Community spirit. China Mobile works closely with Open Source movement on 5G

Martyn Warwick
By Martyn Warwick

Feb 3, 2020

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Fu Qiao, Technical Manager, Network Department, China Mobile

China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile operator, is deeply involved with the Open Source community worldwide as commercial 5G services are rolled out.

Fu Qiao, a senior technologist with China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile telephone operator, explains that China Mobile's "Core to the Edge" model for the rollout of 5G is dictated as much by the geographical immensity of the country as the technology. 

She says, "China is a huge country with huge network structures" and thus there are long-established core networks in place and spread throughout all of China's provinces that permit network management, maintenance and the sharing of resources. However, the transformed network and 5G dictates that low latency services for end-users must be located close to them - and that requires the development and deployment of a distributed edge cloud.

Fu Qiao also explains that China Mobile was one of the first operators to become a part of the Open Source community and is heavily involved in and with it because "with NFV and cloud we realised the need to be able to learn from the IT industry and Open Source is now de facto standard for China Mobile and other operators." She adds that the Open Source community is agile and happy to share the benefits of the work of different associated members.

Thus the excellent feedback mechanisms of the community greatly held China Mobile in the definition and building of what are now de facto standards and Fu Qiao is particularly impressed by the fact that Open Source definitions (of software and interfaces for example) are actually written in practical, working code, which is of tremendous practical help in the 5G era.

She adds that many Chinese telcos and IT companies are members of the Open Source movement and many Chinese telecoms technologists and scientists are representatives in Open Source communities both inside and outside China, making contributions to the development of 5G and simultaneously benefitting from work being carried out within the Open Source community worldwide. 

Turning to the challenges that China Mobile is working to overcome (along with the Open Source movement) as it prepares for the widespread rollout of 5G, Fu Qiao says that, at the moment, the focus is on integration and interoperability. These days equipment manufacturers and vendors change and develop their products very frequently and getting disparate hardware and software to work together with the smoothness and efficiently required to meet the exacting "six nines" demands of operators such as China Mobile is a big hurdle. That's one of the many reasons China Mobile goes to the Open Source community for help - it provides the valuable capability for interoperability testing via Open Source-based interface.

Fu Qiao's only caveat as far as Open Source is concerned is that despite all the openness and collaboration and the fact that many operators from all over the world now routinely engage with it their voices not heard as loudly as they should be. She contends that, from the telco operator perspective, it can be hard to get across viewpoints and requirements and this can lead to delays in getting 5G technology sufficiently fine-tuned for commercial deployments.

Filmed at: TelecomTV Studios, London, December 2019

To view the VCO 3.0 Feature please click here: World's first prototype network E2E 5G Cloud Native with Open Source components demonstrated live

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