PRESS RELEASE: 5.5G has ushered in a new era after two years of exploration in the industry. Beyond its impact in China, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and Latin America, 5.5G has also garnered great attention in Europe. During the recent Mobile World Congress 2024 in Barcelona, Spain, 5.5G was the topic of headlines.

As the large-scale deployment and commercial use of 5.5G approach, consumers are primarily focused on the experience enhancements that 5.5G can deliver compared to 5G.

During MWC24, Huawei and its partners deployed 5.5G 10 Gbps networks in the exhibition hall (Fira Gran Via Hall 1) and at the beach of Barceloneta in Barcelona, Spain, showcasing the excellent performance of 5.5G continuous coverage in urban areas.

Transitioning from 100 Mbps in the 4G era, to 1 Gbps in the 5G era, and then to 10 Gbps in the 5.5G era, the rapid evolution of mobile communication technologies has continuously updated the uplink and downlink rates of networks, heralding profound changes to the economy and people’s lives. Curious about the actual performance of the 5.5G field trial in Barcelona and the innovative technologies behind it? Today, I’m going to reveal all the details to you.

5.5G Continuous Coverage with x Gbps Ultimate Experience

“The straight line belongs to Man. The curved line belongs to God.” — Antonio Gaudi. As the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona is also one of the world’s most popular cities, receiving tens of millions of tourists each year. Here, you can stroll through the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo and Park Guell, and savor local delicacies such as paella, Churro and Jamón.

The most impressive place for me during my trip to Spain was the Barceloneta Beach, a popular spot among locals that truly comes alive during the summer. Due to MWC24, the nearby hotels were overcrowded, and the prices have surged several times higher than usual.

The beach is just near the hotel. The bustling crowd resembles that of a packed concert, making this place a challenging yet ideal location to test the performance of the 5.5G network.

The 5.5G experience journey encompasses the beach of Barceloneta, its surrounding area, and the cruise points nearby. What are the performance results of the 5.5G network? According to the test data of network coverage and service application across the entire areas, the 5.5G continuous networking truly lives up to its name. It truly achieves x Gbps continuous experience anytime and anywhere, which is several times higher than that of 5G.

Specifically, first, in the surrounding areas of the beach, the 5.5G network speed can reach 4 – 5 Gbps.

Second, in the beach area, the 5.5G network speed can reach 3 – 4 Gbps, with 1 km distance from the site.

Third, in moving cars, the 5.5G network speed can reach 4 Gbps when there is a Line of Sight (LOS).

Fourth, in the restaurant nearby, the 5.5G Outdoor to Indoor (O2I) performance can still reach 2 Gbps, although the signal needs to penetrate through the outdoor booth curtain and window glass.

With such a powerful 5.5G network, tourists can enjoy sunbathing and watch the sunset while making HD live streaming and HD video calls freely on the crowded Barceloneta Beach. Isn’t it wonderful?

As a mobile technology blogger who has been deeply engaged in ICT for more than a decade, I felt the work efficiency would be greatly improved with 5.5G. I have captured a lot of videos at this year’s MWC. I need to be able to access the videos edited by my colleagues at any time and share the on-site footage with my colleagues back home. Since the mobile phone’s upload speed is only a few megabytes per second, I struggled with the slow network speed when uploading dozens of gigabytes of videos, which caused significant inconvenience. With 5.5G’s “10 Gbps downlink and 1 Gbps uplink” capabilities, my video downloading and uploading requirements will be seamlessly fulfilled, leading to a significant enhancement in work efficiency.

Breakthroughs in Two Key Technologies Promote the Maturity of the 5.5G Industry

To achieve the ultimate experience of 5.5G, innovative technologies and spectrum resources are required. Among them, the millimeter-wave (mmWave) plays an important role. mmWave is a kind of electromagnetic wave with a wavelength ranging from 1 mm to 10 mm, which features high bandwidth (several GHz or even tens of GHz) and low latency (millisecond-level).

However, the disadvantages of mmWave are readily apparent. For example, its path loss in the air is much more serious than C-band (3.5 GHz), and its ability to diffract and penetrate concrete buildings is notably limited. To address these challenges in mmWave coverage, Huawei has worked with industry partners to apply an innovative methodology that combines simulation iteration with field testing and calibration. This continuously deepens the understanding of the wireless propagation characteristics of mmWave.

