Nokia looking to build 5G test network in north Finland

The company could start trialling early 5G in Oulu from as soon as next year.
Written by Eeva Haaramo, Contributor
A view out towards Oulu, the potential site for a Nokia 5G test bed. Image: Shutterstock

While 5G may be years away from standardisation, Nokia is currently considering the possibility of building an early network in the north of Finland.

"We are evaluating the possibility of participating in a 5G test bed in Oulu, focusing among other things on LTE evolution," Lauri Oksanen, VP of technology and research at Nokia Networks, said.

"Although 5G research is well under way, 5G is not yet defined or standardised and will become available only in the next decade (from 2020). However, it is clear that LTE/LTE-Advanced will be part of 5G."

According to Finnish broadcaster YLE, the plans were discussed at the innovation event Northern Glow in Oulu, a city in the north of Finland, last Friday and a team is currently evaluating the viability of the project. A formal decision will be made later in the autumn and if it gets the go ahead the building of the test network could start in early 2015, YLE said.

"This is the very initial phase and so schedule and resources are open," Oksanen said.

The possible 5G test bed is much needed positive news for the city of Oulu, which has been battling with the aftermath of Microsoft layoffs and the closing down of a former Nokia R&D unit in the city. The City of Oulu will participate in the network project alongside University of Oulu and the Finnish Technical Research Centre VTT .

Initially Nokia plans to use the 5G test network to trial and develop LTE and LTE-Advanced radio access technologies.

"More specifically, we could use our LTE small cell products as a precursor to very dense 5G small cell networks," Oksanen said.

"5G peak data rates will exceed 10Gbps, with user data rates greater than 100Mbps even under high load conditions or at the cell edge. The test bed is planned to start with LTE and typical LTE data rates of 150Mbps, depending on the spectrum that can be used in the network."

Fifth generation networks are still very much in the research stage but are expected to improve wireless area capacity by 1,000 timesand reduce energy consumption by up to 90 percent. In real world use, 5G's peak data rate of 10Gbps would translate to speeds around 10 times faster than most current 4G connections. 

Booming 5G research

Although no commercial deployment or concrete specifications for 5G are expected until around 2020, governments and companies are putting substantial R&D muscle into the development of 5G technologies.

Among others, Huawei announced last November a $600m boost into its 5G research while Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia are among the six mobile operators participating in a trial of 5G technologies across a range of frequencies coordinated by the Japanese carrier NTT Docomo. In June, EU and South Korea also joined forces to start a joint research group for 5G system development and standardisation. 

"The user demand for a better mobile broadband experience and the increasing machine-to-machine communication are pushing the industry to figure out how networks can be readied to meet future extreme capacity and performance demands. 5G will be the set of technical components needed to handle these requirements," Oksanen explains.

"4G, however, will be able to address the data growth needs until the end of this decade and will form an important part of the future radio access."

In further collaboration news, on Monday Nokia announced the launch of a new unit focusing on partnerships. As part of the unit, Nokia will open up some previously internal APIs to allow its partners and potentially also competitors to plug in their hardware or software modules.

"This will encourage true cross-industry innovation in a way not seen before. Operators will also be able to easily implement their own innovations, something that closed interfaces make difficult," Oksanen said.

"We expect that in 5G, along with the development in network function virtualisation and SDN, the networks will be much more programmable than today and our API initiative is leading the way," he concluded.

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