Ericsson has announced it will be conducting live field trials of 5G radio prototypes as early as 2016. Japan’s NTT DOCOMO is currently using Ericsson’s 5G Radio Test Bed and will receive prototypes for field trials next year.
Ericsson noted that as with past mobile generations, leading operators are keen to gain a first-mover advantage in 5G. 5G will impact the entire mobile network and associated eco-system, from devices to radio access, virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) and into the cloud. Commercial deployment of 5G is expected in 2020.
The company argues that this time round operator differentiation will not be based on lab trials but on what they are able to achieve in live network environments., the prototypes are described as being ‘smaller and more powerful’ and the aim is to build on insights gained from testing on Ericsson's 5G Radio Test bed, together with operators, in both indoor and outdoor environments.
The 5G radio prototypes will leverage the technology innovations enabled by the lab-testing and live outdoor and indoor testing from phase one of the Ericsson Radio Test Bed, already deployed in the US, Japan, Korea and Sweden.
These prototypes can integrate with Ericsson's network functions virtualisation (NFV) applications to enable network-wide slicing, which will help address the diversity of 5G network use cases, Ericsson said.
Seizo Onoe, EVP and CTO, NTT DOCOMO, said: "We are pleased to take the next step toward testing in realistic network environment. Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be a great opportunity to propose many different use cases of 5G, which will be launched on 2020. We expect that this would lead to even further opportunities.
“Ericsson's 5G radio prototypes will help us to gain insights into the potential for 5G in our network environment and market, to open up new possibility to enable new services for our customers and partners."
Arun Bansal, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Unit Radio, Ericsson, said: "In order to be ready in such an aggressive time frame, it's high time testing move into real world environments for practical application.
“These new 5G radio prototypes are the size of a carry-on and weigh around 40 lbs. - less than 20 kg. As a leader in standardisation, it's important for us to be able to contribute with hard data rather than just theoretical discussions."
Technologies incorporated in the Ericsson 5G radio prototypes include:
• Multi-User MIMO, enabling Ericsson 5G radio prototypes to address many users with the same spectrum, in one sector of a site.
• Beamforming, key to enabling the Ericsson 5G radio prototypes to support higher frequency bands, driving increased capacity and reduced energy consumption, in typical network environments.
• Advanced antenna design incorporating 128 antenna elements and 64 radio chains in each Ericsson 5G radio prototypes.
Markedly smaller than Ericsson's 5G Radio Test Bed, despite added technology, the new prototype is packed into a compact, easy to deploy form factor, which resembles a carry-on suitcase and weighs roughly 40 lbs. (18 kg).