There is a Western proverb, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's”. Despite some political interference, global technology research and business cooperation on 5G, the next-generation wireless communication technology, is still ongoing. At the recent MWC2019 held in Barcelona, 5G was the hottest topic, attracting the attention of communication industry leaders and technological elites from all over the world.
As one of the important 5G suppliers, ZTE has participated in the exhibition with end-to-end 5G business solutions, including the newly released 5G mobile phone ZTE Axon 10 Pro. The Western European market, where Barcelona is located, is one of ZTE’s key markets. Hu Kun, President of ZTE Western Europe, told C114 that the company is focusing on several high-value markets in Western Europe, including Italy and Spain. In 2016, ZTE and Italy’s Wind Tre reached an agreement to help the latter build the first pre-commercial network in Europe.
In Italy, Wind Tre CTO Benoit Hanssen took an interview with C114 and other Chinese media. According to his introduction, Wind Tre is a young telecommunications company, which was born from the merger of Wind Telecomunicazioni Spa and H3G Spa in 2016. Wind Tre, with its 27 million mobile subscribers and a complete network covering 2G/3G/4G, is a leading mobile operator in Italy, it has a 37% market share in the mobile network market (Human SIM excluding MVNOs ); at the same time, it also occupies a notable share in the fixed-line market, accounting for 15% of the country, considering broadband and ultrabroadband accesses. Its fixed-line network is moving from ADSL to VDSL and FTTx, while its mobile network is targeting at 5G.
“After the merger, we started pushing for network integration, with the aim of combining the two networks, each with 14,000 and 11,000 sites, into Italy’s largest 4G network. At the end of 2016, we chose ZTE as our partner for promoting network integration, which is scheduled to be completed this year. Benoit Hanssen said, “In the future, our cooperation with ZTE will continue. On the one hand, data traffic will continue to grow, and our existing 4G network will continue to expand. Our assessment is that even with the advent of the 5G era, the 4G network will continue to be the main platform for quite some time. We will also expand new businesses, such as NB-IoT. We will finish the test this year and deploy the whole network next year. On the 5G side, we will start testing at the end of this year and prepare for commercial deployment in the near future.
As for the reasons for choosing ZTE as the main supplier, Benoit Hanssen pointed out that Wind Tre’s principle is to choose the best supplier and the best technology, and the company is pleased to work with any manufacturer. After a comprehensive evaluation of the technology and price of four or five mainstream manufacturers and whether the products presented can offer the best support for the company’s business, Wind Tre is convinced that ZTE is one of the best suppliers and a company with rich experience in execution.
Hu Kun also revealed that ZTE ranked first in technology during Wind Tre’s network upgrade bid, and has made significant breakthroughs in customer relations and won the trust of customers. In addition, ZTE has set up an innovation research center in Italy to cooperate with local manufacturers and schools to study and explore the feasibility of new businesses and technologies so as to prepare for the business expansion of operators.
Benoit Hanssen emphasized that the change of 5G technology is mainly in the wireless part, but it also includes the transformation of end-to-end core network and transport network. The transport network needs to provide larger capacity and lower latency, and undertake the new 5G business service. Core network needs virtualization and network slicing, so that business can be deployed quickly and effectively. For operators, this is a very important technology to develop new business.
In China, the discussion of 5G is mainly at the technical and application level. “In Italy, the main challenge we face in deploying 5G is physical rather than technical,” Benoit Hanssen said wittily. “Italy’s radiation requirements are far higher than other countries. We need to place antennas in appropriate places to reduce radiation and meet government requirements.”