WinWin Issue 42
Planning Department Director, China Mobile Hubei
Changing Lives with Technology — Embracing the 5G Era
-- 5G has now been in commercial use for three years, during which time it has underpinned pandemic prevention and control, improved people's lives, and spurred economic development. From the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020 to today's large-scale commercial use, China Mobile Hubei (Hubei Mobile) has always been at the forefront of 5G innovations, especially when it comes to improving short-form video experience
5G's high bandwidth and low latency ensure connectivity and facilitate production
Wuhan, Hubei was one of the five 5G pilot cities designated by the China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, with Hubei Mobile subsequently beginning commercial use of 5G back to 2019. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in Wuhan at the beginning of 2020, Hubei Mobile proactively applied 5G to fight the pandemic. In the space of just 36 hours, we built 5G base stations in the Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals. Thanks to 5G's high bandwidth, live streams could be broadcast to allow hundreds of millions of people across China to witness the rapid construction of two hospitals, boosting public confidence in the fight against the pandemic.
During the early days of the pandemic, Hubei Mobile overcame numerous challenges to ensure the availability of communications and services needed to support pandemic prevention and control. We rapidly deployed 30 5G base stations to ensure 5G coverage of key venues, with a total of 140 5G base stations playing a key role during this critical time in Wuhan.
As the outbreak plateaued out, Hubei ramped up its economic and social recovery. Resumption of work and production in different industries in the province gave rise to new service needs for 5G. Committed to supporting the post-pandemic recovery, Hubei Mobile released a diverse array of 5G video services such as cloud-based video conferencing. This not only helped to attract investment but also provided cloud-based classrooms for students.
Taking advantage of 5G's high bandwidth and low latency, Hubei Mobile launched a 5G thermal imaging temperature detection system that integrates intelligent video analysis, technologies for thermal imaging temperature measurement, and 5G networks, ultimately achieving millisecond-level response and real-time backhaul. These systems were rapidly deployed and put into use in key locations throughout Hubei, such as railway stations, highway intersections, coach stations, and large supermarkets, leveraging information technologies to create a "first line of defense" for the resumption of work and production.
Improving network capabilities to meet the needs of rapidly-developing short-form video services
5G has fundamentally transformed and upgraded both network capabilities and user experience. Over the past three years, Hubei Mobile has built and deployed more than 45,000 5G base stations, covering both urban and rural areas spanning cities, counties, and towns. We have provided users with high-quality 5G services that feature wide coverage, high bandwidth, and no frame freezing.
As one of the first 5G pilot cities, Wuhan now has a wealth of experience in 5G construction. Recently, Wuhan became one of the first cities in China to implement the "Extending Radio and TV Broadcasting Coverage to Every Village" project. This project helps to bridge the gap in ICT development and support the development of the digital economy, and has already won wide acclaim from a wide spectrum of commentators. Furthermore, Hubei Mobile has improved all aspects of people's lives with new 5G features. Nowadays, short-form video services such as TikTok are seeing unprecedented growth. According to one survey, users who frequently use short-form video services account for 80% of all users and consume about 40% of all network traffic. Against this backdrop, while strengthening basic network capabilities, Hubei Mobile further improves services and capabilities for widely-consumed short-form videos.
Short-form video services are closely intertwined with customer perception, which is subjective. Therefore, a key component of network support is to map network construction standards with customer perception.
To this end, Hubei Mobile set up a dedicated team. First, the team made bold assumptions and performed careful theoretical verifications, before analyzing 5G parameters and video service characteristics. And finally, it identified the first frame latency as a key experience indicator for short-form videos, as well as being closely related to field intensity distribution of 5G signals. Based on all of this, Hubei Mobile came up with a development tool to simulate customer experience and verify the mapping of 5G network parameters using the simulated data.
