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Telecom Review secured an exclusive interview with ZTE Director of Wireless Innovation Solutions, Summer Chen, in order to find out where the company stood in relation to implementing 5G technologies and establish what projects it's currently working on to ensure the transition from 4G to 5G.

The Chinese telecoms giant made a number of major announcements at Mobile World Congress this year in Barcelona. The launch of ZTE's Gigabit handset phone generated huge attention from industry analysts, media personnel and technology enthusiasts. ZTE boldly claimed that its new device would 'revolutionize human connectivity'.

At a pre-MWC press conference, a spokesperson for ZTE insisted that the term innovation isn't just a slogan for the Chinese company and that its latest device would take user experience satisfaction to a new level. This was just one of many announcement made by ZTE; the topic of 5G was raging hot at MWC.

When we last spoke you were heading the Radio Frequency Department at ZTE. Are you still in that position?
I'm now more focused on high-level customer communications with our VT innovation solutions for the network in order to help with the network strategy, to help them serve the network pinpoint and assist them in implementing new competitive communications and ICT revolutions. I'm now the director of Wireless Innovation Solutions at ZTE. I have a team that is responsible for ensuring high-level customer relationships and discussing the latest innovation solutions and requirements.

Can you highlight some of the projects that you're currently working on for ZTE?
I'm solely focused on Wireless Innovation Solutions at ZTE, and at the minute we're focusing on Pre5G; it is a high innovation solution, realizing 5G technologies can be commercially deployed in 4G networks. ZTE is playing a leading role in Pre5G especially in massive MIMO solutions. We've had major success in both domestic and international markets. 5G is also my responsibility to show ZTE's leading technologies and innovation solutions in the industry. So, I like to demonstrate the advantages and ZTE's rich experience to our customers.

In your opinion, can you share some of the advantages that you think will benefit people when 5G is introduced?
5G will provide a rich experience and will enhance mobile broadband connectivity. It will allow you to share all kinds of services and will enable people to be connected at all times no matter where they are or what situation they're in. You can experience high data rates in VR, AR and this is just in relation to human communications in 5G areas. The other important features in 5G areas are massive IoT and uRLLc in enterprise applications such as self-driving vehicles. The digital industry will be extremely interesting in the future as it has the potential to change our whole society.

Is ZTE currently working with any customers right now who are already looking at 5G and want to implement it soon? Or do you think it's going to be something that's more 2020?
5G is a hot topic this year and some of the operators and industry companies have announced that they will deploy 5G networks at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. We call them non-standard 5G networks. At ZTE, just a few days ago, we announced collaboration with Qualcomm and China Mobile in which we will follow 3GPP 5G standard to have a 5G NR trial on 3.5 GHz in China. ZTE will become one of the first companies to deploy commercial 5G standard networks in Q3 next year after 3GPP 5G standard frozen.

What are some of the challenge facing ZTE in terms of implementing 5G?
There will be a lot of challenges in how 5G is deployed in the future. 5G NR will be deployed in a new frequency band so we are closely corporate with the custom for sub-6Ghz and mmW products, within the most cost-efficient way possible with high performance. Another challenge in 5G deployment is front haul and backhaul requirements. For this, we already have a solution called flexi haul. Another important aspect for operators is the development of their core parts for virtualization and cloud innovation. The whole architecture will be changing, so I think we can do lots of things before the commercial deployment of 5G to make the network virtualization and cloud innovation ready. ZTE has advantages and rich experience in all these areas and we're confident that we will be one of the first vendors to deploy commercial 5G networks.

In your opinion, what will happen to 4G? Will it become irrelevant or will it still be something that will be used a lot?
In Europe, I think 4G will still be a critical network in order to accommodate large volumes of traffic and will be around for a number of years as operators attempt to make money back on the significant amounts they invested in 4G. ZTE has innovation solutions; we call it Pre5G. We realized 5G key technologies to help 4G operators make their 4G networks more compatible,  especially in network capacity, provide better user experience and to add further service opportunities such as the internet of things. We help them deploy new solutions to expand their enterprise market. The cloudization of Pre5G helps the operator in building an elastic, open and flexible network which is ready for 5G in the future.

You've spoken about Pre5G and 4G. What is 4.9G? Is it the same thing or is it something different?
There are some different solutions in the industry. We're not only offering LTE Advanced Pro features following the R13, the most important innovation we use are 5G key technologies such as massive MIMO in advanced to making them commercially deployed in 4G network It doesn't change the air interface; it doesn't need change to the 4G terminal, so our solution is 4G terminal compliance. We're using operator's latency network and frequency resources in order to improve their capacity by at least six to eight times. For Pre5G massive MIMO products, ZTE is playing a leading role in the industry.

What sort of showcases have you presented to help people understand this and could you talk about some of the demonstrations you've got going on to help attendees understand what ZTE is working on in its efforts to implement 5G?
In our ZTE booth, we've presented the first Pre5G Massive MIMO product: the basestation is using massive MIMO technologies in order to help the FDD operator to increase its network capacity in a fast, easy and cost-effective way. We're also showcasing our latest Pre5G TDD massive MIMO second generation products. Compared to last year, the new generation of TDD Pre5G solutions is supporting more frequency bands and much wider bandwidth and even higher throughput. All of these products will give ZTE rich experience in 5G technology deployment. ZTE launch 5G product family including sub 6 Hz and mmW products. We're also making another demonstration in relation to 5G, which is a millimeter wave 5G basestation where we're using a demo system which has achieved cell throughput over 50Gps. ZTE is a key player and contributor for global 5G standards and research. A few days ago, ZTE China mobile, Qualcomm committed to collaborate on a 5G NR trial at 3.5GHz to accelerate wide scale 5G deployments in China. This is exactly the one to be kept developing, aiming to make 3GPP 5G NR standards a reality.

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