Alteca Portugal Aims For One Of World’s First 5G Deployments

Altice Portugal chief executive Alexandre Fonseca and Huawei Portugal chief Chris Lu are shown at a 5G technology demonstration in July 2018. Credit: Altice Portugal

Alteca Portugal has demonstrated a Huawei-powered 5G system from prototype handsets to networks and back-end systems

Telecoms multinational Alteca has said it’s aiming to make Portugal a leader in the rollout of next-generation 5G technologies, following a pioneering demonstration with Chinese equiment giant Huawei this week.

The demonstration, which follows a deal signed between Alteca Portugal and Huawei at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, showed live tests of of 5G technologies on a commercial network using prototype Huawei hardware such as a 5G terminal.

The network operated in the 3.6 GHz band and reached speeds of 1.5 Gbps, in line with the European Union’s 5G agenda.

Alteca Portugal and Huawei showed a complete prototype 5G system, including client terminals, networks and back-end systems, with a specially developed 5G router, a new radio network and a new 5G control network.

Real-world network

The client-side equipment used Massive MIMO antenna arrays of 64 receivers and 64 transmitters, aiming to significantly boost signal quality. Alteca said the demonstration operated in commercial-equivalent conditions.

Emphasising that the aim of 5G is to produce real-world use cases, the companies demonstrated 4K television streaming and a downlink rate intended to support applications such as augmented reality, next-generation industrial uses and connected devices.

Altice Portugal’s chief technology officer, Luís Alveirinho, said 5G remains a significant implementation challenge and is planned to coexist with current networks while it is being rolled out.

Alexandre Fonseca, the firm’s chief executive, said the company wasn’t investing heavily in next-generation networks for their own sake, but because it sees a real need for the new services they’re expected to support.

“We must not forget that, at the end of the day, the goal of technology is to improve people’s lives,” he said.

Huawei chief executive Chris Lu said the new networks would “allow countless possibilities”.

Fonseca said he expects Portugal to be one of the first countries with commercial 5G services, with the first devices set to arrive next year or in 2020 and a more general rollout in 2021 or 2022, Reuters reported.

With its advanced telecommunications infrastructure, Portugal was the first country to launch prepaid mobile phones and single, country-wide electronic motorway tolls.

Dutch-based Altice, which bought Portugal Telecom in 2015, operates a dense fibre-optic network that covers 4.3 million out of 5.3 million Portuguese homes, with the remaining premises set to be covered by early 2020.

The network is expected to support Altice’s 5G network, whose technologies have already been in the research and testing phase for two years.

The race to 5G

Countries around the world are working to roll out working 5G services, and the as-yet unformed nature of the technology means that those who take the lead are expected to play a significant role in defining the specifications of next-generation networks.

That consideration, amongst others, was cited in a US government decision earlier this year to block Broadcom’s proposed hostile takeover of Qualcomm, a deal regulators said could allow Chinese companies such as Huawei to gain an edge on 5G.

Vodafone has said it plans to begin testing 5G mobile networks in seven of the UK’s largest cities later this year before commencing limited commercial deployments next year.