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EE conducts UK’s first 5G mobile network test

Mobile operator has successfully conducted the first test of an end-to-end 5G network architecture in the UK

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Mobile networking

The UK’s first 5G mobile network has moved a step closer after the successful test of an end-to-end network architecture by mobile network operator (MNO) EE and China’s Huawei.

Conducted at EE’s UK mobile lab, the test environment delivered a consistent download speed of 2.8Gbps and achieved sub-five millisecond latency over a fully virtualised core on commercially available hardware.  

The test used an active antenna unit with 64x64 massive multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) broadcasting 5G new radio (5G-NR) over 100MHz of 3.5GHz test spectrum via Huawei’s proof-of-concept 5G baseband unit.

This architecture is aligned to option three of 3GPP’s Release 15, which is likely to be finalised in December 2017 and ratified in April 2018.

“We are using our experience in cutting-edge 4G technologies and our dedicated partnership approach to ensure technology leadership in 5G,” said Tom Bennett, director of network services and devices at EE. “The network architecture we have proven today is a huge step forward, and will drive our ambitious roll-out timetable to be first for 5G.”

Meanwhile, suppliers and regulators need to do more to facilitate spectrum harmonisation in advance of the deployment of 5G mobile networks around the world, according to a new position paper from Huawei.

In the paper, Huawei said that acting now on spectrum harmonisation would help to ensure more timely deployments and large-scale commercial use of 5G, which is widely expected to debut on a mass scale in 2020.

Huawei is proposing a multi-layer spectrum approach, which it said would have a distinct advantage in terms of meeting the divergent requirements of the various services – from basic consumer voice and data services, to automated vehicles and the internet of things (IoT) – and the different characteristics of the various available frequency bands.

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Huawei defined three different layers: the coverage and capacity layer, which relies on the 2GHz to 6GHz spectrum range, delivers the best balance between capacity and coverage and is likely to emerge as the first band in use for commercial 5G networks; the coverage layer – sub-2GHz – which will enable wider area and deeper indoor coverage; and the super data layer – above 6GHz – which will be more useful in cases requiring extreme capacity and high data rates.

This will require in-depth planning and allocation of spectrum resources if 5G is indeed to be deployed at scale by the early 2020s. In particular, said Huawei, the 5G radio system on the 3.3-3.8GHz band is expected to be commercially ready by 2018, so portions of this spectrum need to be allocated as soon as possible.

“A globally harmonised spectrum enables economies of scale, facilitating cross-border coordination and roaming for end users,” wrote the paper’s authors. “Consistent spectrum timelines and harmonisation measures are key enablers for the success of 5G.”

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