WinWin Issue 42
Voices from Industry
Chief Big Data Scientist, China Unicom
China Unicom's 5G Private Network PLUS Opens Up Blue Ocean for 5G Applications
-- China Unicom's 5G Private Network PLUS, which is based on the comprehensive 5GtoB network architecture that leverages a centralized cloud and distributed MEC, represents a distinctive path for 5G business growth. To date, China Unicom has delivered 2500 5G private network projects and more than 9000 commercial projects spanning 38 industries, including iron & steel, mining, electric power, education, culture, tourism, and healthcare. Through continuous innovation in 5G applications, the operator has created a virtuous business cycle in 5G private networks.
5G Private Network PLUS delivered in more than 9000 commercial projects
Advanced ICT technologies like 5G are propelling us on our journey to the Connectivity of Everything. In China, where the 5G market is maturing rapidly, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has even released a "Set Sail" Action Plan for 5G Applications to support the development of 5G applications that are poised to unleash further value from 5G networks.
All of this is no surprise given how China's 5GtoB market is already a global leader in four major areas:
1. In terms of applications, China's constantly expanding offerings now range from data collection, AGVs, and AR/VR services to industrial control networks and multi-campus management.
2. In terms of scale, China has now deployed 2.2 million 5G base stations, more than the rest of the world combined. In addition, with the vast number of 5GtoB projects, a broad ecosystem has emerged to support these projects — and countless more.
3. In terms of solutions, the 5G network capabilities offered by Chinese carriers are edging increasingly closer to the proposed targets of 5G-Advanced, including ultra-large uplink bandwidth, ultra-low latency, super-high reliability, and high-precision positioning.
4. In terms of business value, the market created by 5G in China has proven that consumers, industry customers, equipment suppliers, and ecosystem partners all benefit from 5G industry development.
In the local 5GtoB market, a perfect example of the advanced services being offered is China Unicom's 5G Private Network PLUS, which is designed for industrial customers. To date, China Unicom has delivered 5G Private Network PLUS in 2500 5G private network projects and in excess of 9000 commercial projects spanning 38 industries, including iron & steel, mining, electric power, education, culture, tourism, and healthcare. The company has partnered with customers like BMW, Schneider Electric, Midea, State Grid, and Hainan Provincial Health Commission to build even more pioneering 5GtoB applications.
Industrial Internet services based on 5G are rapidly becoming a major driver of China Unicom's revenue growth. In the first half of 2022, China Unicom's revenue from innovative industry services increased by 22.9%. Meanwhile, government and enterprise services accounted for 72% of the company's revenue growth, and its cloud service revenue doubled.
A network architecture that enables a virtuous business cycle
When China Unicom moved into the 5GtoB market, it decided to focus on industrial digital transformation. This paved the way for the 5G Private Network PLUS solution.
5G Private Network PLUS is designed for industry customers, and has already seen large-scale deployment. Its network architecture uses a dedicated, unified 5G core (5GC) cloud for B2B services and supports unified management, orchestration, and O&M for the entire network. This makes network management much more efficient and agile for customers. The 5G Private Network PLUS solution owes its unique success to the comprehensive 5GtoB network architecture that leverages a centralized cloud and distributed MEC.
The unique value of this architecture lies in its ability to enable quick network deployment and service rollout, while still delivering high levels of security and reliability. This architecture also enables customers to benefit from new features, like 5G positioning, 5G LAN, and VPN roaming, three to six months earlier than the competition.
China Unicom's other offerings include industrial application-based baseline network solutions and network configuration templates that support large-scale delivery of 5G private networks and enable automated network upgrade, slice provisioning in just days, and MEC provisioning in a matter of minutes. The result is agile service rollout.
China Unicom has upgraded its 5G application store and 5G private network operation platform to make all of these services available within China through one-stop service subscriptions.
The multidimensional 5GtoB network architecture of one centralized cloud and one distributed network gives China Unicom's 5G Private Network PLUS differentiated competitive advantages such as quick network deployment and service provisioning, as well as higher security and reliability. It is also the key to 5G applications' quality innovation, efficient expansion nationwide, and realization of business value.
