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BT and Nokia Collaborate on UK 5G Mobile Broadband Trials and Research

Thursday, Aug 18th, 2016 (12:00 pm) - Score 1,330

Telecoms giant BT (EE) has today signed a new deal with Nokia, which will see the two working together in order to both research, trial and develop the next generation of 5G based Mobile Broadband technology at the UK operator’s Adastral Park Labs facility in Ipswich (Suffolk, England).

The news is important for a number of reasons, not least the fact that a similar team-up between Nokia and Verizon in the USA has already resulted in a working 5G network and one that could receive a limited launch as early as 2017 (here). No doubt BT, which owns mobile operator EE, would like to benefit from a similarly strong technological lead.

Verizon’s “pre-commercial” 5G field trial was conducted at the Dallas-Fort Worth based metroplex network in the USA, which ran at both 73GHz and 28GHz in order to deliver a “fixed wireless broadband” service that could produce peak broadband speeds of several Gigabits per second (the ITU aims for 5G to eventually deliver 20Gbps of shared capacity).

Apparently BT and Nokia’s joint 5G Proof of Concept (PoC) trials will focus on the technology enablers for 5G, including mmWave radio and convergence, as well as potential commercial services including ultrafast mobile broadband, mission-critical services and the Internet of Things (IoT). On top of that it’s hoped that 5G network latency will be in the range of only one millisecond (1ms).

However BT’s PR spin suggests that 5G’s “biggest potential” is its ability to “improve the flexibility and usability of mobile networks, allowing them to ‘flex’ to meet the specific needs of customers.” Apparently “this might include lower latency to support critical communications, or greater power efficiency and higher bandwidth usage for different applications.”

Howard Watson, CEO of BT Technology and Service, said:

“Our EE mobile business already boasts the biggest 4G network in the UK, which is set to cover 95 per cent of the country by 2020. We will build on that foundation to develop the next generation of LTE-Advanced Pro and 5G services over the next few years. It’s still early days for 5G technology, but experience tells us that a collaborative approach is key to success. We’re delighted to be working with Nokia to drive a common approach to 5G, and to develop exciting use cases which bring together our combined experience in fixed and mobile technologies.”

Cormac Whelan, Nokia’s Head of the UK & Ireland, said:

“5G is the communications technology of the future, and it will transform how we communicate with each other, as well as communicate with devices and ‘things’. Nokia is delighted to be working with BT in laying the foundations for 5G adoption in the coming years, and in helping define how this technology will enable exciting and innovative experiences.”

The hard work has already begun, with Nokia conducting trials of its latest “5G-ready radio equipment” at the BT Labs (Adastral Park), which is said to demonstrate key 5G technology ingredients that are currently in standardization running on Nokia’s AirScale radio access, including an “entirely new 5G frame structure and 4 x 100MHz carrier aggregation” (i.e. the ability to use multiple different spectrum bands on a single device at once, which is similar to the 4G based LTE-Advanced enhancement).

Nokia already supplies BT’s 21C Core Routing Platform, as well as both the BT/EE subscriber register infrastructure and part of the EE Radio Access Network, thus it’s no surprise that BT would choose to work with them again.

Mind you there’s still a long road ahead and an official 5G standard has yet to be agreed (expected between 2017-18), while the final green light on what spectrum 5G can use isn’t likely to be given by Ofcom until around 2020. BT will also need to ensure that whatever is developed remains fully compatible with the rest of the EU (spectrum and standards).

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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