Deutsche Telekom announced the “first 5G antennas in Europe” are now live, as the operator updated on progress it has made towards its plans to launch the technology in 2020.

In a statement, Deutsche Telekom said the antennas, located in six cells across the city of Berlin,  supported “the new communications standard” and were now operating in real-world conditions on its network.

The antennas are based on the non-standalone 5G New Radio spec (finalised in December 2017). Thanks to the deployment, the company also claimed to have demonstrated “Europe’s first 5G data connection over a live network”.

Huawei is supplying all kit (including terminals).

Claudia Nemat, Deutsche Telekom board member of technology and innovation, said the development represented “the successful integration of commercial 5G technology in our network”.

“We want to ensure that 5G is going to deliver on its promise of enhanced mobility, high speed and low latency,” she said.

Laying 5G foundations
Described as a “5G cluster” in Berlin, the connectivity spans an area up to 5 kilometres wide, and the first six commercial antennas are installed in Berlin’s Mitte and Schoneberg districts for test operations.

Deutsche Telekom plans to install another 70 cells by this summer, across more than 20 sites.

The company’s CTO Walter Goldenits said the “5G cluster” will “serve as the basis for our future commercial 5G rollout in Germany”.

“The antennas are providing important test results,” he said. “At the same time, they are real elements of what will be our future 5G network. We are preparing the ground so that our network will be ready when the first 5G-capable smartphones appear on the market.”

The antennas are using frequencies in the 3.7GHz spectrum band under a testing licence, and the operator’s pre-commercial set up is also enabling “interaction” between 5G equipment and the company’s 4G spectrum.

In a wider update, the company said it is “deeply engaged to make the introduction of 5G technology successful”, with a planned launch in 2020.

But, while Deutsche Telekom does indeed make progress, the company and Europe as a whole is expected to fall behind both Asia and the US in launching 5G, with the latter expected to roll out commercial networks at the end of this year.