Hubei Mobile put together a team of hundreds of people, situated in train stations, airports, universities, and commercial premises, to simulate the short-form video experience of customers using this development tool. The vast amount of data obtained by the team verified the assumption that the first frame latency of short-form videos is strongly correlated with the average field intensity of 5G network signals.
Through such theoretical design and practical verification, Hubei Mobile has improved short-form video services by reinforcing network base stations and optimizing network parameters. And thanks to these efforts, the short-form video viewing experience has been enhanced and traffic has increased.
Recently, Hubei Mobile took the findings from the research into short-form video experience improvement and applied them to 5G network planning and construction. Based on our analysis of how to improve short-form video experience in Jiangbei, Wuhan, we added hundreds of 5G sites. The measurement report for users viewing HD short-form videos showed that the coverage rate increased from 85.4% to 89.2%. As a result, the proportion of HD videos at resolutions of 720p or higher increased from 77% to 83%, which in turn instigated a 12.4% increase in 5G traffic and a 5% increase in network-wide traffic. This further verified the research results of the dedicated team for improving short-form video experience.
Based on data analysis and practical verification results, we created a short-form video experience network construction solution and developed a digital tool to support 5G network planning in Hubei. We believe that, with the further promotion and application of innovative achievements, we can offer customers the ultimate experience of "ultra HD, zero wait, and zero frame freezing".
Gazing at the stars while keeping our feet firmly on the ground
Since 5G was put into commercial use three years ago, China has entered a critical period of large-scale 5G application. Indeed, 60% of the world's base stations are in China. Everywhere, down to townships and rural areas, is covered with 5G. What's more, the commercial use of 5G has entered a virtuous circle, with 5G becoming increasingly prevalent.
Regarding the future of 5G, Hubei Mobile has kept a close eye on the development trends of the 5G industry. Today, full-awareness interaction is redefining how we communicate, and industries are replacing information silos with full connectivity. In 2023, 5G R18 will be frozen, officially marking the advent of the 5.5G era. Its iconic 10Gbps downlink, 1Gbps uplink, 100 billion connections, and endogenous intelligence capabilities will become the backbone of the digital economy. Hubei Mobile has been actively exploring innovative 5G applications and has gradually promoted the commercial use of new services. In addition, we have made ample preparations to support the rapid development of the industry. We have continuously optimized the network to improve user experience, as well as expanding the coverage in urban and rural areas. And finally, we have taken practical measures to fulfill the social responsibilities of the communications industry.
For example, in the business domain, Hubei Mobile and Midea built the world's first fully connected 5G home appliance factory, which officially began production in Jingzhou on August 18 this year. In its workshops, over 1000 automated machines and devices are operating efficiently. 5G has been applied in 15 scenarios, such as 5G production line monitoring, AGV scheduling, and AI quality inspection. More than 500 5G CPEs and other devices have been used to seamlessly connect each link. What's more, overly complex pipelines and wires in ordinary workshops are a thing of the past, with all production equipment now connected with 5G. And as the world evolves from traditional manufacturing to intelligent manufacturing, we will actively enable manufacturing enterprises to transform. This will enable industry digitization and digital industrialization, injecting new vitality into the manufacturing industry in Hubei and the country at large.
Hubei Mobile has also implemented the 5G Smart Yangtze River project, which is gradually upgrading coverage along the Yangtze River to 5G. The project forms an end-to-end networking solution and provides a digital platform that integrates functions such as smart waterway management, emergency command and dispatch, and remote enforcement of fishing bans. We have been improving the 5G smart "digital eye" and continue to promote the modernization, digital governance, and green development of the province with ecosystem protection as a priority. We will also apply 5G in ecological protection areas such as the Yangtze River Basin and urban wetlands.
In addition, we have expanded network coverage to villages, highways, and roads to further bolster our efforts to build a digital economy.
With the advent of the 5.5G era, we are ready and willing to explore more cooperation opportunities, as well as create new social value for consumers and businesses in user experience improvement, intelligent industry cooperation, and digital government management.