UK To Get 200Mbps 5G Network Trial In 2013

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Guildford gets a 5G “playground” run by the University of Surrey

While the UK still waits for 4G mobile data services, the next generation is apparently on the way, with a trial of 5G services set to go ahead in 2013 offering users speeds of up to 200Mbps, TechWeekEurope understands.

The government today announced £35 million funding for a 5G Innovation Centre, as part of a £1 billion investment from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF).

Most of the money backing the centre –  £24 million – will come from a host of private industry partners, including Huawei, Samsung, Telefonica Europe, Fujitsu Laboratories Europe, Rohde-Schwarz and AIRCOM International.

With 4G to arrive on EE on 30 October, the UK is set to get widespread coverage starting in spring next year. Eyes have now turned to 5G and according to Professor Rahim Tafazolli (pictured), who heads up the University of Surrey’s Centre for Communication Systems Research (CCSR), the first trial of 5G should take place at the end of 2013, with a potential rollout in 10 years time.

The university has already plotted out an area where it will trial 5G, located across the University of Surrey and over to Guildford, measuring around five square kilometres. Local SMEs will be invited to join in and play in the 5G “playground”.

Heading towards 5G standards

“Every 10 to 20 years a new generation of mobile cellular standards will come up, historically speaking,” Tafazolli told TechWeekEurope. “Our proposal is about preparing the research development and standardisation for the fifth generation, which is supposed to be deployed by 2030… Research and standardisation needs to happen now.

“Mobile cellular is standard-driven technology and the partners we have chosen are the ones who drive the standards. Any technology we come up with we will discuss with the consortium and take it to standard level.”

Tafazolli said his group has already been working on technologies and concepts for 5G over the last three years, but with the extra funding will now be able to work towards testing them out with partners.

“We have developed many technologies that are suitable for 5G using computer simulation and mathematical analysis and what this test bed allows us is to integrate all these technologies together and optimise them end-to-end and take them to standards afterwards,” he added.

“We are looking at the processors, protocols, algorithms and techniques… we won’t try to optimise the hardware implementation – that is something industry will do. We have developed the know-how.”

The university is to come up with fresh backhaul designs, explore “self-organising networks” that will be able to optimise themselves with minimal human input, and look at adding a high number of antennas on access points, otherwise known as multiple input and multiple output (MIMO), to see what can be achieved.

Surrey will be looking specifically at three areas in which to break technological ground. Firstly, it will look at speed. Tafazolli believes speeds could hit 10Gbps in a cell, to be divided by users, which could allow for as much as 200Mbps per user. That’s at least four times faster than what many expect to be delivered over 4G, in terms of fastest possible speed.

The 5G Centre will also have to look into spectrum. “We are facing a shortage of radio spectrum,” Tafazolli added. “We will need additional spectrum.” Surrey will be looking at usage of extremely high frequency bands, or millimetric waves, going as low as 50GHz.

Another key challenge will be in efficiency, as that is something that is not just harming the environment, it is hitting operators’ coffers too. “The electricity cost is huge, especially if you are talking about that bit rate and a huge number of cell stations,” Tafazolli said. “Energy efficiency would reduce that cost – it’s extremely important.”

Looking at the partner list, there are some notable absentees from the networking and operator industries – from Cisco and Juniper to EE and Vodafone. But Tafazolli said “the door is always open”.

Regardless of vendor input in the UK, 5G could be with us in the next 10-15 years.

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