As it raises billions for 5G, China Unicom focused on service flexibility for 5G

To simultaneously support 5G use cases with highly variable service-level needs, operators are slowly transforming their networks to run off of dynamic, software-defined networks that automatically provision network resources in centralized clouds. Case in point, China Unicom has selected Nokia to upgrade to a cloud-native core network seven provinces, including tourist hot spots and industrial centers.

Nokia’s AirGile will be used by the operator to provide VoLTE and VoWi-Fi on a single platform; customers will see faster call set-up, HD voice quality and “seamless” handover between the LTE and Wi-Fi networks. Nokia’s cloud-native networks portfolio includes the core, distributed data centers, a microservice architecture, open APIs, a shared data layer and webscale deployment. The company bills the portfolio as delivering “the flexibility, responsiveness and adaptability required to deliver high-performance, ultra-reliability and low-latency required by massive IoT and 5G.”

Gao Bo, head of China Unicom’s customer business team at Nokia Shanghai Bell, said the core upgrade “will deliver new capabilities and allow China Unicom to accelerate the launch of new services, while new agility will help enable a smooth transition toward 5G in the future.”

In Q3 2017, China Unicom announced that its China United Network Communications unit, which is listed on the Shanghai stock exchange, “entered into framework cooperation agreements with Tencent, Baidu, Jingdong, Alibaba and others” on August 16, whereby new shares valued at $9.25 billion and existing shares valued at $1.94 billion will be sold to the private investors. In addition, China Unicom also confirmed that shares valued at $481 million will be made available to employees in an equity incentive scheme.

The Chinese telco plans to use the proceeds for upgrading 4G capabilities, technology validation and enablement of 5G network related technologies, launch trial programs in relation to the 5G network and develop innovative businesses.

Also related to its 5G development plan, China Unicom worked with compatriot infrastructure vendor ZTE to test out services based on the still developing 5G New Radio specification using the 3.5 GHz band, which is seen as a key global roaming band for 5G.

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