MWC Shanghai 2017: ZTE Addresses ‘5G Network Slicing Backhaul’ Requirements with New Solution

Glen Hunt – Principal Analyst, Transport and Routing Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • Introduces Slicing for Backhaul: The ZXCTN 609 supports separate backhaul slices (tunnels), each with independent performance characteristics, meeting 5G demands for low-latency, high-speed, flexible connections.
  • 100G Backhaul Link Support: The ZXCTN 609 expands ZTE’s Flexhaul series to support 100G links to handle expected high-bandwidth 5G backhaul speeds, with high-availability features such as protection switchover and SDN control.

ZTE leveraged this year’s MWC Shanghai 2017 to further its stake in the emerging 5G infrastructure market by expanding its Flexhaul series backhaul platform to support 100G links. 100G is needed to cope with the massive capacity requirements expected as 5G comes to life in the next few years. The ZXCTN 609 also includes the company’s FlexE tunnel technology, which it announced as part of the ZXCTN 6180H launch, bringing the equivalent of network slicing to the backhaul network. ‘Flexibility’ is clearly the focus, with FlexE supporting a variety of service characteristics for applications such as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine type communications (mMTC), and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (uRLLC), which have vastly different transport requirements. ZTE has collaborated closely with multiple operators to craft mobile network solutions that meet a range of application types and capacities. In addition to being visible in China Mobile and Ncell Axiata, ZTE successfully completed tests in seven major scenarios that are part of the second phase of China’s national 5G tests and set multiple records for network speeds and performance.

The need for slicing has been broadly discussed in the industry, and competitors such as Ericsson (Router 6000), Huawei (X-Ethernet), Nokia (Mobile Anyhaul) and others have announced similar architectures and emerging products to help operators prepare their infrastructures to support 5G when it arrives. Although slicing concepts are described using various vendor-branded naming, the fact remains that as 5G services emerge, bandwidth requirements will continue to increase (with 10G per user already being projected), making it a certainty that 100G+ will be required in the access and aggregation layers of the service provider network sooner rather than later. 5G slicing will also need to take advantage of both fixed and wireless backhaul, requiring converged platforms to support fiber and advanced microwave links with high degrees of service assurance. In addition, 5G slicing will also require uncompromised security between slices, a challenge that goes beyond technology to the mindset of operators and their customers.

The announcement also shows that ZTE is continuing to counter its position as one of the best kept networking secrets by elevating its marketing presence. ZTE has significantly revved up its marketing presence in telecom technology and software markets by visibly marketing its very high-performance optical transport platforms, creating a highly visible presence and leadership position in network virtualization technologies (NVFi and vEPC) and industry forums, and continuing with its mobile backhaul platforms.

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