special contribution due to its broad adoption, flexibility in deployment, and short time to market (TTM).
At the same time, the whole world is witnessing a transition from 4G to 5G. In the future, the target networks will be based on 4G+5G, which will both continue to coexist in the long run. During this transition, 2G and 3G networks will be gradually phased out, with voice services being implemented by VoLTE technology, Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) IoT services by 5G NB-IoT and 5G Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) technologies, and data services by the 4G and 5G target networks.
The growth of 5G is varied across regions. Mr. Yang noted that 5G has achieved nationwide coverage in countries such as China and South Korea to carry a considerable portion of MBB data traffic. This is attributed to 4G's high penetration rate of above 80%, which provides huge advantages for 5G deployment in site and spectrum acquisition and optical fiber resources.
The adoption of 5G's standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) architecture is also varied across regions. Currently, 5G SA is mainly adopted in China due to its fast 5G deployment, while NSA is deployed in many other countries.
In some parts of the world, the penetration rate of 4G is still low. For example, while 47% of mobile connections in Latin America are on 4G, whereas in sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion is only 10%. As 4G's penetration rate continues to increase and user's data requirement continues to increase, 4G networks will be used to handle growing data traffic. In these areas, 4G will still be a huge focus of network development to meet the requirements of rapidly growing 4G traffic. Also in the future, 5G deployment will start mainly from hotspots, with NSA to become the mainstream.
This is why NSA is supported globally but SA is available only in China on iPhone 12. In NSA, 5G experience depends on sound 4G coverage and experience.
Huawei Has Solutions Ready for Differentiated Network Construction Requirements
In light of these disparities in network construction, Huawei has developed a complete range of solutions. According to Mr. Yang, to protect investment, Huawei has the SingleRAN solution, which supports both 4G and 5G as well as NSA and SA, on the one hand, the hardware can be used for 4G construction to adapt to growth in users and traffic, on the other hand, carriers can implement smooth evolution to 5G NSA and SA by upgrading software.
MBB is now progressing to a new generation. A well-designed network layout will help carriers seize opportunities and build competitiveness in the new era.
4G Is MBB Traffic Foundation, Service Foundation, and 5G Foundation
Currently, 4G contributes to approximately 75% of carriers' mobile service revenue, and its role will remain important in the future. It is the very foundation to carry MBB traffic, evolve services, and build 5G networks.
Carriers can focus 4G networks on these three directions to maximize network value. 4G can stimulate MBB traffic to boost revenue with its wide coverage, mature ecosystem, and large installed base. For future 4G+5G target networks, 2G and 3G voice and IoT services can migrate to VoLTE and NB-IoT services to build the fundamental service layer in the 5G era. 4G networks should be 5G-ready to improve 4G user experience and provide a foundation for 5G NSA and SA infrastructure.
This content is sponsored by Huawei.