WinWin Issue 42


By Cao Lei, PhD
Deputy General Manager of the Government and Enterprise Information Service Group, China Telecom Group Co., Ltd
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Digital Transformation – Ready for the Future

-- Supported by the 5G X-Cube, China Telecom has passed the 0→1 stage and entered the 1→N stage of rapid development. The company has built more than 3800 customized 5G networks, several of which have become replicable success cases for the large-scale deployment of 5G applications. In this article, Cao Lei from China Telecom details the definition and operation model of the 5G X-Cube, and shares the company's experience and success stories in promoting the large-scale development of 5GtoB. This article can serve as a reference or be used for industry exchanges.

Over the past three years of commercial use, time and time again 5G has demonstrated its potential through integration within a wide range of industries. Several 5G industry applications have been created and deployed on a large scale.

None of this would have been possible without the concerted efforts of the entire ICT industry. As a major force in 5G network deployment, China Telecom has readily taken on the role of national vanguard. Over the past three years, China Telecom has recorded some incredible achievements in 5GtoB settings. For example, it has successfully delivered more than 3800 customized 5G network projects and more than 13,000 5G DICT projects. The company has also enabled the digital transformation of various industries through the application of 5G.

As 5GtoB solutions mature, a growing list of industries are starting to realize the role that 5G private networks can play in digital transformation. That said, different enterprises have their own pain points and scenarios, resulting in varying requirements for customized 5G networks. This presents both a new challenge and opportunity for China Telecom.

The 5G X-Cube for customized 5G networks

To achieve the large-scale development of 5G private networks, carriers must be able to meet the customized requirements of industry customers in real time and quickly replicate the experience of success cases on a large scale. With this in mind, China Telecom launched the 5G X-Cube to meet vertical industries' requirements for customized 5G network services.

the 5G X-Cube can modularize and standardize requirements, capabilities, and products to form a composable and innovative capability platform, which quickly translates industry customer requirements into customized network configuration parameters. This ensures that customers' specific 5G requirements can be met in real time.

The 5G X-Cube is an online intelligent expert system of China Telecom's customized 5G network services. It serves as both a reference model and modeling tool for developing overall solutions for industry customers in 5G scenarios based on the analysis and restructuring of 5G device, network, cloud, edge, user, and service capabilities. The design of the 5G X-Cube focuses on six areas: service requirements, technical parameters, atomic capabilities, standard products, service solutions, and business models. This is intended to realize modular encapsulation, standardized output, and scaled application. Specifically, the 5G X-Cube can modularize and standardize requirements, capabilities, and products to form a composable and innovative capability platform, which quickly translates industry customer requirements into customized network configuration parameters. This ensures that customers' specific 5G requirements can be met in real time.

Modular, standardized, and scaled capabilities allow the 5G X-Cube to quickly replicate experience of success cases. To date, the 5G X-Cube has been widely used in customized 5G networks built by China Telecom across 31 provinces (including autonomous regions and municipalities) in China. In addition, over 500 projects have already made use of the 5G X-Cube's encapsulation solution, which supports the work of more than 2000 frontline personnel from 15 industries such as steel, coal, healthcare, port, and electronic manufacturing. This fully showcases the 5G X-Cube's ability to provide intelligent tailored templates for industries.

The 5G X-Cube has already won high acclaim within the industry. In September 2022, the 5G X-Cube took home first prize in the 5th Bloom Cup 5G Application Competition. In November that year, it won the Best General-Purpose Product Award in the Bloom Cup finals.

Success stories leading to industry-wide replication

Through the 5G X-Cube, China Telecom has produced a series of typical success cases alongside its partners. Such success stories act as beacons for industries, paving the way for the future success of others.

Dongsheng Thermal Power: 5G-powered smart thermal power

Guodian Inner Mongolia Dongsheng Thermal Power (Dongsheng Thermal Power, for short) was the first company in China to launch a 5G-powered smart thermal power plant joint innovation practice base. By taking advantage of 5G networks, the company has overcome industry bottlenecks, transforming from a traditional enterprise to a digital, intelligent one.

In the past, thermal power generation faced many pain points and challenges, such as a lack of decision-making approaches for intelligent maintenance, severe security risks regarding communications inside and outside generator sets, low inspection efficiency, blind spots in monitoring, and low data utilization rates.

By leveraging 5G private network capabilities, Dongsheng Thermal Power has innovated five application scenarios: monitoring, data collection, control, inspection, and communications. 5G cameras have been employed to quickly cover blind spots without manual laying of cables, ensuring real-time backhaul of operations in covered areas. This has overcome the industry painpoint regarding a lack of remote monitoring in confined spaces within thermal power plants. In addition, 5G private network eMBB slicing, based on edge computing, has been used to achieve fast initial device screening onsite. Meanwhile, 5G, multi-access edge computing (MEC), and AI have all been adopted to identify failures in boiler rooms, which has reduced the number of accidents.

With the support of 5G, Dongsheng Thermal Power has shortened the period of monthly routine maintenance to 5.2 days, as well as reducing its network deployment costs by CNY500,000/year and maintenance costs by CNY310,000/year. With fewer boiler-room failures, the number of managers needed for each generator set is reduced by 1, in turn improving O&M efficiency. Overall, it is estimated that the annual value created by the Dongsheng Thermal Power project is about CNY5.68 million. Most importantly, the project has significantly improved the working environment for employees. These outcomes fully demonstrate the value of the project.

