Before any new technology goes live, it must first go through a series of trials and tests to determine the validity. In the case of 5G, that trial stage is occurring right now.
To help smooth the trial process, most operators look to vendors to help evolve the current network architecture and minimize the risk of rolling out a new technology, particularly one as complex and as different at 5G.
And since there is no 5G specification yet, operators have to base these 5G tests on their own definitions of 5G – and many are doing that with the hope that what they learn from their trials will contribute to the final 5G standard that the 3GPP standards organization is developing.
Gregory Donnard, product manager for InfoVista, which makes an RF planning and optimization software that can be used for 5G network planning, said that operators are currently running tests based upon what they believe will become 5G. For example, Donnard said, it’s common knowledge that 5G will incorporate millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, so antenna propagation tests can be run that are valid for 5G even without a definitive standard.
Operators from nearly every region of the world are testing 5G, but the U.S. and Asia seem to be out front in terms of pushing the technology forward.
SDxCentral has been reporting on nearly all the latest developments in 5G trials around the world. Here’s a compilation of the top 5G trials that are occurring or have occurred so far, as well as a brief overview of what operators have learned.
Vendors: Ericsson, Intel, Nokia
Locations: Austin, Texas; Middleton, New Jersey; Atlanta; and San Ramon, California
Details: At the Texas Wireless Summit in October, AT&T worked with Ericsson to demonstrate the use of mmWave to deliver speeds in the 13- to 14-Gb/s range with a latency of close to 1 millisecond. The trial used pre-standardized 5G equipment outside a lab environment.
The company also said it was working on outdoor trials in other locations. These were fixed wireless trials that would be in centimeter wave (cmWave) and millimeter wave spectrum and use 5G air interface technologies. The tests include beam steering and beamforming. Beam steering switches the antenna signal from beam to beam over a small physical area. Beamforming uses MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) technology to send and receive data using multiple antennas. Both technologies help strengthen choppy wireless signals, which in turn will help increase speed and lower latency.
Operator: Deutsche Telekom
Location: Bonn, Germany
Details: Deutsche Telekom and Huawei demonstrated end-to-end autonomous 5G network slicing. The companies said that this technology will make real-time slicing possible in the radio access network, the data center, and the interconnecting transmission network.
According to Deutsche Telekom, the trial showed that slices can be created in less than a minute. Plus, automating the network slicing can help the operator allocate the right amount of network resources for each individual slice.
Location: Suwon, South Korea
Details: KT said in late October that it completed early 5G testing with Samsung at its campus in Suwon, South Korea. The Korean operator didn’t provide many details about its findings but said that it is working with other operators like Verizon, SK Telecom, and NTT DoCoMo as part of the Open 5G Trial Specification Group to collaborate on a common 5G spec. The operator’s goal is to have a mobile 5G trial at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Operator: NTT DoCoMo
Vendor: Samsung, Huawei
Location: Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, and Yokohama, Japan
Details: NTT DoCoMo completed a 5G trial with Samsung that achieved data speeds of more than 2.5 Gb/s in a vehicle traveling 150 kilometers/hour. The trial, which took place at the Fuji Speedway, used 28 GHz band spectrum. This was one of the first reported mobile tests taking place at a fast rate of speed. According to DoCoMo, no test to date has achieved a successful wireless data transmission to a fast-moving device because of large path-loss of the radio signals. In this trial, MIMO technologies using beamforming were used to over the issues.
DoCoMo also conducted an outdoor data-transmission trial with Huawei in early October in Yokohama, Japan. The trial took place in a field and involved 23 simultaneously connected mobile devices. The trial achieved throughput of 11.29 Gb/s and latency below 0.5 seconds. The trial used 4.5 GHz band spectrum.
Vendor: Nokia, Huawei
Location: Newcastle, Australia
Details: Australian operator Optus is working with Nokia on 5G trials using the 3.5 GHz spectrum. The tests included a 5G radio test bed to demonstrate virtual reality video content as well as low-latency networking for industrial IoT use cases.
Optus is also working with Huawei on a test using the 73 GHz mmWave spectrum. In that test, the companies said they attained speeds of 35 Gb/s.
Operators: Orange and Telefonica
Vendors: Samsung, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Intel, Nokia
Location: Belfort, France
Details: The 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5GPPP) Group created mMAGIC (the millimeter wave-based radio access network for fifth-generation integrated communications) project. The project is designing new concepts for mmWave-band deployments and bringing together vendors such as Samsung, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Intel and Nokia.
The goal is to hold the trials in Belfort, France through the end of the year using spectrum from 6 to 100 GHz.
Vendors: Ericsson, Nokia
Location: San Jose, California; East Rutherford, N.J.
Details: Sprint used the 2016 Copa America Centenario soccer competition in June to showcase its 5G technology trials. The company’s 5G tests demonstrated the delivery of 4K streaming video of the soccer matches at stadiums in San Jose, Calif., and in East Rutherford, N.J.
Operator: SK Telecom
Vendors: Ericsson, BMW
Location: South Korea
Details: SK teamed with Ericsson and BMW to conduct a 5G trial that included a vehicle. The test took place at a BMW test track in South Korea and used network slicing to demonstrate that 5G will support vehicular connectivity (V2X) with bi-directional throughput and low latency.
The test used Ericsson’s 5G field trial network and multiple transmission points with user equipment installed in every car.
Location: Kista, Sweden
Details: Telia and Ericsson conducted a 5G field trial that achieved data speeds of 15 Gb/s and a latency of less than 3 seconds. The test was in the 15 GHz band and used 800 MHz of spectrum. The tests ran on pre-standard 5G equipment. Telia said the trial was an important milestone, because it plans to launch 5G in Stockholm and Tallinn in 2018.
Details: Huawei and Telefonica teamed on what the two companies claim is the world’s first proof-of-concept (PoC) 5G radio access network (RAN) that features a no-cell architecture. The companies tested the technology in their joint 5G innovation lab and found that compared to LTE, the 5G connections per cell increased 233 percent while the overhead signaling decreased 78 percent. In addition, latency decreased 95 percent compared to LTE.
Location: Not available
Details: Telefónica tested Nokia’s XGS-PON fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) technology in its labs as a potential mobile backhaul technology for 5G and for aggregated remote access node traffic. The company said that XGS-PON delivered symmetrical speeds of up to 10 Gb/s, which is faster than current GPON technology that Telefónica has deployed.
Details: T-Mobile announced in September that it is collaborating with Samsung to conduct 5G lab tests. The trials will use Samsung’s advanced beamforming technology and use T-Mobile’s 28 GHz spectrum. The two firms plan to expand the trials in early 2017.
Vendors: Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Apple
Location: Basking Ridge, N.J.
Details: Verizon has been one of the first operators to conduct 5G fixed wireless trials. In May, CEO Lowell McAdam said that the company’s trial in Basking Ridge, N.J., had achieved 1.8 Gb/s speeds. Verizon also said at the time that it had validated several 5G technologies like multiple antenna array processing and carrier aggregation.
Verizon also has been conducting tests using pre-standard 5G equipment. The company released its own 5G specs last summer in conjunction with members of its 5G Tech Forum that it formed in 2015. The group’s goal was to collaborate on some early 5G specifications and contribute those to the 3GPP.
Verizon is also working with operators SK Telecom, KT, and NTT DoCoMo as part of the Open 5G Trial Specification Group to collaborate on a common 5G spec.