Telstra trialling 5G on Ericsson's radio test bed in September

Ahead of its 5G trial run in 2018, Telstra will use Ericsson's radio test bed to test 5G capabilities next month.

Telstra has announced that it will be conducting 5G field tests using network technology giant Ericsson's radio test bed in September in order to examine 5G capabilities in a real-world network environment.

Specifically, Telstra will use the 5G trial system to test network speeds; latency; Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO), which allows for several antennas to carry data between the end user and the network, improving capacity and therefore overall performance; and beam-steering technology.

"The demonstration will also test beam-steering technology, where the beam-steering antenna array tracks your location and directs a mobile signal straight to your device rather than sending it out in all directions or to a particular sector as it does today," Telstra Networks group managing director Mike Wright explained in a Telstra Exchange blog post.

"The advantage of beam steering is that the mobile signal to each user is optimised with less interference resulting in better network performance and more capacity."

5G will enable new machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) use cases, including medical procedures; self-driving cars; autonomous drones; and automation, process control, and monitoring in the mining, transport, and agriculture industries.

Wright said that Telstra is also "contributing to the international 5G industry standards" and collaborating with Ericsson's 5G research division.

"We've been embedding Telstra employees into Ericsson's 5G Research teams in Sweden to develop the 5G radio channel models and to train our engineers on the fundamentals of 5G radio operations," Wright added.

Recent tests in Ericsson's 5G lab have seen Telstra attain download speeds of more than 20Gbps.

Telstra is also updating its core network with network function virtualisation (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) technologies to enable network slicing and flexible configuration so that it is ready for 5G in 2020.

Telstra and Ericsson in February announced that they will conduct a trial run of Telstra's 5G network during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, with Wright saying on Thursday that planning for the trial is under way.

Under the deal, Telstra's team of network engineers will be temporarily transferred to Ericsson's Sweden-based research lab for six months prior to the Commonwealth Games in order to collaborate on collecting data and building the mathematical models of radio signals to be used for 5G radio spectrum.

The engineering teams will then use this data to develop radio models for the Australian network environment as part of the international 5G standardisation process.

"Our work with Ericsson will ensure that Australia's requirements are built into the radio design parameters of 5G from the ground up," Wright said at the time.

"Building on the work we do in Sweden and in the 5G standardisation process, we will be able to test and exercise a wide range of features, services, and network functionality at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast, Australia. We will also use the Ericsson 5G test bed to investigate use cases for massive MIMO and beam forming."

Telstra and Ericsson in 2015 announced their 5G network, later confirming its launch by 2020.

Telstra has also been working on improving its 4G network in the lead-up to 2020, last year attaining 1Gbps 4G mobile speeds with Ericsson during live commercial 4G mobile trials by aggregating five spectrum bands.

During the test, 100MHz of spectrum was aggregated across the 700MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, and 2600MHz (2x 20MHz) bands, and delivered to a Cobham Aeroflex TM500 mobile device.

Telstra then announced a demonstration in partnership with Ericsson and Qualcomm of 4x4 spatial MIMO combined with 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), which it claimed had established the foundation for commercial network download speeds of up to 1Gbps.

The combination currently achieves peak downlink data speeds of up to 380Mbps, but the technology is expected to reach download speeds of 1Gbps in the future.

The companies noted that 4x4 MIMO with 256 QAM should be supported on smartphones from 2016.