Telstra and Ericsson have staged the first public demonstration in Australia of 5G mobile technology, with Telstra saying its early participation in 5G is essential to enable it to ensure that the evolving standards meet Australia’s requirements.
Telstra said in August that it was preparing to conduct trials of 5G technology.
The demonstration was staged outside Telstra’s Global Operations Centre in Melbourne using a 5G base station in the centre and another in the grounds and two prototype user devices – known as user equipment (UE) – one fixed and one in a van driving around the centre’s parking lot.
Using 800MHz of spectrum (10 times the bandwidth used in today’s 4G networks) in the 15GHz band the base stations were able to deliver different 10Gbps data streams to both UEs simultaneously.
Telstra’s chief technology officer, Philip Jones, said it was very important the tests were being conducted in a real-world outdoor environment. “We need to position ourselves to drive the evolution of the technology and the standard to be fit for purpose for Australia,” Jones said.
He added: “We think the capabilities of 5G will be incredibly important for Australia. We see the opportunity to change the way consumers go about their daily lives… and to completely change the way businesses and government operate.
“The other thing that will be particularly important with 5G will be its ability to connect massive numbers of machines and sensor devices and deal with the massive amount of data that will come from those machines and sensors and take real time decision making to a whole new level.”
Telstra’s group managing director, networks, Mike Wright, said: “We believe it is very important to be thinking about 5G now, being involved with 5G now, inputting to the standards so that we and other countries will get some of those benefits and in particular so we can input to the choices that have to be made and get the most out of it.”
Wright said many of the current cellular standards had been developed on the other side of the world with little input from Australia, and little consideration given to Australian requirements. “As a country with one of the largest land masses and some of the highest population densities we have always had some unique requirements.
“When 2G arrived in Australia it had a distance limitation of only 35 kilometres and one of my first jobs was to work on extending that range. It took us about two years. The same happened in 3G. We were the first to extend its range to 200 kilometres, and we are still working on 4G.
“Now, for the first time with 5G we have the technology coming to Australia in time to have some of the Australian requirements fed in. We are involved in the standards body, 3GPP and a number of our recommendations have been accepted.”
Dr Magnus Ewerbring, CTO Ericsson Asia-Pacific, said Telstra engineers were working in Sweden with Ericsson researchers and providing direct input to Ericsson 5G research and product development.
5G is being touted as offering greatly increased bandwidth, the ability to support many more devices and for its low latency: The time taken for the network to carry a signal end to end (although there is physical limit set by distance, current cellular technologies impose delays that will be greatly reduced with 5G).
Wright said: “We know this lower latency will have a huge impact on future gaming and immersive experiences, virtual and augmented reality, and IoT. The results we have seen are extremely promising, particularly at this early stage of the technology.”
There remain a number of hurdles to achieving commercial services by 2020. There will need to be agreements on standards, on spectrum allocations and the chip manufacturers will have to implement the functionality of the fridge-sized UE in silicon so the prototype can be replaced with a handheld device.
The throughput on the demonstration was achieved using a number of technology innovations, in particular 64 way multiple input multiple output (MIMO) and beam forming. The UE and the base station are each equipped with 64 antennas for send and receive, enabling data to be sent on the multiple paths between base station and UE created by reflections from buildings etc.
Wright said: “The concept of beam forming is that the antenna can steer the beam to where the user is so we get a lot more efficiency because we only send energy to where the users are. This is a very important technology.”
Ericsson survey shows most popular 5G applications
Ericsson has surveyed 650 executives globally from the eight key industries most likely to be impacted by 5G: automotive, utilities, public safety, high-tech manufacturing, Internet/digital natives, healthcare, financial services, and media/gaming to determine the most popular applications.
Its finding are published in a report Opportunities in 5G: The view from eight industries. Ericsson says: “High-tech manufacturing and the media industry report the highest levels of disruption from emerging technologies and new entrants. The automotive industry wants 5G to enable new offerings such as enhanced GPS, collision avoidance and connected car technology. Public safety and healthcare executives rate 5G technology as a ‘game changer’ for their industries important to the strategic development of their business.”