The success story of Dongsheng Thermal Power is testament to 5G being the best solution for building the digital infrastructure of intelligent thermal power plants. In addition to the clear economic benefits brought to Dongsheng Thermal Power, the company's exemplary practice in intelligent transformation has triggered a new trend in infrastructure construction across the industry, with 33 enterprises visiting and learning from Dongsheng Thermal Power. In light of Dongsheng Thermal Power's success, six thermal power enterprises from Beijing, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and other locations in China have started replicating the company's best practices.

Jiangxi Xinghuo Organic Silicone Plant: 5G-powered smart factory

The Jiangxi Xinghuo Organic Silicone Plant of China National Bluestar (Group) Co, Ltd. (Xinghuo Organic Silicone Plant, for short) is one of the world's top 3 organic silicon companies. However, this large company has faced a number of roadblocks on its digital transformation journey.

To address the hurdles on the way to achieving "high-quality transformation characterized by green, refined, intelligent, and sustainable global operations," Xinghuo Organic Silicone Plant held a workshop themed "5G-powered smart chemical factory" in 2019, and teamed up with partners such as China Telecom and Huawei, as well as research institutes, to establish a joint 5G innovation lab. China Telecom also began the deployment of a pilot 5G network for the plant, aiming to lay the foundations for a 5G-powered smart chemical factory.

Through the joint efforts of companies, universities, and research institutes, Xinghuo Organic Silicone Plant was able to build an enterprise virtual private network based on the 5G Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) solution in 2020. Subsequently, as of 2021, the plant had developed 10 innovative 5G-powered applications, such as 5G digital-twin factory, 5G + AI security monitoring, 5G online quality detection, 5G drone/robot inspection, and 5G modular-based big data, converging them all into an integrated platform.

Digital technologies — such as 5G, IoT, AI, machine vision, and augmented reality (AR) — have played a key role in the digital transformation of the plant. The plant uploaded data to the platform in real time through the 5G/NB-IoT network and performed an AI-based analysis of the machine failure mechanism model to inform decision-making in areas like machine status identification, failure diagnosis, and predictive maintenance. This has helped facilitate prediction of machine failures and ensured the normal operation of machines.

The application of 5G and machine vision in online detection has helped optimize quality monitoring standards and eliminate the need for manual detection, which results in heavy workloads and missed detection, thereby improving detection efficiency and reducing economic losses.

With 5G-powered smart terminals, energy consumption data can be uploaded to the 5G back-end monitoring system and monitored in real time. This data is then used for AI-based analysis of the energy consumption trend, enabling the plant to keep track of energy consumption.

5G-enabled AR inspections, supported by remote guidance, can accurately locate invisible components within devices. In addition, 5G-enabled AR terminals allow experts to provide remote guidance in the form of audio, video, and image annotation for reduced operational costs and improved production efficiency.

By combining multiple digital technologies with production scenarios, Xinghuo Organic Silicone Plant has been able to reduce O&M and labor costs, improve product yield, and create a safer production environment. The project has reduced employee violations by 78%, lowered production management costs by 20%, improved product inspection efficiency by 75%, and improved the predication accuracy of process safety performance by 80%.

Thanks to the achievements and advantages demonstrated by the project of Xinghuo Organic Silicone Plant, the 5G smart factory model has been replicated and promoted throughout the chemical industry. This model has now been adopted by a host of smart factory projects, including those of Hunan Hengguang Technology, Nantong Xingchen Synthetic Material Company, and Jiangxi Pinhan New Material, covering eight provinces and cities in China.

Promoting the large-scale application of customized 5G networks

Supported by the 5G X-Cube, China Telecom has worked with its industry partners to tackle the complex requirements and scenarios, as well as help customers successfully build customized 5G industrial networks and achieve intelligent transformation.

The 5G X-Cube has made it possible for other industry players to draw on the successful experience of success cases. This is because the 5G X-Cube has extracted a complete set of industry templates that cover scenario-specific capabilities and networking solutions based on the success cases, and applied the industry template encapsulation solution to replicate these success cases on a large scale.

Nowadays, customized 5G networks have passed the initial 0→1 stage of development and are entering the 1→N stage of rapid development. However, this is easier said than done. Large-scale deployment and business success cannot be achieved overnight, and certainly not without the coordinated efforts of all parties.

China Telecom's achievements in customized 5G networks has garnered high acclaim from its customers. The company has eagerly fulfilled its social responsibilities, focused on customer requirements in order to promote 5G development and deliver better user experience, and continuously improved the 5G X-Cube in terms of innovative technologies, product solutions, and practical implementation.

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. Moving forward, China Telecom will work alongside partners to build 5G OpenLab, making it the first carrier to build an open lab for convergent 5G applications in the industry. In addition, China Telecom will work with its partners to incubate industry solutions and build the 5G X-Cube ecosystem, all with the aim of promoting the application of customized 5G networks in different industries.

Based on success cases, China Telecom will continue exploring new models for the application of 5G in different industries, in order to promote their intelligent digital transformation and fully utilize customized 5G networks, ultimately contributing to China's digitalization.

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