PARTNER FEATURE: Mobile industry leaders gathered last week at the Global 5G Test Summit with the goal of accelerating the development of a global 5G standard and creating a unified end-to-end ecosystem.
While 5G standards are not expected to be approved until 2020, 25 mobile operators have already announced they are lab testing 5G, which shows the strong global backing for the technology.
The summit, supported by ITU, 3GPP, NGMN, GTI and GSMA and held at Mobile World Congress, brought together experts from across the mobile industry.
The consensus among speakers was that with 5G, which everyone agrees will be very different than previous mobile technologies, it is important to give other industries a taste of what’s coming so they can explore new usage models and applications. Early testing gives verticals the chance to better understand the actual requirements of various applications, making it more realistic for them.
Trials and testing, of course, are needed to ensure full interoperability across the network as well as end-user devices. In addition to debugged issues on the technology side, stakeholders for example need to start working with governments on future regulations.
In the past, testing started only after the standards were finalised, which slowed commercial deployments.
The summit highlighted global operators’ development strategies and plans on 5G testing and trials.
Luke Ibbetson, director of Vodafone Group R&D, explained why it’s so important to build a community to work toward a common standard built upon the foundation of 4G. “We’re starting to see a clear roadmap and that is encouraging. We have to keep ourselves aligned to build scale as rapidly as possible, and resist any attempt at fragmentation, which will slow us down from reaching our goals.”
He noted gigabit speeds will drive higher usage, as we’ve seen in the past with 4G. And 20 per cent to 40 per cent of consumers in many markets are still not using data today.
Wang Xiaoyun (pictured below), general manager of China Mobile’s department of technology and vice-chair of the IMT2020 Promotion Group, said there are three main tasks ahead for the global mobile industry: develop a united 5G standard; push forward trials to validate the key technologies; and establish the overall industry ecosystem.
The end goal, she noted is to accelerate the maturity of the next-generation mobile technology.
She noted the third objective is critical for bringing in vertical partners across many industries. It already has 59 partners in its 5G Innovation Centre.
The industry has made strong progress in key technologies, such as massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and mmWave, with spectral efficiency close to 30b/s/Hz, which is two- to three-times higher compared to LTE, she said.
China Mobile is moving to validation field trials of key technologies and aims to launch phase two product validation trials in 2018. Its goal is to have a commercial launch in 2020.
Magnus Ewerbring, Ericsson’s CTO for APAC, said the discussions at the summit demonstrate the tremendous progress we’ve made on the technology to prepare for a timely launch. “We need to keep up with the global momentum. The 3GPP has done very well.”
He reminded the audience the expectation is that future services running on 5G networks will be 10- to 100-times more demanding than current systems.
Ewerbring echoed Wong’s view on the need for contact with industry verticals, saying the company wants to be educated about their industries to be able to transform their businesses.
Gordon Mansfield, VP of RAN and device design at AT&T, agreed saying the reason for early trials is to get feedback from users, both consumer and business, to validate the technology in various applications. He reminded the audience 5G is not just about mobile, but both fixed and mobile.
Mansfield outlined the US carrier’s 5G initiatives, which include test beds, mmWave 5G trials and channel sounding measurement tests. It has achieved 1Gb/s speeds which he said can go higher, but is currently limited by the backhaul allocated.
Yang Chaobin, president of Huawei’s 5G product line, looked beyond the technology to detail the potential impact of 5G on the global economy. He said 5G has the potential to boost global GDP by 0.2 per cent in 2020, with an additional $200 billion in annual investment created.
Takehiro Nakamura (pictured below), VP and GM of NTT Docomo’s 5G Lab, said it has conducted many trials, achieving 20Gb/s (2 UEs). Its spectrum priorities for 2020 deployment are the 3.4-3.8GHz, 4.4-4.9GHz and 27.5-29.5GHz bands.
Regarding the actual deployment, he said it is discussing how to best deploy 5G, as it would be difficult to do a nationwide rollout in 2020. “We will deploy in areas where high performance is required, and of course around the Olympic facilities in 2020.”
It will gradually expand coverage after 2020, depending on the availability of handsets and access to spectrum bands. It will focus on enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) in the first phase as its current LTE network is used for IoT services, and expects LTE-Advanced to be able to support massive machine-type communication services in the beginning.
The event concluded with the release of a Global 5G Test/Trial declaration which outlines the commitment to promote a unified standard and accelerate the maturity of the 5G industry towards commercial deployment by strengthening cooperation between telecoms operators, vendors and vertical industry partners.
The 14 supporters of the joint statement are mobile operators AT&T, China Mobile, NTT Docomo and Vodafone, and industry partners Huawei, Ericsson, Keysight, MediaTek, Nokia, Intel, Qualcomm, Rohde & Schwarz, ZTE and Datang.