5G Trials: Putting Next-Gen Mobile to the Test

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Saturday, February 25, 2017 with No comments

Now seems as good a time as any to check in on the progress of pre-standards 5G trials, underway in some form or another by just about every major mobile telecom player and many vendor partners as well. 

Even though final, standalone 5G standards aren't expected for a few more years, no fewer than 25 mobile operators around the globe are already lab testing early 5G technologies, Telecom TV said, based on a report from Viavi. Some of those have progressed to field testing or even announcements of soon-to-launch real-world 5G services in selected markets. The trials involve testing a wide range of spectrum bandwidths, from sub-3GHz to 86GHz. 

(There are certainly many, many operators and vendors working on 5G; Light Reading offered another roundup of recent news, which includes mention of AT&T and Intel.) 

In North America, Verizon is one of the carriers to make good progress with early 5G, announcing it plans by mid-2017 to launch pre-commercial fixed wireless service for selected users in 11 markets, including Atlanta, Denver, Miami, and Seattle, InfoWorld reported. These services represent an early use case for millimeter-wave frequencies: wireless equipment for home broadband delivery. 

Light Reading noted that it's possible Verizon's fixed 5G services could deliver speeds greater than 3 gigabits per second for some customers. 

Around the globe, other news about 5G trials and related activities include:

  • Orange in France signed a deal with Huawei to cooperate on 5G and 'cloudification' technologies, such as MIMI antennas, network slicing, and channel sharing within spectrum bands, RCR Wireless News reported.  
  • Docomo in Japan completed joint MIMO 5G base station technology trials with NEC, Telecom TV reported. The indoor and outdoor trials, conducted in central Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture, used NEC's Active Antenna System to support low-band, super high frequencies in the 3GHz-6GHz range.
  • BT in the U.K. is teaming up with NEC to conduct millimeter wave tests over the next 12 months, Telecom TV reported. They've set up a test bed at University of Salford near Manchester in northwest England, and plan to look at the use of mmW for 5G and LTE mobile backhaul. 
These are positive steps on the way to realizing a shared vision of 5G's main pillars, which RCR Wireless News said include high-speed internet access, massive IoT, and machine-to-machine communications for critical missions. But, achieving the latency, scalability, and deployment affordability to realize that vision will "require disruptive microelectronics and nanotechnologies for both radio frequency and digital platforms," RCR predicted. 

It will be an interesting ride to see how, when, and by whom those technologies are developed.

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