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EE Delivers 5G Mobile Broadband Speeds of 2.8Gbps in First Network Test

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 (11:37 am) - Score 5,527

Mobile operator EE (BT) and Huawei have conducted their first UK lab test of an end-to-end 5G network, which delivered a consistent download speed of 2.8Gbps (Gigabits per second) using an active antenna unit with 64×64 MIMO broadcasting via the 3.5GHz radio spectrum band.

In order to deliver a consistent 2.8Gbps downlink throughput across the end-to-end 5G architecture, EE linked their fully virtualised 5G core network to 100MHz of the 3.5GHz band via Huawei ‘s latest proof-of-concept 5G baseband unit. This also produced sub 5ms (millisecond) latency times.

However it’s worth remembering that lab tests don’t reflect the reality of a real-world environment, where interference, distance, end-user hardware and other subscribers can all conspire to reduce the service performance. Nevertheless it does represent some very positive progress.

Tom Bennett, EE’s Director of Network Services & Devices, said:

“We’re using our experience in cutting edge 4G technologies and our dedicated partnership approach to ensure technology leadership in 5G. The network architecture we’ve proven today is a huge step forward, and will drive our ambitious rollout timetable to be first for 5G.”

Apparently EE’s current 5G architecture is aligned to Option 3 of 3GPP Release 15 standard, which is due to be finalised next month and formally ratified in April 2018. The first commercial deployments aren’t due to begin until 2020 and that’s assuming that Ofcom can resolve all of the current legal challenges over their related auctions (example), which involve similar spectrum bands to the one used above.

Now all we need are some strong data allowances to help make all of this extra speed worthwhile.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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24 Responses
  1. Gareth says:

    Welcome to “superfast” EE. Choose from one of our superfast data plans: 250MB, 500MB, 1GB….

    Ooops! It looks like you’ve reached your data allowance for this month!

    1. Alan says:

      Hey at least your unlimited texts may be able to travel at 2.8Gbps LOL 🙂

  2. Adam Jarvis says:

    I keep asking this question – Ofcom’s Sharon White, where is the fibre optic backhaul for all this so-called 5G Bandwith? It doesn’t yet exist. 5G masts with this sort of bandwidth require massive amounts of additional backhaul fibre.

    EE’s description here is quite deceptive here, (deliberately?) not mentioning the fibre backhaul required for this and for 5G in general, deep within the UK network/local loop to make it affordable (by piggybacking ‘cheap’local loop fibre FTTP) to achieve ubiquitous blanket 5G/seamless handover).

    Each 5G cell is controlled and managed by through a fibre backhaul to the cloud. The Huawei Optic Switches/HP hardware isn’t located with the MIMO mast on site, it’s remote “cloud based” in terms of the final setup, relayed by fibre, in a Datacentre, that’s how 5G works, smaller 5G cells, with much of previous generation hardware signal processing done in the cloud.

    Huawei Commercial Software on HP Hardware? For a start the hardware switches shown in the video but omitted from the description, are Huawei 48 Port Fibre Optic Switches.

    Is this the latest ruse by mobile companies, not to mention the vast amount of fibre backhaul/cross-haul required to service 5G masts, because much of the BT’s (EE’s Parent company) backhaul needed is still antiquated bamboozled, obfuscated “up to” copper.

    Ofcom, we need to name a date for the last new copper installation in the local loop.

    Fibre is now an absolute necessity to achieve these types of setup, especially ubiquitously. Yes, you could do it by cherry picking with commercial fibre contracts in big cities without rolling out FTTP in the local loop, but it’s such a waste of resources, when local loop rollout of FTTP can be piggybacked by 5G mobile masts ‘cheaply’ for backhaul deep into the UK network, to make 5G more affordable, by cross-subsidising it.

    This is clearly showing BT’s Copper carcass network has had it’s day. We need to start now with fibre rollout. Set a date BT, enough is enough.

