ZTE is proposing to apply some 5G technology on top of existing 4G networks, as the vendor unveiled what it called a “pre-5G concept”.
The China-based company said that under certain conditions, consumers will be able to get a 5G-like user experience on 4G devices, without a need to change the air interface.
ZTE cited the example of Massive MIMO, where reference codes such as CSI-RS (channel state information reference signal) can be change to support hundreds of antenna ports. It added terminals could also be changed for the feedback of hundreds of PMIs (pre-coding matrix indicators).
Another example is in TDD mode, where uplink and downlink channels can be used for channel estimation. A further example is with inter-site interference cancellation in user densification networks. ZTE said its 4G Cloud Radio architecture, including the likes of dynamic local mesh networks, could decrease interference.
Dr Xiang Jiying, ZTE's CTO of Wireless Products, commented: "With next-generation 5G technologies being deployed in 2020, there were industry concerns over what technologies will be used in the next six years. To address this, ZTE proposes to apply some of the 5G technology on top of 4G to meet users' requirements."
Elsewhere, ZTE said it has spent heavily in developing 4G vector processing chipsets, which can meet pre-5G requirements by changing the software, rather than upgrading hardware.
Last week at LTE World Summit, the GSMA's Director of Technology said he was trying to slow down the march towards 5G, saying the industry was forgetting to deal with existing problems with 4G.
Dan Warren said: "A lot of the technology we have heard about is being lumped into 5G because it's cool and sexy. NFV and SDN are design options and can be used in 2G, 3G and LTE networks. When it comes to requirements about densification and power efficiency, these are not new and apply to any generation."