For anyone questioning the feasibility of super-high speed 5G networks—faster than wired is today—due to come on stream in 2020, be assured, tests have been completed that apparently indicate that the tech can actually work.
China-based equipment maker Huawei has announced that it has, along with Japan’s largest Mobile Network Operator NTT DOCOMO, concluded a large-scale, non-lab field trial of 5G.
Peak speeds reached 3.6Gbps Huawei says in a press release on its website. For comparison Verizon’s 4G LTE broadband in the U.S. has “peak download speeds approaching 50Mbps,” according to Verizon on its website.
The 5G technology that Huawei has been trialing uses the sub-6 GHz frequency band.
The trial was conducted at an outdoor test site in Chengdu, China.
Interestingly, the tests were conducted outside of a lab environment. One of the issues with the sub-6 GHz microwaves is that the wavelengths are small in comparison to currently-used mobile phone and broadcast frequencies.
That smallness means, among other issues, that they can become blocked easily—they can’t skirt objects well.
So, any use of the frequencies has to take advantage of software-defined filters, shaping, optimizing waveforms for different transmission conditions and so on. In other words you can’t just do 5G with traditional radio equipment—particularly as the waves get more miniscule.
Huawei says that during the tests it was able to validate “the performance of Sparse Code Multiple Access (SCMA) and Filtered OFDM (F-OFDM) in the field,” both of which are 5G “air interface technologies” proposed by the company, it says.
Huawei explains its vision for adaptive software for 5G in an IEEE-hosted presentation dated September 2014 (PDF), where you can get an idea about some of the technologies that it’s talking about.
Nokia and Samsung
The China-based Huawei’s technology isn’t the only player in the field, though. Both Nokia and Samsung have recently been testing 5G—all on different bands:
Nokia has been using the miniscule wave-sized 73GHz, according to Boy Genius Report who has written about the tech. Samsung is using the 28GHz band.
I've written about Samsung's interest in 5G millimeter spectrum in the past, in "Samsung lurking in Millimeter spectrum."
The frequencies that Samsung and Nokia are working with are smaller than Huawei’s, and consequently likely trickier to make work when moving than Huawei’s choice.
Nokia’s test reached 10Gbps, according to BGR, and Samsung’s got to 7.5Gbps.
The global spectrum allocating organization International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has said that it has defined 5G network peak speed criteria as being 20Gbps.
This field trial is an “advance toward fulfilling Huawei’s commitment to developing 5G technology standards before 2018,” Dr. Wen Tong, CTO of Huawei Wireless Networks says in the press release.
Huawei plans to launch its first 5G pilot networks with its partners in 2018, and aims to “complete interoperability testing in 2019, and commercially launch 5G networks in 2020,” its website says.
This would be in line with an ITU timeline published on its website where it says it wants to see 5G specifications completely ratified in 2020.
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