Optus and Huawei clock 35Gbps speeds in 5G trial

Following in the footsteps of rivals Telstra and Vodafone, Optus has just completed a trial of 5G with Huawei, reaching the fastest speeds in Australia so far -- 35Gbps.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Senior Reporter on

Optus has announced attaining speeds of 35Gbps during a 5G trial with Chinese networking giant Huawei, which they said is the fastest single user transmission rate using 5G so far in Australia.

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.

Optus added that it will next year trial Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) and deploy Coordinated Heterogeneous Network, both of which are precursors for 5G commercial networks.

Optus last month also signed an MOU with networking giant Nokia to collaborate on developing its 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. 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 5G trials are all 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.

Optus and Huawei earlier this year also conducted a live trial of 4.5G network technology, 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 MIMO and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) technologies, for peak download speeds of 1.23Gbps and "theoretical maximum speeds" of 1.43Gbps.

Despite this frantic race to see who can attain the highest speeds over new network technologies, Optus CEO Allen Lew last week said during Optus' financial results call with media that the 25/5Mbps and 12/1Mbps speed tiers are sufficient for the needs of Australian consumers.

"Bear in mind that the bulk of the usage of fixed broadband in the home is for video consumption; I think at this time, depending on the number of computers in the home that are using the fixed broadband, we are seeing that the 25Mbps and 12Mbps in the context of Australia is meeting the needs of our consumer customers by and large," Lew said.

"There are small examples of people who want faster speeds, but I would say they are a significant smaller part of the requirements of residential customers.

"In short, we are seeing within the 12Mbps product and 25Mbps product [are] by and large meeting the needs of the Australian consumers we are putting our product in front of."

News of Optus' 5G trial with Huawei follows Telstra and Ericsson's real-world 5G trial in September, which achieved download speeds of between 18Gbps and 22Gbps using Massive MIMO, which sends multiple channels of data at the same time, allowing users to have peak performances simultaneously. 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 and Ericsson will also 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 likewise last month trialled 5G with networking partner Nokia, demonstrating average combined download and upload speeds of around 4.84Gbps and latency of 2.8 milliseconds by using 8x8 MIMO and 64 QAM technologies in a public lab trial across the 4.5GHz spectrum band, with 200MHz cell bandwidth.


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