Through their relentless efforts, they found that the coverage capabilities of mmWave in reflection scenarios exceed expectations. The abundant reflection paths between tightly spaced buildings in dense urban areas make it possible for mmWave to achieve the coverage of 5.5G. Furthermore, they have also developed methods to enhance penetration through vegetation and glass. Consequently, mmWave can extend coverage to moving vehicles and buildings along the street, maximizing the value of macro base stations deployed and providing a more consistent 5.5G user experience in mobile scenarios.

Meanwhile, Huawei has also made breakthroughs in key technologies such as Extremely Large Antenna Array (ELAA) and Intelligent Beam Management Algorithms (iBeam). With these technological innovations, mmWave can provide ultra-large capacity and continuous coverage in densely populated hotspot areas using existing sites, providing users with ubiquitous and continuous experience in all scenarios.

Breakthrough 1: ELAA enables 5.5G to cover a longer distance. Think of mmWave wireless communications as using a flashlight to illuminate a distant target in the dark. To extend the travel distance of the flashlight beam, a “super magnifying glass” is needed.

ELAA acts as a “super magnifying glass”, which can concentrate and enhance the energy of wireless signals to form a narrow, dense, but powerful group of directional beams, so that 5.5G signals can cover greater distances.

So far, Huawei has gone through three generations of mmWave product iterations. Without changing the engineering parameters such as the volume, weight, and power consumption of the equipment, the HAAU products based on ELAA are developed to build a super “smart transceiver matrix.” By integrating more than 2000 tiny antenna elements, they have not only significantly improved the coverage of 5.5G, but also resolved the challenge of achieving continuous high-frequency signal coverage, which was originally thought to be difficult to achieve.

Breakthrough 2: iBeam solves the problem of inter-cell beam switching. In 5.5G high-frequency communication, narrower refined beams are required to enhance the coverage capability. However, managing hundreds or thousands of beams has always been a challenging issue even in case of a user moving in a cell. Users face difficulty in instantly tracking and consistently maintaining the optimal beam while moving.

Huawei’s iBeam is like equipping an “intelligent targeting system” for 5.5G networks based on the ELAA “super magnifier” as mentioned above. This approach enables the delivery of a consistent x Gbps experience for users at all times by accurately predicting and tracking user movement, utilizing technologies such as historical big data training and AI-based algorithm innovations.

The World Together to Embrace 5.5G Commercialization

5.5G commercial use is perfectly timed, thanks to the breakthroughs in new technologies and the gradual maturation of the ecosystem.

During MWC24, the industry witnessed the first 5.5G 10 Gbps field trial in Europe conducted by Huawei and its industry partners, marking a significant milestone in the development of 5.5G.

In addition, Huawei unveiled its 5.5G series portfolios and their practices, as well as the telecommunication foundation model during MWC24. These advanced products and solutions will further improve the coverage, capacity, and rate of 5.5G networks, providing users with ultimate network experience.

At this MWC24, world-leading operators also reached a consensus that 5.5G will greatly enhance network capabilities in terms of uplink and downlink throughputs, low latency, high reliability, positioning, and passive IoT. They believe that 5.5G will underpin the application scenario of “ubiquitous gigabit experience and hundreds of billions of connections”, and will further expand the space in consumer and industrial IoT markets. This, in turn, will drive the transformation and advancement of society as a whole.

All the elements necessary for 5.5G commercialization are coming together. The first release of 5.5G standards, 3GPP R18, will be frozen in the first half of 2024. In addition, 3CC Carrier Aggregation (CA) networks based on Time Division Duplex (TDD) and Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) multi-band convergence technology have been deployed in a large scale, and the maturity of mmWave and 6 GHz industries is also gaining momentum. On the terminal front, numerous commercial products of mobile phones and CPEs are already available in the market.

In terms of technology, operators are actively engaged in exploring global 5.5G commercial use cases. Their pursuit extends beyond achieving the ultimate experience rate. They are dedicated to driving innovation in FWA, RedCap, IoT, V2X, and many other 5.5G applications across various connection scenarios involving people and things, no matter at homes, in offices, in industry fields, or in vehicles. 2024 is poised to usher in the era of widespread global commercial use of 5.5G.

MWC Barcelona 2024, a milestone in the evolution of 5G, signifies the gradual emergence of 5.5G at the forefront, empowering the whole society and enriching the daily lives of all.