Author(s): Kester Mann
On 24 and 25 November 2016, Huawei hosted its seventh annual Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF) in Tokyo. The event drew more than 1,500 attendees, with CCS Insight among a select number of analyst companies also invited.
The scale of the event and impressive representation from leading operators, including NTT DoCoMo, China Mobile, Orange and EE, illustrated the huge strides that Huawei's network division has made in recent years. Indeed, it was difficult not to compare the company's strong current momentum with long-time network-leader Ericsson, which is suffering a vexing 2016.
Here I present my thoughts on four of Huawei's announcements from the show.
A leading focus of MBBF 2016 was on wireless home broadband. Huawei sees significant opportunity for an inexpensive alternative to fixed-line technologies capable of serving the 1.3 billion households globally still without Internet access. A central element of Huawei's exhibition was allocated to its new solution, dubbed WTTx 2.0. The "4.5G-based" service has been enhanced to incorporate massive MIMO for improved spectral efficiency and is capable of delivering gigabit speeds to residential customers.
The service would be most effectively positioned as a connectivity enabler in rural areas or major cities in developing markets that have yet to see significant fibre investment. The announcement seems particularly relevant in light of moves by US carriers, notably Verizon, to offer "pre-5G" fixed wireless services.
The event's first major announcement was unveiled in the opening presentation by rotating CEO Ken Hu. He outlined a new initiative called X Labs, an open platform aimed at driving innovation and exploring future uses for mobile apps by bringing technology providers, carriers and industry specialists together.
It incorporates three different elements: mLab, to improve the user experience in live video and virtual reality, an area of major focus for operators given that video and images now account for more than 60 percent of network traffic; vLab to encourage focus on industries such as automotive, public safety and energy; and hLab to explore home broadband opportunities.
"Cloudification" was a definite buzzword at MBBF 2016, with presenters regularly highlighting the importance of a cloud-based architecture to improve a network's efficiency and agility. The event finished with Huawei's president of wireless, Edward Deng, unveiling a new cloud-based air interface, called CloudAir. The product enables different radio access technologies — such as GSM and LTE — to simultaneously share spectrum within a single band. Other elements of CloudAir are power and channel "cloudification". Given that spectrum is such a scarce and valuable resource, this move is likely to be warmly welcomed by the operator community.
Small cells and in-building coverage were important themes of the event. It is clear that Huawei considers itself to be an innovator and leader in indoor mobile broadband. As it unveiled an update to its LampSite offering, the company produced evidence that the product range is already providing benefits for venue owners. For example, mobile traffic has grown more than 60 times at Beijing airport in the two years since it was deployed.
Compared with its predecessor, presented at last year's event in Hong Kong, the latest version supports more flexible multicarrier aggregation as well as distributed MIMO and 256 QAM (see Huawei Sets Out Its Stall to Shape Future of Mobile Broadband).