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Vodafone Australia and Nokia attain 5Gbps speeds in 5G showcase

Following Telstra and Ericsson's live 5G trial last month, Vodafone and Nokia have demonstrated 5G use cases during a live trial of the network technology at UTS.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Vodafone Australia has demonstrated throughput speeds of up to 5Gbps in a public lab trial at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in partnership with network technology giant Nokia and the university.

In what the companies called "the first public showcase of 5G capabilities in Australia", Nokia and Vodafone attained average combined download and upload speeds of around 4.84Gbps and latency of 2.8 milliseconds by using 8x8 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) and 64 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) technologies.

The lab trial, announced by Vodafone Australia CEO Inaki Berroeta in August, was conducted across the 4.5GHz spectrum band, with 200MHz cell bandwidth.

Jeff Owen, head of Wireless Strategy at Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), called 5G a "technology enabler", saying it will be closely associated with several complementary technologies that will allow what Nokia Oceania head Ray Owen labelled "extreme broadband".

"[5G] will be accompanied by another four types of convergent technologies ... cloud computing, mobile edge computing, network function virtualisation, and network slicing," Vodafone's Owen said on Wednesday morning.

The move to 5G marks a shift from legacy hardware-defined networks to software-defined networks, he added.

"We will see the core part [of the network] decentralised and moved out towards the towers, and we will see the equipment in the mobile phone towers become increasingly centralised and in many ways be collocated with the core equipment," he said.

Vodafone lauded its non-exclusive academia-based partnership with UTS, saying it has enabled the companies to make use of the extensive research being conducted at the university.

"VHA is scoping out a partnership with UTS so that we can accelerate and we can properly prepare our 5G vision," Owen explained.

"UTS is the leading Australian university for 5G research, it is a hub for that technology, and we've taken a keen interest in their research into advanced radio, into antenna systems, we'll take an interest in their capabilities in software-defined networks, and also we're aware that they have a test bed planned for next year."

Vodafone Australia's parent company similarly attained 20Gbps peak rates during an outdoor 5G e-band field test with Huawei in the United Kingdom in July.

The test covered a single-user MIMO with a strong reflection path to reach 20Gbps user equipment (UE) peak rate, and multi-user MIMO for long-range UE to reach a 10Gbps peak rate.

Vodafone's public 5G trial followed Telstra and Ericsson's first live 5G trial in Australia last month.

Telstra and Ericsson achieved download speeds of between 18Gbps and 22Gbps, with the trials conducted in a real-world outdoor environment using Ericsson's 5G radio test bed in September.

The 20Gbps speeds were split between two mobile devices, with each one getting around 10Gbps download speeds thanks to the use of Massive MIMO, which sends multiple channels of data at the same time, allowing users to have peak performances simultaneously.

In addition, 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 said 5G will provide a boost in capabilities to take technologies like LTE-broadcast and narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) to their second stage of evolution.

"Our vision for 5G for Australia is really important; we really see the opportunity to not only change the way we as consumers go about our daily lives, but in particular the capabilities that come with the extra capacity, speed, lower latency, and the special use case that comes with 5G to see a whole lot of opportunities to completely change the way businesses, governments, and particular industries operate, and really quite significantly so," Philip Jones, acting CTO of Telstra, said at the time.

"Many of the technology advancements that will come with 5G will actually enable the use cases that while they exist today in the fixed world, will be able to be in the mobile world."

Telstra and Ericsson in February announced that they will 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.

Last week, rival telecommunications provider Optus also announced signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with networking giant Nokia to collaborate on developing its 5G network.

As part of the deal, Optus and Nokia have undertaken closed lab tests using Nokia's 5G radio test bed on its Airscale product, as well as 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 trials were 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 last week.

"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 also looking into trialling its 5G network at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.

"Nokia is at the forefront of 5G research and standardisation and has taken huge strides in bringing this technology closer to reality," Ray Owen said at the time.

"We have a number of ongoing 5G innovation projects with operators around the world, and we hope to bring the same commitment to our partnership with Optus and Singtel. Our experience and expertise in this area will go a long way in setting a strong foundation for Optus in Australia."

Optus earlier this year also conducted a live trial of 4.5G network technology in partnership with Chinese technology giant Huawei, 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 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.

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