Optus and Nokia announce 5G collaboration

Optus will take part in the 'global race' for 5G through a new partnership with Nokia, which will see the companies kick off a 5G prototype trial next year.

Optus has announced signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with networking giant Nokia to collaborate on developing its 5G network.

As part of the deal, Optus and Nokia have undertaken closed lab tests using Nokia's 5G radio test bed on its Airscale product, as well as narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) tests. The two companies will also conduct a trial of a 5G prototype across Optus' 3500MHz spectrum band by 2017.

Tay Soo Meng, group CTO of Optus' parent company Singtel, said the trials were part of the "global race" towards the new network technology.

"There is a global race to explore and develop 5G technology, and in Australia, Optus is well positioned to lead in this space with our ownership of 3.5GHz, and close partnerships with our vendors including Nokia," Tay said.

"Through this partnership, the commencement of joint studies, and in-lab and in-field testing, we are primed to explore this technology. As we look ahead, Optus will explore new network architectures and use case trials with a specific 5G focus."

Tay added that Optus is readying its core and transport networks with network function virtualisation (NFV) and cloud infrastructure, and will demonstrate pre-commercial 5G systems at an upcoming "major sporting event". ZDNet understands that Optus is looking into trialling its 5G network at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.

Singtel, part of the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance, will also have input into the development of 5G standards globally, as will Nokia, which is part of the 3GPP group.

"Nokia is at the forefront of 5G research and standardisation and has taken huge strides in bringing this technology closer to reality," said Ray Owen, head of Nokia Oceania.

"We have a number of ongoing 5G innovation projects with operators around the world, and we hope to bring the same commitment to our partnership with Optus and Singtel. Our experience and expertise in this area will go a long way in setting a strong foundation for Optus in Australia."

Optus earlier this year also conducted a live trial of 4.5G network technology in partnership with Chinese technology giant Huawei, attaining download speeds of 1.41Gbps.

The trial, completed in February in Optus' Gigasite in Newcastle, saw the companies aggregate 5x 20MHz of Optus' unique network frequency bands, combined with 4x4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) technologies.

Peak download speeds of 1.23Gbps were achieved during testing over live network conditions, with the two companies adding that the method also has "theoretical maximum speeds" of 1.43Gbps.

News of Optus' collaboration with Nokia follows Telstra and Ericsson's 5G trial last month.

Telstra and Ericsson achieved download speeds of between 18Gbps and 22Gbps during the first live trial of 5G in Australia, with the trials conducted in a real-world outdoor environment using Ericsson's 5G radio testbed in September.

The 20Gbps speeds were split between two mobile devices, with each one getting around 10Gbps download speeds thanks to the use of Massive MIMO, which sends multiple channels of data at the same time, allowing users to have peak performances simultaneously.

In addition, a moving vehicle achieved download speeds of between 1Gbps and 6Gbps thanks to the use of beam-forming technology, in which antenna arrays steer a beam to where a user is.

Telstra said 5G will provide a boost in capabilities to take technologies like LTE-broadcast and narrowband IoT to their second stage of evolution.

"Our vision for 5G for Australia is really important; we really see the opportunity to not only change the way we as consumers go about our daily lives, but in particular the capabilities that come with the extra capacity, speed, lower latency, and the special use case that comes with 5G to see a whole lot of opportunities to completely change the way businesses, governments, and particular industries operate, and really quite significantly so," said Philip Jones, acting CTO of Telstra.

"Many of the technology advancements that will come with 5G will actually enable the use cases that while they exist today in the fixed world, will be able to be in the mobile world."

Telstra and Ericsson in February announced that they will conduct a trial run of Telstra's 5G network during the Commonwealth Games, with Telstra's team of network engineers temporarily transferred to Ericsson's Sweden-based research lab as part of the deal.

The two companies in 2015 announced their 5G network, later confirming its launch by 2020.

Vodafone Australia is likewise slated to conduct lab trials of 5G on its network in partnership with Nokia next week, with CEO Inaki Berroeta saying IoT is a major driver of investing in the technology.

Vodafone UK in July attained 20Gbps peak rates during an outdoor 5G e-band field test with Huawei.

According to Huawei, the test covered a single-user MIMO with a strong reflection path to reach 20Gbps user equipment (UE) peak rate, and multi-user MIMO for long-range UE to reach a 10Gbps peak rate.

Updated at 3.50pm AEDT, October 7: Added comment about Optus looking into trialling its 5G network at the Commonwealth Games.

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