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Telstra, Ericsson to trial 5G network in 2018

Telstra and Ericsson are pushing ahead with 5G development in a Swedish research lab, with the two companies to trial the network during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Queensland.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra and Ericsson have announced overnight at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016 in Barcelona that they will begin a trial run of Telstra's 5G network during the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.

Telstra's team of network engineers will be temporarily transferred to Ericsson's Sweden-based research lab for six months prior to this, 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.

"Australia is distinct in many ways, with an environment and population ranging from densely populated cities to its remote, sparsely populated outback. The environment creates radio coverage challenges that stand out as vastly different to anywhere else in the world," explained Mike Wright, Telstra Group managing director of Networks.

"For this reason, we have a history of developing world-leading, tailored coverage solutions, and our work with Ericsson will ensure that Australia's requirements are built into the radio design parameters of 5G from the ground up.

"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 added that it has already been undertaking 5G trials using high-frequency "mm-wave" spectrum with Ericsson in real-world environments in the Swedish test lab, achieving speeds of over 11Gbps. Field tests within Australia will take place in late 2016.

"We are pleased to support Telstra's evolution towards 5G with the deployment of advanced radio technology (11Gbps, MIMO, and beam forming) and also providing a ready core network with NFV and SDN technologies," said Emilio Romeo, head of Ericsson Australia and New Zealand.

"A 5G-ready core network with virtualisation and SDN not only prepares for 5G, but also provides the flexibility, programmability, and agility needed to efficiently serve today's 4G consumer and enterprise customers with tailored network slices, improved access to media, and compelling IoT solutions."

Telstra and Ericsson used MWC 2015 to announce their 5G network, later confirming its launch by 2020.

The network is expected to provide speeds of up to 10GB per second.

"[5G] addresses the world of an 'Internet of Things'," Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said last year. "You can imagine a world in 2020, where almost anything that could be connected will be connected."

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 announced a demonstration in partnership with Ericsson and Qualcomm of 4x4 spatial Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (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.

"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 Wright.

"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."

Last week, Chinese technology giant Huawei similarly announced that it attained download speeds of 1.41Gbps during a live trial of 4.5G network technology in partnership with Telstra's rival telco, Optus.

The trial, completed last Wednesday in Optus' Gigasite in Newcastle, saw the companies aggregate 5x 20MHz of Optus' unique network frequency bands, combined with 4x4 MIMO and 256 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.

Huawei has also been working with Singapore's third-largest telecommunications carrier, M1, with the pair announcing in January 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.

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.

Telstra also used MWC 2016 to make several other network announcements, including the launch of the world's first 1Gbps commercial network, as well as voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi) and video over LTE (ViLTE) capabilities, LTE-Broadcast developments, and the availability of the new LG G5.

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