Operators continue to make headway in 5G development as Orange announced plans to test use cases, Australia’s Optus will conduct a trial with Nokia and the Small Cell Forum (SCF) identified fragmentation as a big risk.

Orange and Ericsson said this morning they will develop 5G use cases and “service scenarios, including technical alignment and external demonstrations.”

Orange said technology building blocks, proof of concepts and pilots across Europe will allow it to “experience 5G services and capabilities from 2017 onwards”.

Use cases include wireless multi-gigabits internet access in suburban and rural environments, massive and mission critical Internet of Things, ultra large mobile coverage solutions as well as connected cars.

The collaboration will also cover 4G to 5G solutions evolution, including energy and cost efficiencies, and use of SDN and NFV technologies.

Alain Maloberti, senior VP at Orange Labs Networks, said: “Our ambition is to be prepared for a 5G deployment in 2020. By joining forces with Ericsson, we will create for our customers a solid network capable of delivering a wide range of services, from greater data speed everywhere to specialised services for cities and industries.”

Back in June, Orange’s deputy CEO Pierre Louette said deployment of 5G could allow operators to get some of the hype back that they had in the early 2000s, particularly as the network is thought to accommodate a range of different verticals and the much-hyped growth in IoT.

Over in Australia, Optus and Nokia will work on a 5G trial using the operator’s 3500MHz spectrum and undertake an early 5G prototype by 2017.

The two have already conducted initial closed tests at Optus’ Sydney headquarters on a new 5G radio test bed using Nokia’s Airscale kit.

The demonstration highlighted 5G speed capability with the delivery of virtual reality video content. It also claimed to have showed ultra-reliable low-latency networking enabling new industrial use cases such as real-time responsive robots.

A trial has also been completed demonstrating the capability of NB-IoT to support the connectivity needs of low-power IoT applications.

Nokia and Optus said they will collaborate on promoting 5G global standardisation and industrialisation, trial new network architectures and demonstrate pre-commercial 5G systems at a “major sporting event”.

Of course, while a number of operators and vendors have announced 5G tests and trials this year and next, the first official release of a 5G standard isn’t expected until mid-2018, with phase two following by the end of 2019 – so the consensus is that commercial 5G launches won’t start until 2020. Widespread deployments of 5G aren’t expected to come until 2022 or later.

Small Cell Forum
Meanwhile, participants in the Small Cell Forum’s (SCF) first dedicated 5G workshop included AT&T, Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, SpiderCloud and Vodafone.

“The best route to protect operators from fragmentation is to achieve harmony in the higher layers of the network, with common specs and APIs to enable unified network management, orchestration, security and applications – whatever the underlying access network,” advised outgoing SCF Chair Alan Law.

The importance of a flexible platform which can support a wide range of use cases was also highlighted, such as AT&T’s plans for high speed fixed wireless, and by contrast, a presentation from Cisco on ultra-low latency smart factory networks.

The forum believes it is ideally placed to provide a blueprint for deployment and a roadmap to the future because small cells are at the heart of operators’ move towards multi-technology, multi-domain, multivendor networks.

Earlier in the year, the forum said small cells will “dominate mobile network infrastructure by 2020” and Law told Mobile World Live it was now becoming “critical for MNOs to take the small cell mentality”.