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Optus, Huawei attain 1.4Gbps download speeds in 4.5G trial

Huawei is continuing to push the development of gigabit-speed 4.5G mobile networks, having attained download speeds of 1.41Gbps in a trial with Optus.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Chinese technology giant Huawei has announced that it attained download speeds of 1.41Gbps during a live trial of 4.5G network technology in partnership with telecommunications provider Optus.

The trial, completed on Wednesday in Optus' Gigasite in Newcastle, saw the companies aggregate 5x 20MHz of Optus' unique network frequency bands, combined with 4x4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) technologies.

Peak download speeds of 1.23Gbps were achieved during testing over live network conditions, with the two companies adding that the method also has "theoretical maximum speeds" of 1.43Gbps.

Optus said it will continue testing and moving from 4G towards a "4.5G" mobile network before the arrival of 5G in 2020.

"We continue to utilise our network and spectrum assets to test our network of the future and prepare for 5G," said Dennis Wong, Optus Networks acting managing director.

"By 2020, 5G will be here, and we are committed to identify ways to prepare our network to support this new technology and further improve customer experience."

The trial with Optus is a continuation of Huawei's focus on research and development (R&D), according to James Zhao, CEO of Huawei Australia.

"This field trial in Newcastle is a first and important milestone as a direct result of our local investments in R&D here in Australia," Zhao said.

"This joint trial represents a significant advance toward fulfilling Huawei's & Optus' commitment to developing 4.5G technology in Australia."

Huawei has more than 76,000 employees focused on R&D, 16 R&D centres worldwide -- including a AU$30 million National Training and Innovation Centre in Sydney, as well as centres in China, Germany, Sweden, Russia, and India -- and R&D investment amounting to approximately 190 billion RMB ($29 billion) over the last 10 years.

The company invested 14.2 percent of its 2014 revenue in R&D, to which it attributed its revenue of more than $20 billion over calendar 2015.

Optus' parent company Singtel had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on joint R&D with Huawei back in 2014.

Despite this, Huawei has also been working with Singtel rival and Singapore's third-largest telecommunications carrier M1, with the pair announcing last month that they attained 1Gbps download/130Mbps upload speeds across M1's 4G mobile network in Singapore.

The trial was conducted inside of M1's LTE Advanced test lab, and attained through the combination of four network technologies: 4x4 MIMO; two-component carrier (2CC) uplink carrier aggregation; 3CC tri-band downlink carrier aggregation; and Higher Order Modulation 256 QAM.

The two companies used commercially available hardware as well as a prototype CAT14 Huawei device for the trial.

"Through technology innovation, we can further stretch the capability of current 4G technology, prior to the advent of 5G technology, to achieve an incredible peak download speed of more than 1Gbps," said M1 CTO Denis Seek.

"With more customers uploading and sharing content on social media and other channels, it is equally important to ensure we can deliver higher upload speeds. For this reason, we are also testing technology to deliver increased mobile upload speeds, to ensure we can meet their expectations."

Optus' rival telco Telstra last year attained 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 followed this up by announcing a demonstration in partnership with Ericsson and Qualcomm of 4x4 spatial MIMO combined with 256 QAM, which it claimed had established the foundation for commercial network download speeds of up to 1Gbps.

For the experiment, the companies combined 4x4 MIMO with 256 QAM using the Qualcomm Snapdragon X12 LTE modem, Ericsson Networks Software 16B for LTE, and Telstra's commercial network.

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.

"We are constantly looking to enhance our customers' user experience, and 4x4 MIMO will be an important addition to our mobile network speeds and capacity," said Mike Wright, Telstra group managing director of Networks.

"This next step in device evolution, achieved by Ericsson and Qualcomm, shows 4x4 MIMO with 256 QAM in combination. This brings us even closer to offering 1Gbps capabilities to our customers."

Gigabit-speed fixed broadband is also under development, with Huawei announcing in January that it will upgrade Denmark's fixed network to deliver download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second by the end of 2017.

Under a deal with Tele Danmark Communications (TDC), Denmark will become the first nation to upgrade a broadband network in its entirety to Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) 3.1 Giga Coax technology, with the upgrade to begin in June 2016.

Denmark was also the first country in Europe to have a DOCSIS 3.0 network deployed, which was installed by incumbent multi-service operator TDC.

Denmark's new DOCSIS 3.1 Giga Coax network implements orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM), which carries data on multiple parallel data streams to increase transmission by 50 percent in comparison to DOCSIS 3.0.

Existing coaxial cables can be upgraded to DOCSIS 3.1 to offer bandwidth of up to 10Gbps down and 2Gbps up.

According to Zha Jun, president of Huawei's Fixed Network Product Line, the Chinese company has been dedicating research and development resources to DOCSIS 3.1 networks since 2012, with the goal of modernising fixed-line networks to compete with FttP networks.

"Huawei's cooperation with TDC and other industry players to build industry-leading Giga Coax networks will greatly promote DOCSIS 3.1 commercialisation worldwide, and help establish a mature industry ecosystem," Zha Jun said.

Australia's National broadband Network (NBN) is also pushing the development of 1Gbps-capable broadband networks, earlier this week hailing new technology unveiled by worldwide hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) technology standards group CableLabs.

"Although it is still very early days, the arrival of Full Duplex DOCSIS 3.1 is extremely exciting news for NBN, and a real game-changing moment in the ultra-fast broadband market," said NBN CTO Dennis Steiger.

"We will be working closely with CableLabs to track the development of this technology, and are excited about the potential this offers for the 4 million premises that will receive their NBN services via our HFC network.

"Previously, it was only possible to deliver multi-gigabit symmetrical broadband if you deployed an FttP network -- but HFC is now right up there in terms of being able to deliver these kinds of speeds.

"We now have the pathway to deliver these ultra-fast symmetrical speeds to our HFC end users both very cost effectively and far more conveniently than we could if we had to deliver fibre all the way to their homes."

According to NBN, DOCSIS 3.1 will work across both Telstra and Optus' HFC networks, despite a leaked draft from NBN revealing in November that Optus' HFC network is "not fully fit for purpose", with 470,000 premises in the footprint needing to be overbuilt by either Telstra HFC or fibre services.

A Q&A on DOCSIS 3.1, published on the website of Australian Communications Minister cum Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a year ago said the technology would be coming to the NBN HFC network by 2017.

"We plan to run DOCSIS 3.1 trials in 2016 and we plan to have DOCSIS 3.1 services commercially available in 2017," Turnbull wrote.

"Bringing DOCSIS 3.1 on board is the cherry on the cake that will give us even more capacity and really make sure that there is plenty of bandwidth for everyone on the network to have a great experience."

In October, NBN announced that it had conducted a trial of G.fast fibre-to-the-basement (FttB) technology, attaining throughput speeds of 800Mbps.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Alcatel-Lucent's research arm Bell Labs announced in November that ongoing testing of its 6x6 MIMO system could see the company attain speeds of 1 petabit per second in time for the arrival of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT).

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