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Monday, May 12, 2014

NTT DOCOMO to Trial Ericsson 10Gbps 5G Mobile Broadband Technology in Japan

As reported by ISPreviewThe standard for the next generation of 5G mobile communications technology is still being debated, yet that hasn't stopped telecom giant Ericsson from teaming up with Japanese mobile firm NTT DOCOMO to test its own 10Gbps+ (Gigabits per second) capable solution in Yokosuka; albeit using the 15GHz radio frequency band.

NTT DOCOMO has always been one of the first pioneers of new mobile communication technologies and thus their plan to achieve “ultra-high bit rates” of more than 10Gbps as part of a 5G trial should thus come as no surprise.

Meanwhile Ericsson claims to have developed advanced antenna technologies with wider bandwidths, higher frequencies and shorter transmission time intervals, as well as radio base stations built with base-band units and radio units developed specifically for the 5G trial.
Seizo Onoe, NTT DOCOMO’s Executive Vice President and CTO, said:
5G studies are starting to gain real momentum as we point toward 2020. We appreciate that 5G will provide significant performance enhancements to support future new applications that will impact both users and industry. We look forward to showing the potential of 5G radio access technologies via this experimental trial.”
A quick glance at one of Ericsson’s 5G white papers suggests that their technology would be designed to operate in all sorts of different frequency bands, although it’s unclear why 15GHz has been chosen for the trial. This might be more difficult to implement in the UK / Europe where such frequencies are often already allocated to Satellite, military, point-to-point communications and maritime systems.

Ofcom’s recently published radio spectrum strategy (here) also seems to be focused on much lower frequency bands, which are generally better for coverage but not so good if you want to deliver a lot of capacity (note: high frequency but shorter range gives you the best speeds).

At any rate we've already seen various different so-called “5G” trials from companies like Samsung and Huawei, although as yet these are all just possibilities and the various political or regulator forces will still need to make the ultimate decision about which direction the future technology takes.

Clearly any solution will need to operate at both a lower frequency, to help coverage, and a higher frequency for more capacity, such as in urban areas. But at least everybody seems to agree on the 2018-2020 time frame for introduction. In the meantime, USA/UK based 4G networks are still a long way from reaching their maximum potential of 1Gbps+ via LTE Advanced technology, with only EE currently looking at the next step via summer 2014 trials of 300Mbps+ planned.

In related news the Government of South Korea has committed around £940m ($1.59 Billion) to roll-out its own 5G service, with trials due by December 2017 and a commercial deployment set for 2020. No specific technology choice is mentioned, although local Smartphone giant Samsung has been testing its own unique twist on 5G connectivity using some high frequency bands.

Previously the developed Asian countries have led the way with new mobile services but this time around the UK and Europe have also been trying to steal a march on their rivals. But sooner or later somebody is going to have to choose which standard to use and as before it looks like we might end up with different approaches for different parts of the world.