    1. Chris says:

      I think you’re confusing consumer access to fibre with the backhaul mobile operators are already using.
      The vast majority of cell sites have fibre backhaul already

    2. craski says:

      It depends where in the country you are. I would say that in rural Aberdeenshire the vast majority of mobile masts are fed using fixed wireless backhaul.

    3. spurple says:

      Some dude on the internet wants regulation to guide the details of technical decisions that companies take on the road to deploying 5G


    4. Adam Jarvis says:

      “I think you’re confusing consumer access to fibre with the backhaul mobile operators are already using”

      No, it’s more the question of whether Mobile and Fixed FTTP going forward, are classed competing technologies (for marketing purposes) or technically complementary technologies.

      Technically (what often gets omitted) Mobile 5G is 100% dependent on extensive FTTP deployment deep into the local loop, you can’t have one without the other. 5G becomes a sparsely populated ‘cherry picked’ headline-grabbing London centric product otherwise, with no real practical purpose.

      I’m saying, to get ubiquitous 5G (from street lights etc) each smaller sized 5G mast, more densely populated, requires a fibre backhaul.

      The only real practical way this technology could be deployed cheaply (especially in rural areas) is piggybacking fibre optic cables laid within the local loop for the purposes of commercial/residential FTTP.

      Much of this high-frequency ultrafast 5G doesn’t penetrate buildings like existing lower frequency 3G/4G mobile technologies, plant foliage, reflective metalized glass of modern buildings etc. It’s not a be-all-end-all solution, by any means.

      The problem here, we need to stop defining ‘mobile’ as ‘mobile’ without referencing how it’s actually reliant on a fibre backhaul, in that once the signal reaches the mast, it’s fibre optic or microwave backhaul to fibre, that carries that signal elsewhere, and with 5G, off loads much of the signal processing/seamless device handover to the cloud via the fibre backhaul.

      The backhaul contracts for mobile operators remain commercial contacts via BTWholesale/Virgin Media etc, but those contracts would be commercially more competitive/cheaper if they took advantage of Openreach’s (+other operators) existing deployment of fibre optic cables deep within the local loop, for business/home FTTP, hence the term ‘piggybacking’.


      “Some dude on the internet wants regulation to guide the details of technical decisions that companies take on the road to deploying 5G”

      The some dude you talk of, is actually Sharon White, head of Ofcom, talking up ubiquitous 5G.

      There problem here by mobile operators and the regulator, there is a complete lack of discussion regarding the amount of fibre backhaul 5G rollout would entail.

      Mobile operators avoid mentioning the word ‘fibre’ as though they don’t want consumer understanding the link between fibre optic rollout and 5G masts.

      The realities mean 5G is a hyped up pipedream because the cost of deployment will be too high outside London, big Cities, if we don’t also deploy FTTP in the local loop in more rural locations as part of an FTTP rollout programme.

      As said, you can’t have ubiquitous 5G deployment, with having FTTP ubiquitous deployment, the cell sizes are far too small, regards coverage.

    5. Adam Jarvis says:

      typo: As said, you can’t have ubiquitous 5G deployment, without having FTTP ubiquitous deployment, the cell sizes are far too small, regards coverage.

    6. ChrisP says:


      You can get a fibre connection anywhere you want in the uk. Regardless of distance to the nearest aggregation node.

      I’ve had diverse fibre leased lines installed for installations many miles from main roads aggregation nodes and exchanges with no issue. It’s not cheap due to the civils involved but it’s doable. Lots of rural phone masts do have microwave or radio back haul and it’s not a problem. It’s just access technology. Sometimes wireless backhaul has less latency than wired. There is a story of London and German stock exchanges linked over microwave to reduce latency


      Commercial operators are not hindered by a lack of consumer fibre. Consummers though don’t want to pay the huge installation costs (10’s or 100’s of thousands) and huge in going monthly rentals of thousands per month.

