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Ericsson puts 5G towel on Japanese deck-chair

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We don’t know what exactly Ericsson might mean by "5G", since the next generation of mobile wireless internet technologies is still very much in the committee stage, but the Swedish firm is rolling out a trial in Yokosuka, Japan anyway.

Ericsson will be conducting the tests together with Japanese mobile firm NTT DoCoMo, which has always led the way with new technology, but calling what they are doing "5G" does rather seem to be getting ahead of themselves.

The trials are expected to demonstrate impressive data rates of 10Gbps using the 15GHz frequency band, but Ericsson has not gone into any more detail.

It does appear that the Swedish firm is using a metric of "uses a frequency of over 6GHz" as a qualification for 5G.

“A lot of people are trying to influence standards,” comms research wonk Professor Rahim Tafazolli, who heads up the Centre for Communication Systems Research at the University of Surrey, told The Reg.

He added that 5G goes beyond being a cellular network. The prof said he sees a lot of work being done in mesh, particularly in connected cars and machine-to-machine communication, that may one day be part of the standard, but of course that doesn’t work quite so well for a traditional infrastructure manufacturer.

Seizo Onoe, exec vice president and CTO at NTT DoCoMo, says: "5G studies are starting to gain real momentum as we point toward 2020. We appreciate that 5G will provide significant performance enhancements to support future new applications that will impact both users and industry.

"We look forward to showing the potential of 5G radio access technologies via this experimental trial."

Ericsson is keen to point out that this is very much experimental, the Swedish company has developed advanced antenna technologies with wider bandwidths, higher frequencies and shorter transmission time intervals, as well as radio base stations built with baseband units and radio units developed specifically for the trial.

In addition to the new antenna technologies, the outdoor trial in Yokosuka, Japan covers technology areas related to macro/small cell architecture based on the heterogeneous network, broadband communication using the 15GHz mobile band and high-speed, high-capacity transmission.

Ericsson says it is “leading and driving the 5G standards” and that this trial is “exploratory research through pre-standardisation activities along with influential standards bodies and industry groups”. The company has a bullish forecast of commercial 5G deployments “closer to 2020”.

Past experience has shown that announcements of dates for deployments, this far out, have always been wildly optimistic. Professor Tafazolli points out that 5G is about more than just super fast data rates. There will be parts of the specification optimised for low power, low data rates, which he expects to be 100 times more energy-efficient than LTE.

The Ericsson and DoCoMo work will be important in shaping 5G, but it’s more of a stepping stone than an implementation. ®

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