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Ericsson and ZTE run demos, join the 'my 5G is the real 5G' club

More speed records and roadmaps for a standard that doesn't exist

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Mobile vendors are continuing to jockey for position in a market that doesn't yet exist, with Ericsson and ZTE the latest kit-shippers to give the 5G can a kick.

Ericsson pitched its latest horseshoe in a demonstration at Kista in Sweden, where the company says by using frequencies in the 15 GHz band it was able to run enough spatial streams to achieve 5 Gbps throughput.

Of course, a speed record is what you make it. One of the companies that viewed the Ericsson test, NTT Docomo, made noise in 2013 about 10 Gbps uplinks.

The vendor is coy about the precise technologies involved. In a canned statement it says “an innovative new radio interface concept” and “advanced MIMO technology” did the business, which could mean practically anything.

“Ericsson 5G network development activity includes new antenna technologies with wider bandwidths, higher frequencies and shorter transmission time intervals,” the statement says.

This focus on the air interface puts Ericsson in line with other vendors that have claimed 5G records over the last year. Samsung's gigabit interface demo last year, for example, used 64 antennae running in the 28 GHz band.

Ericsson told Australian telco newsletter Comms Day that the 2cm wavelengths of the 15 GHz band let designers shrink their antennae, therefore packing more of them into a smaller space. That would put a premium on chips that can distinguish such closely-packed spatial streams.

The Register notes with a little amusement that “your country will be an early adopter” is apparently in the Ericsson PR style guide. Here's what Ericsson says in its media release:

“The Ericsson Mobility Report (June, 2014) forecasts that 85 percent of North American mobile subscriptions will be LTE by 2019. This high penetration of LTE indicates that North America could be one of the first regions to adopt 5G.”

What Ericsson told CommsDay sounds quite similar: the company “believes that Australia could easily become an early adopter of 5G when it coalesces into commercial reality”.

ZTE has provided even less detail about what it's got on offer, merely putting about a wire statement (like this) that it's showing off its technologies at the LTE World Summit.

Its “pre-5G concept” makes the claim that “under certain conditions” the air interfaces on 4G terminals “can provide a 5G-like user experience” (presumably code for “it's fast”).

The company's lobbying is, at least, up-front. The Chinese vendor wants the LTE-Advanced CSI-RF (channel state information reference signal) to be modified to support “hundreds of antenna ports”. It's also pitching its vector processors as being able to “meet pre-5G requirements” with a firmware upgrade.

All of which should only add to the considerable media confusion about “5G”, since there is no standard, and technologies that have nothing to do with mobility are being shoved on the 5G train.

Google's recent acquisition of Alpental Technologies is a case in point: the Chocolate Factory acquired the startup in late June, and Alpental's apparent interest in 60 GHz radio systems has magically transformed the buy into variations on “Google enters 5G market” headlines.

5G is, in other words, becoming a Humpty Dumpty term: “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”. ®

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