China's first use of URLLC for automotive manufacturing networks
Looking to the future, China Unicom cannot wait to offer customers even more exciting new solutions. As 5G evolves towards 5G-Advanced, it will further support industrial digitalization by offering an even stronger network infrastructure that delivers lower latency, stronger sensing capabilities, and larger uplink capacities. Indeed, 5G-Advanced will deliver 10 times higher uplink capacity than 5G, 4 ms or lower air interface delay, sub-meter-level positioning accuracy, integrated communication and sensing, and intrinsic intelligence.
China Unicom has already begun research into new capabilities for 5G-Advanced and their applications, with a focus on three specific areas: new visual experiences, large uplink capacity, and intelligent sensing. It has incubated new applications — such as smart manufacturing based on flexible production lines and power grid management based on low-altitude drones — to address problems encountered by industry customers.
These innovations can also be seen in 5G Private Network PLUS. After learning about the functionality and performance of 5G applications, many industry customers want to further apply innovative 5G technologies. For example, after replacing the PLC northbound industrial Ethernet with a 5G LAN, one customer decided to also replace the PLC southbound industrial bus to realize wireless control to IO (C2IO).
After more than a year of exploration, China Unicom, together with Great Wall Precision and Huawei, carried out a benchmark industrial joint innovation project, becoming the first in China to apply the ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC) capabilities proposed for 5G-Advanced to an automotive manufacturing OT onsite network. In this project, China Unicom verified the 4 ms wireless air interface latency and 99.999% reliability — additional capabilities proposed for 5G-Advanced — reducing line loss, downtime, and commissioning time to enable quick service rollout.
China Unicom also worked with the State Grid in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, becoming the first to verify the application of integrated sensing and communication for providing protection against illegal drone flights. Base stations with this feature can collect data such as drone locations, angles, and speeds to support the continuous management of drone movement trajectories. This reduces the risk of power grid failures caused by unauthorized drones.
In addition, China Unicom has commercially launched a 5G-based high-precision positioning application for vehicle management in factories, which is already being used by Midea and BMW.
In the future, China Unicom plans to press on with its efforts in emerging areas like 5G-enabled fully connected factories, XR services, and Internet of Vehicles (IoV). In this regard, we are working closely with partners on 5G-Advanced innovation to develop new capabilities.
Improvements in both quality and quantity
China Unicom's efforts in 5G private network have been fruitful, thanks to the focus on R&D into innovative 5G private network technologies. One major achievement was the 5G Private Network PLUS solution, which was officially launched in December 2021. Soon after, in February 2022, the extended 5G Private Network PLUS product series was launched at MWC Barcelona, including private networks for edge interconnection, highly-reliable campus networks, and customized network slicing. And finally, in May 2022, China Unicom launched the 5G Free-Mobility Private Network solution and the 5G Private Network for Multiple Campuses solution.
In less than a year since the initial launch of the 5G Private Network PLUS, China Unicom successfully improved both the quality and quantity of industrial private network services, as well as replicating many innovative 5G applications across China.
Beyond that, China Unicom has also been actively contributing to the development of a broader 5G private network ecosystem. With its 5G IoT OpenLab, the company is driving industrial digital transformation by working with a number of industry partners, including the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), the State Grid, Guangdong Provincial Government Service Data Administration, Midea Group, FAW Group, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, and Huawei.
Thanks in no small part to these efforts, China Unicom and Huawei were jointly awarded the Enterprise 5G Leadership Award at the 2022 5G World Summit. Their 5G Capital and Hainan Healthy Island projects were also both winners of the GSMA's GLOMO Awards in 2022.
In addition, China Unicom has continued to ramp up exploration into core technologies like 5G-Advanced and their industrial applications, leading the way in boosting the digital transformation of industries such as manufacturing, power grid, and IoV.
Looking ahead, China Unicom will continue to advance the digital transformation of industries and their 5G applications, and accelerate the upgrade of traditional industries towards digitalization, connectivity, and intelligence.