HK leads in open 5G Technology to reshape telecoms sector

March 19, 2020 13:17
Dr. Lucas Hui, Chief Technology Officer, ASTRI. Photo: ASTRI

When it comes to 5G technology, most people would immediately think of the mobile network, yet statistics show it accounts for just 10 percent of applications with 90 percent in the industrial and business sectors.

Offering higher speeds, lower latency, and massive connectivity, the commercial launch of 5G in Hong Kong has immense potential for more application solutions, though enterprises will inevitably have to consider operating costs when adopting the technology.

"Our Communications Technologies Division began 5G research as early as 2017, and we have created open platform solutions that can be acquired at a low cost, allowing local and international enterprises to adapt and develop more smart applications for new business models,” said Dr. Lucas Hui, Chief Technology Officer, ASTRI.

In anticipation of an explosive growth in new applications, a research team was formed at ASTRI in 2017, bringing together more than a hundred experts. Numerous research projects have been conducted since then. Dr Hui said the research team now has more than 100 communications and network experts, who worked hard to develop a set of proprietary 5G applications.

Dr Eric Tsang, ASTRI’s Director of Communications Technologies, who is responsible for the 5G communication technology, said there were three unique characteristics of this solution.

He said: “First it is 100 percent developed locally and there is no similar solution in other countries. Second is the adoption of O-RAN, an open platform that allows enterprises to use ASTRI’s computing software that runs on open standard configuration hardware to minimize cost. Third is the solution covers core networks, base stations, terminals and all other parts to provide one-stop comprehensive and tailor-made applications to assist their business.”

Dr Tsang further explained that adopting the open platform brings many benefits to enterprises.

“If large-scale network equipment providers use their own proprietary platform that also comes with their own software, it is not just costly but also gives little idea into how the base station is composed and operated,” he said.

“Our O-RAN open platform will not only allow customers to procure the most suitable and cost-effective solution from the market, but also provide an open and transparent platform that eases the worry of over-reliance of an exclusive solution.”

Latest reports suggest global communication operators were supportive of the O-RAN system as an industry standard, which Dr Tsang said validated the decision to develop the O-RAN based 5G solution three years ago. The home-grown innovation was a catalyst quietly changing the landscape of the global communications industry, he added.

Working with top-notch corporates

The 5G network creates a new era for businesses, ranging from autonomous vehicles to cloud-based mobile games to smart factories to long-distance medical consultation.

Dr Tsang said two leading corporations are already applying the O-RAN solution. That includes Foxconn Industrial Internet (601138.SH), which developed an auto-guided vehicle (AGV) that uses camera images from the car roof to transmit the instant positioning and direct the unmanned vehicle in a factory setting.

Meanwhile, a mainland game developer will use the 5G network for a high spec game in a cloud setting that will allow handsets without a sophisticated GPU to run the game’s otherwise demanding hardware, substantially enhancing the user experience and reducing the battery usage.

Besides, ASTRI collaborated with Intel, NXP, Lenovo, WNC, China Mobile, HKT, SK Telecom and other large-scale chip manufacturers, IT and telecom operators to develop 5G applications that Dr Tsang described as “disruptive”.

“In the past, corporations struggled to compete with large-scale network equipment manufacturers,” said Dr Tsang. “But using our solution, they now have an edge to compete with traditional manufacturers, which will be a significant boost to the 5G development in Hong Kong and globally.”

Apart from working with global corporations, ASTRI also aims to enhance the product and technology competitiveness of local system integrators, operators and large local enterprises, using O-RAN solutions to substantially lower the technology threshold with high-performance, innovative and cost-effective advantages.

At present, ASTRI works closely with several Hong Kong enterprises that have shown great interest in this innovative 5G business model. The end game: the high-performance and low-cost O-RAN 5G solution will inspire corporate innovation and propel Hong Kong to become a smart city and a global innovation and technology hub that will enhance the overall standard of living.

Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute Company Limited (ASTRI) was set up by the Hong Kong government in 2000 with the mission of enhancing the territory's competitiveness in technology-based industries through applied research.

ASTRI focuses on five key technology areas, namely Smart City, FinTech, Intelligent Manufacturing, Health Tech, and Application Specific Integrated Circuits. Going into its 20th anniversary, ASTRI has completed more than 500 research projects, has over 800 patents and won numerous awards that signify its technological achievements.

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ASTRI’s end-to-end, low-cost 5G solution supports new application scenarios including private networks, vehicle-to-everything, industrial IoT and the cloudification of mobile OS. New value-adds will see a quick market share gain for 5G. Photo: ASTRI
A mainland Chinese game developer can use the 5G network to allow highly specified games with demanding hardware to be played on handsets. Photo: ASTRI
Dr. Eric Tsang. Director, Communications Technologies, ASTRI. (second left) Photo: ASTRI
ASTRI and Foxconn Industrial Internet co-develop an auto-guided vehicle (AGV) that uses a camera image from the car roof to transmit the instant positioning and direction to the unmanned vehicle in a factory setting. Photo: ASTRI

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