Vodafone UK and Ericsson, in partnership with academics at King’s College London, have successfully tested standalone pre-standard 5G using a prototype device in a central London 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum field trial. This is a first in the UK and the initial step in further collaborative work between the three parties. Until now, no one in the UK has shown pre-standard 5G working independently of existing 4G network technologies.
Vodafone will continue to test 5G technology and evaluate opportunities to provide better services to consumers and businesses prior to its commercial deployment from 2020. The live trials will help to establish the innovative uses of 5G services that will benefit both industry and society in the future – in areas such as factory automation, smart energy grids and remote surgery.
Engineers were able to showcase a number of technologies at King’s College London, including Massive MIMO. The technology, which is already being deployed by Vodafone in its network, is the key building block for 5G. Massive MIMO uses multiple antennae to send and receive data more efficiently to boost capacity where lots of people connect to the network at the same time.
The project is also combining or “aggregating” different bands of mobile spectrums across the UK to increase capacity and boost data speeds. By combining four bands of spectrum, for example, Vodafone enables the latest smartphones to achieve data speeds in excess of 500 megabits per second (Mbps). These fast and ultra-reliable technologies are becoming essential for data-hungry video applications and as the Internet of Things (IoT) expands into people’s homes, vehicles and the workplace.
Vodafone UK Head of Networks Kye Prigg said: “We’re delighted to be the first provider to test standalone 5G in the field, however, building a 5G network will take time. Right now, we’re also modernising our network by making smarter use of our existing mobile technology to keep ahead of consumption demands and provide the mobile coverage our customers deserve.
“5G also needs fibre optic cables. Together with CityFibre, we will soon start work installing the advanced fibre networks providing high-capacity backhaul connections required for 5G mobile services.”
Marielle Lindgren, Head of Ericsson in the UK and Ireland, added: “Supporting our customers in making 5G a reality is key for us. This is a live trial in a densely populated central London urban area and the first time in the UK that we’ve been able to show pre-standard 5G working independently. We remain committed to advancing 5G development in the UK, working closely with leading operators and ecosystem players to enable global scale and drive the industry in one common direction.”
Mischa Dohler, Professor of Wireless Communications and Director of the Centre for Telecommunications Research at King’s College London, said: “We are immensely proud to support two of the industry’s biggest names in one of the most exciting technology trials of our era. It is the product of years’ long engagement with both Ericsson and Vodafone, and testimony to King’s incredible research and innovation capabilities. To be the first in the UK to showcase live a technology which will fundamentally change our society for the better, is very humbling. We are very proud that King’s has become a global go-to-place for industries regarding 5G innovation, design and delivery.”
Technical Note to Editors
The field test was conducted with a prototype mobile device both indoors and outside at King’s College London. Based on a proprietary 5G standard with plans to move onto the new global standard when fully ratified, Ericsson’s 5G test bed system operates in the 3.5GHz spectrum band. The trial also showcased advanced 5G technologies including Massive MIMO, beamforming, multi-user MIMO and beam tracking.
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