International cooperation on 5G benefits us all

By Li Qiaoyi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/9 18:53:39

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

John Baker Photo: Courtesy of Mavenir

Editor's Note:

China has ambitious plans for the upcoming 5G era. During the recently concluded Mobile World Congress (MWC) Shanghai, Asia's largest mobile event, China Mobile, the world's largest telecom carrier in terms of subscribers, said that it will start large-scale 5G trials in 2018 before commercially launching 5G networks in the country in 2020. Beyond that, China is set to become the world's top 5G market by 2025, with 5G connections in the country hitting 428 million to account for 39 percent of the world's total, according to a study published at the MWC Shanghai. But as well as quantitative clout in 5G, China is also increasingly pursuing global leadership in terms of setting standards related to 5G technology.

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times (GT) during the MWC, John Baker (JB), senior vice president of business development for Mavenir, a US software-based global mobile telecommunications network supplier, shared his thoughts on the importance of 5G standardization as well as China's current position in shaping 5G standards.

GT: How important is it to set international standards for 5G technology?

JB: Extremely important. We need a global marketplace with open standards that drives innovation and drives the lowest total cost of ownership. Innovation is driven by competition that challenges existing business models.

GT: What do you think are the biggest challenges for 5G standardization?

JB: Mobile radio networks are constructed with thousands of tall towers with an even larger number of radios and antennas at the top. These are all connected to the core computing network through a proprietary interface. Under standardization principals, this interface should be standardized and open to all manufacturers. This is the most protected interface in the network and has the largest volume and revenue/cost for the manufacturer and operator respectively.

GT: Is there any chance that next-generation mobile standards related to 5G technology might not be ready by the 2020 development deadline envisioned by the International Telecommunication Union?

JB: There will be some form of specification because they are evolving from the 4G LTE specifications. Will they be open and at a competitive level? No, they will serve the needs of the current original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

GT: Which countries are set to take the lead in writing 5G international standards? Do Chinese companies have any advantages over their global counterparts in setting 5G international standards?

JB: The US is very active along with Korea and Japan in driving early 5G networks. China has advantages through its scale but activities are driven internally in China with the potential for regional differences. Huawei is more active in this role.

GT: What do you think of the rivalry between Chinese companies and their US counterparts in 5G standardization?

JB: Chinese companies have a hard time in entering the US market. There are many more operators in the US that are visible in the standards process. There is only one true US mobile telecommunications company - Mavenir - that is now starting to build a presence in the standards process. Ericsson and Nokia's headquarters and standardization is driven from Europe.

Rivalry between Chinese firms and their US counterparts is critical to ensure innovation and the maintenance of an aggressive time schedule for the 5G standardization process. This has been demonstrated this year by Huawei demonstrating a 5G solution around the same time as its competitors Ericsson and Qualcomm. This process demonstrates capability and innovation.

GT: India is also stepping up efforts to identify and formalize its standards for 5G. How would you compare efforts to deploy 5G and set standards for it between China and India?

JB: There are great efforts in India to deploy 4G LTE leading to 5G. I have seen a surge in innovation from India last year that has changed the landscape. India has become a significant force but it is still in the midst of major 4G LTE deployments and developing the underlying backbone infrastructure. As of today, China is ahead in the 5G race with trials and test facilities when compared with India.

GT: How do you look at cooperation between different countries to jointly promote global standardization for 5G technology, the partnership between China and the EU and between China and India in particular?

JB: Cooperation on global standards is the foundation of a competitive global market, ensuring global product compatibility. Cooperation on 5G standards ensures innovation and process whilst gaining commitment for the commercialization and deployment in a common time frame. Having globally accepted 5G standards allows access to the global markets, for the EU and China. Also, a strong India-China 5G partnership is important in maintaining openness to trade and cooperation and can help achieve inclusive growth. India and China are currently responsible for almost half of global growth, so a partnership between these two large economies is important. International cooperation on 5G standards is needed to reduce economic imbalances and promote trade.

Huawei and China Mobile are making large investments in cooperation and standardization. China offers the largest 5G opportunity in the world and great efforts should be made to avoid country variants that reduce global compatibility and raise trade barriers.

GT: With China pushing for homegrown technologies and standards, how bright do you think the future is for foreign 5G technology suppliers?

JB: The China market has always been good for foreign technology suppliers. Most of those foreign suppliers have manufacturing and development activities in China and have respect for the size of the opportunity. The size of the China market will always drive the development of China-specific models.

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