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Softbank prepares for 5G and signs deals with Chinese vendors ZTE and Huawei

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  • Collaboration with ZTE on Massive MIMO
  • Evaluation of Huawei’s TDD+
  • Frequency utilisation improvements five times higher
  • ZTE to launch TDD+ next week

China’s ZTE has signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan’s SoftBank to collaborate on research and development on Pre-5G mobile communications networks technology. So-called “pre-5G” technologies will be essential to bridge the period between now and 2020 when 5G is expected to launch commercially, enabling operators and vendors to test out techniques and trial new services and use cases.

(TelecomTV will next week premiere an exclusive video feature on "The Evolution of LTE").

Under the terms of the MoU, the two companies will cooperate on R&D, evaluation and verification of mobile communications solutions based on ZTE's Pre-5G technology, including Massive MIMO (multiple input multiple output). The two companies already have a cooperation agreement for UDN (ultra-dense networks) and MUSA (multi-user shared access).

“The technology being developed under this agreement will help define future mobile internet communications,” said Keiichi Makizono, SVP of SoftBank. “In our plans to develop next-generation mobile networks, SoftBank will derive large benefits from the Pre5G collaboration with ZTE.”

ZTE says its Massive MIMO base stations have the capability to support more than 100 antenna elements, and provide higher space division multiplexing gains than traditional 8-antenna base stations without changing existing terminals or air interfaces, thereby significantly enhancing spectrum utilisation. They also allow up to eight users to transfer data simultaneously.

“The agreement with SoftBank will add enormous value to ZTE's technology alliances with our partners around the world on 5G research, as we are committed to building an industry ecosystem based on open collaboration,” said Zhang Renjun, SVP of ZTE. 


SoftBank has also signed an MoU with Huawei for the verification testing, technological evaluation, and R&D of what it calls “TDD+” technology, Huawei’s proposal for 4.5G mobile communications technology based on LTE TDD. (The 3GPP standards group is currently working on 4.5G definitions and is expected to also unveil a new brand name for this very soon).

SoftBank has already deployed TDD-capable Advanced eXtended Global Platform (AXGP) networks in Japan using its TDD spectrums, to address the increase in traffic volume on its mobile networks. The operator says that the TDD+ research cooperation with Huawei will enable it to increase the frequency resource efficiency on the AXGP networks by a factor of five, substantially improving the user experience.

"The technology involved in this cooperation will become the next-generation network development trend,” added Keiichi Makizono. “Now, SoftBank is planning to construct the next-generation mobile network. Therefore, our cooperation with Huawei on 4.5G technology is quite meaningful."

"TDD+ helps increase the spectral efficiency and decrease the total cost of ownership,” said David Wang, President of Huawei Wireless Network Product Line. “It also creates new services and provides a communications environment able to adapt to user demands.”

Huawei is not the only Chinese vendor pushing TDD+. ZTE is expected to launch its own TDD+ solution at MWC Shanghai in China next week. 

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