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Vodafone and Ericsson Conduct UK 5G Mobile Field Trial at 3.5GHz

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017 (8:45 am) - Score 1,701
Vodafone UK 2016

Mobile operator Vodafone and Ericsson today claim to have become the “first” in the United Kingdom to conduct a live pre-standard test of future 5G Mobile technology, which was run both indoors and outdoors in central London using the 3.5GHz radio spectrum band.

The operator said that “until now, no one in the UK has shown pre-standard 5G working independently of existing 4G network technologies,” although last month EE conducted a similar test with Huawei by harnessing the same spectrum band to deliver a consistent download speed of 2.8Gbps (Gigabits per second) via an active antenna unit with 64×64 MIMO and sub-5ms latency (here).

Sadly Vodafone has provided next to no solid information about their own field trial and the crucial consideration of distance is not mentioned. We are however told that the test was conducted in partnership with academics at King’s College London and involved Massive MIMO technology (i.e. this uses multiple antennae to send and receive data more efficiently to many users), as well as beamforming, multi-user MIMO and beam tracking.

Vodafone’s project will also combine (aggregated) different bands of mobile spectrum across the UK to increase capacity and boost data speeds, which is a method that has already enabled modern Smartphones to achieve peak data speeds of 500Mbps via their existing 4G+ (LTE Advanced) network (i.e. Carrier Aggregation of four bands). Vodafone do not say how fast their 5G test was able to push.

Kye Prigg, Vodafone UK Head of Networks, said:

“We’re delighted to be the first provider to test standalone 5G in the field, however, building a 5G network will take time. Right now, we’re also modernising our network by making smarter use of our existing mobile technology to keep ahead of consumption demands and provide the mobile coverage our customers deserve.

5G also needs fibre optic cables. Together with CityFibre, we will soon start work installing the advanced fibre networks providing high-capacity backhaul connections required for 5G mobile services.”

Marielle Lindgren, Head of Ericsson in the UK and Ireland, added:

“Supporting our customers in making 5G a reality is key for us. This is a live trial in a densely populated central London urban area and the first time in the UK that we’ve been able to show pre-standard 5G working independently. We remain committed to advancing 5G development in the UK, working closely with leading operators and ecosystem players to enable global scale and drive the industry in one common direction.”

We have asked Vodafone if they’d be able to provide a bit more information about the technical setup of their 5G field trial and its results (we will update again if there’s anything worth adding). Otherwise the first commercial 5G Mobile services aren’t expected to launch until 2020 and it will then take several years to deploy, assuming that Ofcom are able to release the necessary spectrum and overcome the current Three UK vs EE battle around spectrum capping.

Leave a Comment
1 Response
  1. Avatar MikeW

    By the look of it, EE’s trial was lab-based, while this one is field-based. The biggest difference will be the effect of real multipath transmission, and the impact on that massive-MIMO array.

    Ericsson’s press release says:

    The field test was conducted with a prototype mobile device both indoors and outside at King’s College London. Based on a proprietary 5G standard with plans to move onto the new global standard when fully ratified, Ericsson’s 5G test bed system operates in the 3.5GHz spectrum band. The trial also showcased advanced 5G technologies including Massive MIMO, beamforming, multi-user MIMO and beam tracking.

    It isn’t clear whether the prototype mobile device was really mobile during the tests, or static. That they showcased beam-tracking is a good indication of some amount of mobility, though.

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