SoftBank partners with ZTE on 5G trials

Japanese carrier SoftBank will conduct its first 5G trials with Chinese company ZTE using the sub-6GHz spectrum band at 4.5GHz in Tokyo.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Chinese telecommunications technology solutions provider ZTE has announced signing a partnership with Japanese carrier SoftBank to trial 5G over sub-6GHz spectrum at 4.5GHz across Tokyo.

SoftBank, which last week announced that it would buy robotics company Boston Dynamics from Google parent Alphabet, will trial 5G using ZTE's 5G network solutions in real-world conditions throughout metropolitan areas of the Japanese capital.

ZTE and SoftBank have been collaborating on pre-5G technology research and development including Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (Massive MIMO) technology, with the partnership now expanding to include 5G New Radio (NR).

"We have a long-term partnership with SoftBank in key 5G technologies such as Massive MIMO, and we are pleased to expand that work to accelerate 5G NR readiness," ZTE chief scientist Dr Xiang Jiying said.

"We are confident that ZTE will be one of the first vendors to deliver end-to-end 5G solutions."

ZTE announced its plans to release 10Gbps-capable 5G millimetre-wave (mmWave) and sub-6GHz base stations that are compliant with 3GPP and 5G NR standards and identified spectrum bands back in February.

At the time, ZTE also announced attaining 4G peak speeds of 2.6Gbps during a demonstration of Massive MIMO technology across frequency-division duplex (FDD) LTE, as well as connecting eight 4G terminals simultaneously.

The Chinese company unveiled its patented FDD-LTE Massive MIMO solution, powered by its MSC2.0 vector processing chip, at the end of last year after trialling it with China Unicom and China Telecom.

ZTE also launched its modular 5G IT baseband unit with Intel in February, which is compatible over 2G, 3G, 4G, and pre-5G networks thanks to the use of software-defined networking (SDN) and network-function virtualisation (NFV) technologies, and supports cloud-radio access networks, distributed-RAN, and 5G central and distributed units.

While Massive MIMO has been commercially deployed on SoftBank's 4G network since last year, its Tokyo trials with ZTE will be its first efforts in testing 5G.

By comparison, rival Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo in November concluded a field trial of 5G with Chinese networking giant Huawei, attaining 11.29Gbps throughput speeds and latency of less than 0.5 millisecond.

NTT DoCoMo's large-scale field trial was conducted in Yokohama Minato Mirai 21 District over the 4.5GHz spectrum band as part of an MOU signed with Huawei back in December 2014.

Huawei said the two companies are continuing to test Massive MIMO; mixed numerology using filtered OFDM (f-OFDM); and combined performance of Sparse Code Multiple Access (SCMA), Polar Code, and f-OFDM in Japan.

"Our success in 5G large-scale field trial in the 4.5GHz band brought the whole industry one step closer to 5G commercialization by 2020," Takehiro Nakamura, vice president and managing director of NTT DoCoMo's 5G lab, said last year.

"DoCoMo and Huawei have been expanding their collaboration on 5G from R&D to international spectrum harmonization initiatives for 5G since December 2014. Together with Huawei, we will continue to promote 5G both from technical and ecosystem perspective."

NTT DoCoMo has also partnered with Nokia on 5G technology, conducting a trial at the beginning of last year that saw them attain download speeds of 2Gbps across 70GHz mmWave spectrum.

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