Vodafone has successfully carried out a test of prototype devices using pre-standard 5G technology in central London.
The test was carried out in conjunction with networking giant Ericsson and with academics at King’s College London.
The 5G field trial was conducted in the 3.5 GHz spectrum, and is being described as the first of its kind in the UK, as until now, no one in the UK has shown pre-standard 5G working independently of existing 4G network technologies.
The Vodafone test comes hot on the heels of the end-to-end test of a 5G network carried out by rival EE and Huawei last month. In that test, the two were able to achieve speeds of 2.8Gbps, as well as sub-5ms latency, using 64×64 MIMO and 100MHz worth of 3.5GHz test spectrum.
Vodafone did not match that speed this time, but said it would “continue to test 5G technology and evaluate opportunities to provide better services to consumers and businesses prior to its commercial deployment from 2020.”
It should be noted that Vodafone (with Huawei), has previously achieved transmission rates of 20Gbps in 5G network tests.
The Vodafone and Ericsson field test in London was conducted with a prototype mobile device both indoors and outside at King’s College London. It was apparently based on a proprietary 5G standard (with plans to move onto the new global standard when fully ratified).
Vodafone believes that 5G will play a vital role in areas such as factory automation, smart energy grids and remote surgery. Last year it tested 5G-based communications systems for vehicles as a means to find ways for cars to talk to each other.
On this occasion however, Vodafone said it was able to showcase a number of technologies at King’s College London, including Massive MIMO, which it says is the key building block for 5G.
As a reminder, massive MIMO uses multiple antennae to send and receive data more efficiently in order to boost capacity where lots of people connect to the network at the same time. Useful in areas such as London.
The Vodafone and Ericsson project is also experimenting with combining or “aggregating” different bands of mobile spectrums in an effort to increase capacity and boost data speeds.
It says that if four bands of spectrum, for example, were combined, it would allow Vodafone using the latest smartphones to achieve data speeds in excess of 500 megabits per second (Mbps).
“We’re delighted to be the first provider to test standalone 5G in the field, however, building a 5G network will take time,” said Vodafone UK head of networks Kye Prigg. “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,” Prigg added. “Together with CityFibre, we will soon start work installing the advanced fibre networks providing high-capacity backhaul connections required for 5G mobile services.”
Vodafone it should be remembered signed a deal in 2015 with CityFibre to bolster its mobile network with CityFibre backhaul. It also acquired the fixed-line network of Cable & Wireless Worldwide (C&WW) back in 2012 for £1 billion.
“Supporting our customers in making 5G a reality is key for us,” explained Marielle Lindgren, Head of Ericsson in the UK and Ireland. “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.”
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