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ZTE showcases 5G-enabled digital transformation

The 5G Summit and User Congress, an in-person event hosted by ZTE in Italy, shone the spotlight on innovation and successful use cases.

Under the theme of ‘Inspire the Digital Transformation,’ more than 300 attendees heard about on-the-ground 5G progress being made by various ZTE operator customers, including China Telecom, Hutchison Drei Austria, and carrier partners from Italy and Indonesia.

There was also expert input from 3GPP, GSMA and IGF (Internet Governance Forum) Italia and Intel, a longstanding ZTE partner, as well as senior industry analysts.

5G private networks: potential…

One dominant theme to emerge from the two-day gathering was 5G private wireless networks.

On the one hand, there appeared to be general agreement that this market had enormous revenue potential, helped by an evolving 5G technology roadmap. “The opportunity within private mobile networks is the pot of gold at the end of the 5G rainbow,” said Shaun Collins, Chairman of analyst firm CCS Insight.

According to CCS Insight, there are currently around 4,500 private wireless networks worldwide with over 1,300 customers and four million active connections, creating a market worth $2.9 billion in revenue during 2022. Growth, said Collins, will shoot up. Due to increased demand for digital transformation, CCS Insight envisages 95,000 private wireless networks by 2030, and 1.5 million by 2050.

De la Gardette Emmanuel, Expert at ZTE’s CTO Group, said industry was “sitting on a goldmine.” He cited estimates from Precedence Research that the telecom ICT business market worth will be worth more than $1.2 trillion by 2030.

…and challenges

On the other hand, however, there was recognition of challenges facing operators, ranging from handling new technologies to creating effective ecosystem partnerships.

“Network virtualisation is a profound change of the likes we’ve probably never seen in our industry during the last 30 years,” noted Collins.

Jeremiah Caron, Global Head of Research and Analysis, at GlobalData, said 5G was “a once in a lifetime opportunity,” yet getting artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies up and running effectively, and at scale, was a “potential barrier that needed to be overcome.”

Collins added that “novel partnerships” may well have to be made in what is a complicated and diverse ecosystem comprising a huge ecosystem of mobile network operators, hyperscalers, software providers, equipment suppliers, operational technology suppliers, and players in the world of testing and diagnostics.

Finding the right partnerships was uppermost in the mind of Rico Chemnitz, Senior Head of Core Network and Infrastructure at Hutchison Drei Austria, which uses 5G equipment from ZTE. “To understand the ecosystem, you need to understand from the very beginning which way you want go,” he said. Chemnitz referenced partnerships not only with core network providers, but also niche players, such as companies specialising in robotics.

Emmanuel warned that operators, if they are to unlock the value of the enterprise market, there would need to be unprecedented industry cooperation to provide end-to end 5G propositions. He made an analogy with a golfer’s swing.

“It’s one of the most complex motions in sport, which requires synchronisation and precision to obtain extreme results,” he said. Emmanuel then linked different parts of the end-to-end 5G network to different parts of the golfer’s body – core network (brain), fronthaul, backhaul, RAN access, SDN controller – which all need to work together to achieve the desired result.

China thinks big on 5G

China, helped by government incentives, already has a thriving market for 5G private wireless networks.

Bi Qi, Chief Expert at China Telecom and CTO of the China Telecom Research Institute, said the operator is currently involved in over 4,500 5G projects and has more than 300 partners in different vertical industries. “5G will drive the digital economy to the next level,” he said, “and we’ve embarked on business innovations and engaged with wide range of vertical applications.”

Manufacturing, healthcare, travel, education and government services are among China Telecom’s most popular use cases for 5G private wireless networks. Bi Qi made special mention of manufacturing, however, where progress is being made through the integration of machine vision and cloud-based AI algorithms. China Telecom, said Bi Qi, has successfully demonstrated that 5G enabled soldering and material feeding are much more accurate and efficient than human work.

“I can’t emphasise enough how important China is to the deployment of what’s coming next [in 5G],” said CCS Insight’s Collins. “We’re watching China very closely.”

Constant innovation

ZTE SVP Xiao Ming, in his welcome speech at the 5G Summit and User Congress, talked effusively about closer interaction of virtual and real worlds – a key part of digital transformation – and the importance of technology innovation “to break boundaries.”

Xiao said that to blaze new trails, ZTE has been asking two key questions: “Why not?” and “What if?”. These questions have been the driving force behind numerous scientists’ enormous efforts to break boundaries through creativity and innovation, explained Xiao, and it is an approach shared by ZTE as it invests constantly in R&D to break new ground in commercial technologies and services.

The 5G Summit and User Congress was an opportunity to showcase more ZTE innovation. Using ZTE’s AI-based cloud Powerpilot solution, Bi Qi said China Telecom was saving nearly 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours each year.

GSMA CMO Lara Dewar welcomed innovation to extend mobile internet services into rural areas in developing economies. “Companies like ZTE,” she said, “are among those leading the way in closing the coverage gap with solutions like the Rural Pilot project, which drastically reduces the cost of installing and operating broadband networks in the hardest to reach areas.”

ZTE also made an official product launch at the summit, which was carried on-stage in a suitcase. It was a compact and light “mini 5G core” designed for private networks. Wang Quan, Vice President of ZTE, said the mini 5G core was already deployed in what he called the first 5G underground ‘smart mine’ in Southeast Asia.

ZTE collaboration with Intel is also ongoing. Robert Prince, EMEA Managing Director of Communication Service Providers at Intel, flagged “lots of work with ZTE over the last decade” to develop open compute standards, particularly in opensource initiatives, including OpenStack. Intelligent manufacturing and machine vision, said Prince, were other areas in which Intel was working closely with ZTE.

Looking at how 5G technologies can be developed and applied in the future, to benefit individuals, businesses, governments and societies, ZTE, in partnership with GSMA Intelligence, released the ‘Beyond 5G Technology’ whitepaper at the 5G Summit and User Congress. ZTE not only analyses the characteristics of evolved technologies in the whitepaper, but also examines possible use-case scenarios and new value services.

“Our aim is constant innovation in hardware and software,” said Xiao.

This content is sponsored by ZTE.

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