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Optus announces 5G rollout for 2019

Optus will begin the rollout of its 5G network early next year for 'key metro areas', as recent tests with network partner Huawei have attained 2Gbps speeds using commercial customer devices.

Optus has announced that it will begin rolling out its 5G network across Australia in early 2019 in an aim to have a fixed-wireless product in "key metro areas".

As a result of the NSA 5G New Radio (NR) specs being approved by 3GPP in December, Optus MD of Networks Dennis Wong explained that Optus can now "increase momentum" on 5G.

"Throughout 2018, Optus is going to lead the Australian market in the development and deployment of pre-5G and 5G technologies," he said.

Optus attained 2Gbps download speeds while using a commercial device in a 5G NR outdoor trial at its HQ in Macquarie Park, Sydney during January in partnership with Huawei, the telco said.

The trial made use of spectrum in the millimetre-wave (mmWave) and 3.5GHz bands, as well as dual-band 5G NR equipment and commercial customer premises equipment.

"By successfully testing commercial-grade customer equipment, we're able to pave the way for Optus to begin testing 5G technologies from a consumer perspective," Wong said.

"We continue to be involved in the fine tuning of the customer equipment with our partner Huawei to ensure that the equipment meets the standards as they are being endorsed."

An mmWave-band 5G network would enable speeds of up to 15Gbps, Optus added.

"Everyone has heard of concepts like self-driving cars, smart homes, AI, and virtual reality; however, their full potential will require a fast and reliable network to deliver. Seeing 5G data speeds through our trial that are up to 15 times faster than current technologies allows us to show the potential of this transformative technology to support a new ecosystem of connected devices in the home, the office, the paddock, and in the wider community," Wong said.

Optus added that it will be hosting a showcase of its 5G technology during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Queensland, including virtual reality (VR) and machine learning applications, and remote-controlled robots.

Telstra is also planning a 5G trial to run during the Commonwealth Games.

The announcement follows Optus' first 5G trial with Huawei back in November 2016, which attained speeds of 35Gbps.

The trial was conducted over the 73GHz millimetre wave spectrum band, using the Polar Code coding mechanism, and was part of Optus' parent company Singtel's memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Huawei.

In September last year, Optus then announced completing Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) trials, telling ZDNet that in a world first, it combined the Massive MIMO technology with three-cell carrier (3CC) aggregation to attain combined throughput of 818Mbps on its 4G network.

"We have combined three-cell carrier aggregation together with the Massive MIMO, so now it's live in the network," Kent Wu, director of Mobile Networks Planning at Optus, told ZDNet.

"We have taken this technology one step ahead, and by using the two technologies combined together, we are the world's first to enable this three-cell carrier aggregation and Massive MIMO in the live network.

"Optus has been at the forefront in the 5G technology development, and also to adapt some of these fundamental 5G technologies to the 4.5G use," Wu added, calling it a "significant milestone for us in the way of leading to 5G".

These trials, part of its previously announced 4.5G expansion, were again conducted alongside Huawei, Wu told ZDNet.

"We worked with Huawei again because we have started off earlier this year with Huawei on the Massive MIMO, and they are the industry leader in terms of this technology," Wu explained.

"So we continued our strategy and worked with Huawei by using their hardware equipment and software to enable this."

Optus also signed a memorandum of understanding with Nokia back in 2016 to collaborate on developing a 5G network, under which it has 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.

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