Innovation and practice of ZTE 5G transport

GTB Editor
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As a world-class supplier of wireline network devices, solutions and integrated services, ZTE is always committed to boosting customers’ development and providing the best user experience through innovative technologies, evolving operation, diversifying services and improving brand reputation

Sponsored contentXu Ming 680x400Commencing in 1986 when ZTE started developing its own PSTN, its wireline product line has been making history based upon continuous self-innovation and continually surpassing its achievements. Through unremitting efforts and development during the last 30 years, ZTE wireline products have served over 600 operators in more than 100 countries around the world. To date, the product line has witnessed amazing achievements on the market, for example, ranking top 2 in world optical networking (ON) markets; offering state-of-art PTN devices; being the world’s second largest fixed-network access product provider and owning the world’s biggest 10G PON market. At the same time, the promising innovations and solutions in high-end router, DC network, SDN and NFV sectors introduce more extensive markets to the company.


The booming development of Mobile Internet and the popularity of new applications such as Internet of Things (IOT) strongly motivate 5G development and standardization. Currently, many benchmarking operators announce their roadmaps in which commercial applications of 5G will come true in 2020. The latest OVUM report shows that across the world more than 20 operators have planned for 5G commercialization and more than 30 operators are ready for 5G pilot trials, including many global TOP operators such as China Mobile, South Korea KT, Japan Docomo and AT&T. It is estimated that mobile traffic running on the future 5G network will be 500-1000 times larger than it is now on the 4G network. The typical user data rate will be 10-100 times faster. The peak data transport rate will minimally reach 10Gbps (100Mbps in the 4G system). At the same time, with the end-to-end latency shortened to 10-20%, the integrated network power utilization will be 1000 times higher. Moreover, instead of being a single and rigid network, the 5G network should comply with multiple application scenarios including URLLC, eMBB and mMTC, so as to satisfy diversified vertical industries. 5G core networks based on the existing 4G technical frameworks will further bring in more new technologies, for example, mobile SDN/NFV and network slicing. The 5G era also raises new requirements for technologies and architecture of the transport network that plays an important role in the 5G system. How to build a flexible, efficient and unified 5G transport network to meet the requirements of the 5G era for ultra-large bandwidth, ultra-low latency, core network and radio access network (RAN) cloudification has become a huge challenge for  operators.

Obviously, traditional 4G transport network architecture and technologies cannot meet the needs of 5G service transport. ZTE believes that the transport network in the 5G era shall be capable of: 

1) Satisfying new C-RANs and supporting flexible networking of 5G Fronthaul, Midhaul and Backhaul.

2) Implementing service transport when cloudified core networks and mobile edge computing (MEC) are introduced, as well as providing massive service connections.

3) Supporting SDN/NFV-based network slicing through which the URLLC, eMBB and mMTC can get different slicing resources to ensure high QoS, superior reliability, and service isolation. 


Based upon long-term technical accumulation and profound understanding of operator’ demands for 5G network development, ZTE unveiled the industry’s first 5G transport network solution on the basis of IP+Optical integration, that is, ZTE 5G Flexhaul, to the market at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017 in Barcelona. Being the first vendor that proposed flexible, cost-effective and unified 5G transport network architecture to the market, ZTE at the same time showcased the industry’s first 5G Flexhaul device which integrates Fronthaul and Backhaul perfectly. Owing to the bigger bandwidth, shorter latency, flexible traffic engineering, scalable network architecture and unified transport of C-RAN and D-RAN, the solution was in the spotlight at Mobile World Congress.

Core highlights of the ZTE 5G Flexhaul solution include:

• Terabyte-based ultra-large bandwidth

5G UDN ultra-dense networking and high-frequency base station used on FWA ask the access ring to have highly expandable bandwidth. The ZTE Flexhaul solution employs device-level integrated architecture based upon IP+Optical integration to allow the capacity of the access ring to be expanded from 100GE to 1T. It provides the mixed networking of low-/high-frequency base stations to effectively protect customer investment.

• Microsecond-level ultra-low latency forwarding

Traditional IP/MPLS packet networks adopt storage forwarding and queue scheduling mechanisms, so latency and jitter control can hardly meet the low-latency service forwarding requirements of 5G networks. The 5G Flexhaul solution provides network-level and equipment-level ultra-low latency forwarding technologies. Data forwarding schemes vary with service types. Time-sensitive services follow the fast forwarding scheme and adopt the TSN (Time Sensitive Network) and innovative FlexE-based L1 electrical-layer cross technologies to shorten node switching latency from 30 microseconds to several microseconds by an order of magnitude. Services led to minimum latency and jitter on the packet network perfectly match the requirements of 5G network for low latency, becoming powerful guarantee of new services and new network architecture. 

• FlexE network slicing technology

The 5G Flexhaul solution uses the latest FlexE technology for Ethernet virtualization. Network slicing can be implemented on the Ethernet physical layer via port binding, sub-interfaces or FlexE technology. Users can customize network slices as per specific demands. Network slices are configured with different network control protocols to allocate to different services the slice resources corresponding to their demands, enabling flexible bandwidth allocation and service isolation, improving network utilization while satisfying differentiated requirements of 5G application scenarios.

• Flexible Traffic Engineering (TE)

The 5G Flexhaul solution utilizes the SDN-based TE to build IP-based ubiquitous connections for 5G cloudification, and optimizes the collected network traffic information according to traffic monitoring to match tidal effects. When the total bandwidth supply remains unchanged, it automatically adjusts PIR and CIR according to realtime traffic to meet service requirements while enhancing resource utilization and enabling flexible Fronthaul, Midhaul and Backhaul networking. At the same time, it provides a strong support for precise operation of the operators, reducing the difficulties and costs of operation and maintenance.

• Flexible network architecture

In the 5G era when C-RAN may coexist with D-RAN, traditional wireless bearer networks are physically overlapped with 5G Fronthaul & Backhaul networks to a certain extent.  The Flexhaul solution adopts the FlexE technology to transport packet-based Fronthaul, Midhaul and Backhaul services at the same time. Based on SDN controllers, it implements the unified management, Operation & Maintenance (O&M) and transport of Fronthaul and Backhaul networks, optimizing the planning, provisioning and O&M of the entire network and reducing the operations between heterogeneous networks to help operators build 5G bearer networks with low TCO.

Being an active enabler of the 5G Flexhaul technology, ZTE so far has extended a lot of discussions and cooperation in the 5G transport field in many countries, for example, Span, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Australia. ZTE and China Mobile have jointly obtained the national key project “5G Fronthaul and Backhaul Interface R&D and Verification” from the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, and will perform 5G Flexhaul ETE tests and pilot trials on existing networks in 2017. ZTE will work together with customers to promote the maturity and industrialization of 5G transport technologies and put 5G into commercial application in 2020.