    7. 125us says:

      FTTP is already ubiquitous. Openreach and others will deliver fibre to anywhere in the UK, which is mostly how 4g works along with some microwave and some EFM over copper. Don’t confuse broadband with infrastructure products.

      I think you’re confusing commercial realities with technology. It’s trivial to make the case to deliver fibre to someone who you know will pay for the install and upkeep because they have asked you for it. It’s quite a bit harder to make the case to deliver it to everyone because only a minority of people will want it. The take up of FTTC shows that – most people stick with cheaper and slower exchange based ADSL.

  3. Lebowski says:

    I agree with the final sentence of the article. An increase in throughput will be utterly pointless without a significant increase to monthly data allowances. After all the hype over 4g and the disappointment that followed I think most consumers are now wise to fantastical predictions about next gen mobile technology.

    1. Chris says:

      Data allowances are vastly larger than what was available at the launch of 4G in the UK.
      At launch, EE’s £21/mo sim only plan included 500mb of data.
      Today, for £21/mo I can get 18GB – that’x a 36x increase.

      It’s a given that providers will continue to offer competitive allowances based on consumer usage and demand.

    2. Mike says:

      Increases usually follow network upgrades.

      I just wonder when Three will upgrade to LTE-A, let alone 5G.

    3. Asrab says:

      I am on three – and have been for the 10 years plus, my postcode bb46: i receive download speed of 80 – 96 Mbits and upload of 33 Mbits (since being on 4G over the last 2+ years) ping is between 35 – 45 ms,

      i am on the AYE data contact for under 20 quid a month – no complaints here, i generally consume around 60 – 100 Gigabyte of mobile data, looking forward to thier LTE-A switch on, with the correct phone i should receive download speed of more 200 Mbits and upload of more than 100 Mbits (so i have been told)

    4. Lebowski says:

      @Chris EE are hardly representative of the overall market, they were for quite some time the only network offering 4g so of course their initial prices were eye wateringly high and data allowances were paltry. At the launch of 4g I was paying £10/month for 1GB on GiffGaff. I now pay £10/month for 3GB. A x3 increase. Hardly what I’d call an earth shattering increase and certainly nowhere near enough to stream audio/video on a regular basis.

      @asrab the 3 AYE 12month deal is currently £30/month. Which to be fair still isn’t bad value but only worth having if you’re going to use all that data on a regular basis.

  4. John says:

    I don’t understand why they are investing in 5g when parts of the country we can’t Evan get 3g

    1. craski says:

      Frustrating as it is (I live in a not spot too) we cant expect them to stop development of new technology as it isnt the technology that is holding them back in not spots, its money needed to install it and get a return on investment that is the stumbling block.

    2. Sledgehammer says:

      I am in the same boat, just waiting for the penny to drop with these mobile operators that more masts are needed for 4G in the right places to cover all the NOT spots never mind 5G.

    3. spurple says:

      I’m glad that they’re investing in 5G because I’m getting bored of the sluggish 60mbps 4G that I currently get.


    4. Simon says:

      200-250mbps + here on EE. Just chews through 25G in no time 🙁

    5. dave says:

      5g operates using then 700mhz band and also higher bands, 3g operates at 900mhz+. The 5G signal therefore travels much further so you are more likely to get 5G than you are 3G, you should be happy.

  5. steve says:

    Meanwhile in the real world I’ve just been explaining to O2 that the whole town of 40000 people are getting 0-1 bars of 3g, they say there isnt a fault its just that their network is pants and they have no plans to fix it.

    1. Mike says:

      Why do you stay with them then?

  6. Mike Hewitt says:

    Agree that the fibre access requirements for 5G deployments will be significant and a challenge for the commercial roll out of 5G networks and may hinder the implementation – small cells will need fibre and power and supporting infrastrucutre – maybe its why openreach is so hesitant to open up its fibre network to others – the have pulled back on previous plans for their dark fibre access product set.

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