Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson and SK Telecom (SKT) completed tests of what they say is the world’s first intercontinental ‘5G’ network, a move which appears to clear the way for enhanced global roaming using the as yet unstandardised technology.

A proof of concept trial of the pre-standard 5G network conducted at R&D facilities in Germany and South Korea used federated network slicing to enable functions of a user’s ‘home’ network to be replicated on an overseas – or roaming – network.

The trial featured communication between a repair worker and colleagues using Augmented Reality (AR), achieved by making network slices from the two operators available on each other’s network.

In a joint statement, the companies explained network slicing in 5G networks will enable operators to configure an end-to-end network capable of delivering pre-defined functions and services.

Federated network slicing for 5G roaming then takes the concept into a “visited” network, enabling operators to provide a global service.

Deutsche Telekom CTO Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, said: “Network slicing is envisaged as a key enabler to support multiple services in the 5G era. Today’s breakthrough shows we can extend that concept to ensure optimised service experiences with global reach for our customers.”

Ulf Edwaldsson, SVP and chief strategy and technology officer at Ericsson, said network slices in a 5G network will be like “virtual networks on-demand”.

SKT CTO Alex Jinsung Choi said the trial is an important step towards ensuring roaming capabilities on 5G networks. “Federated network slicing will enable seamless platform sharing among operators at a global scale for continuous and guaranteed user experience.”

Partner deals
Close cooperation between operators in terms of enhanced partnership agreements will be a key element in providing commercial global roaming on 5G networks via federated network slicing, the companies stated.

Such partner deals should cover network slice availability at the access layer (cellular or fixed line), availability in the core network, and a connection to customer application servers.

The companies said the intercontinental pre-standard 5G trial network and proof-of-concept demonstration is the result of a partnership agreement signed during the MWC Shanghai event in 2016. The trio plan to demonstrate federated network slicing for 5G at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress 2017 event in Barcelona.

While standards body 3GPP is expected to finalise global 5G technology standards in time for initial commercial launches in 2020, many operators and vendors aim to have trial networks up and running in 2018.