5G is happening and fast! More than 200 CSPs have deployed 3GPP-compliant 5G networks globally so far, with 5G subscriptions poised to cross the billion mark in the next few months. The CSPs will be doubling down on deploying the next-generation 5G NR network architecture in 2022 and 2023. They look forward to reaping the benefits of an advanced and intelligent network infrastructure that can unlock newer capabilities and services, and monetization opportunities not possible before. These capabilities stem from a combination of advanced RAN equipment and intelligent software that can efficiently utilize the diverse spectrum and other network resources.
However, we believe 5G is a spectrum game and the success of a CSP’s 5G network lies in how efficiently it uses the multiple frequency bands on a single network for diverse use cases, application scenarios and delivering the 5G promise of greater capacity, higher throughputs and lower latency. For example, looking at the diverse spectrum available for a 5G network, the sub-3GHz FDD frequency bands provide symmetrical Uplink (UL) and Downlink (DL) with wider coverage, whereas the TDD frequency bands (like C-band 3.5GHz) offer larger bandwidth and higher capacity. Both of these can be supplemented with higher-order mmWave (26GHz and above) spectrum for high throughput and bandwidth but targeted hotspot coverage for applications such as FWA and private networks.
This drives a multi-fold increase in the network complexity as a CSP looks to leverage a broad set of spectrum resources across a heterogenous network to enable a diverse set of services, SLAs and target network KPIs.
Every CSP is looking to build such a robust, capable 5G network with its ecosystem partners. However, having followed the infrastructure market for years, one solution which stands out and is being successfully deployed to bring intelligence to this multi-band converging RAN is Huawei’s iHashBAND solution.
At Huawei’s 2022 Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF), which was held recently in Bangkok and was also attended by a team of Counterpoint analysts, the world’s leading cellular network infrastructure provider gave briefings on its latest innovations, solutions as well as adoption by CSPs in the 5G infrastructure space globally. Huawei showcased its iHashBAND solution at the summit which was one of the highlights of the show. This solution looks to optimally converge the multiple frequency bands (5G and 4G) onto a single-layer network solving one of the major pain points for CSPs migrating from 4G to 5G. This allows the CSPs to optimally use the performance differences between TDD and FDD spectrum bands to amplify the respective band strengths in terms of capacity versus coverage, thereby boosting spectral efficiencies. Having a single logical band approach through the convergence of multiple frequency bands deployed in a single network can drive home significant advantages for CSPs advancing towards “One 5G” implementation.
Huawei further enhances this by adding multiple 3GPP-compliant features, advanced software techniques and proprietary intelligent algorithms to leverage this multi-band convergence optimally. For instance, the solution incorporates the following capabilities:
Flexible Full-band Uplink-Downlink Decoupling
While 4G was more about content consumption, downloading and light uploading, in the 5G era, decoupling Uplink (L) and Downlink (DL) becomes a breakthrough feature. This allows operators to improve TDD UL and DL coverage, cell edge data throughputs and further time and frequency domain flexible multiplexing of multiple bands via Super Uplink (SUL). SUL allows FDD uplink spectra to supplement TDD bands enabling TDD and FDD spectrum coordination, boosting UL coverage.
SUL is an innovative capability with which a 100MHz SUL bandwidth can significantly boost the UL performance and throughputs (to 1Gbps+) by at least 5x. As a result, Huawei’s SUL is helping CSPs boost the overall UL user experience by 30%. SUL is enabling UL critical applications such as 4K live video broadcasts, HD video-conferencing, machine vision systems and cloud gaming, which was not possible at this scale and efficiency in a 4G network. Co-working with the ecosystem players, Huawei is ensuring that most of the 5G devices and CSPs support this feature. 5G NR devices with HiSilicon, MediaTek and UNISOC chipsets are already supporting the SUL feature.
Full-band Multi-beam 3D Coordinated Scheduling
Scheduling the data traffic by efficiently utilizing spatial multiplexing has been a key technology in driving capacity. However, coordinated scheduling using multiple antenna technology across multiple bands and distributing the data load optimally across multiple beams takes it a couple of steps further.
Huawei’s 3D coordinated scheduling for a beam load balancing and distribution across multiple bands is based on intelligently measuring and predicting load, traffic, interference, UE characteristics, position in the cell and other parameters. This intelligent optimization of UE pairing across multiple bands and beams can significantly boost spectral efficiency and cell capacity by 20%+. This is great for CSPs looking to boost capacity with intelligent traffic balancing, especially for 5G FWA applications, such as 4K/8K video, cloud gaming and VR streaming, requiring more bandwidth.
Intelligent Grid-based Coordination for Inter-frequency Measurement
Further, in a traditional coordination method, the inter-frequency measurement in a multi-band network could take seconds, resulting in a significant performance loss. As a result, base station intelligence capabilities within the IHashBAND solution, such as “smart prediction” of multi-band characteristics by a grid-based coordination technique, can reduce these inter-frequency measurements down to less than 200 msecs. This unlocks multiple advanced use cases such as fast carrier aggregation (CA), smart anchor selection, smart carrier selection, and intelligent NSA EN-DC carrier combination selection. This, in turn, promises to boost the overall network performance by 20-30% without any need for additional spectrum or other hardware resources.
As the success of 5G networks will depend on how CSPs can build a highly efficient and optimized multi-band single network, solutions such as Huawei’s IHashBAND offer a great option to achieve the same. Huawei’s IHashBAND enables the convergence of multiple bands from the legacy 4G FDD with 5G NR TDD spectrum into a single logical band backed by some intelligence and software techniques. This is beneficial for both intra-site as well as inter-site intelligent aggregation, boosting coverage and enabling better throughput experience as well as efficient carrier aggregation to have a consistent experience intelligently.
Therefore, it is imperative to move to an “intelligent” 5G base station that can function extremely well with greater spectral efficiency, capacity boosts and enhanced user experience.