5GIC will have first 5G test bed live by April 2015

The UK-based 5G R&D consortium will be ready to test by April, with a live test bed. There are also claims of technical breakthroughs, and an insight into Huawei's 5G work.

5GIC presser main picSurrey University has said it will play host to the world’s first 5G test bed as the 5GIC kicks into active trials from next April.

The 5GIC project is a consortium of industry vendors, operators and the University – and is designed to develop, test and validate technologies that might be used in future 5G networks.

The idea is to have an open test bed that the 5GIC members and other companies can use to test technologies. Huawei is investing £5 million in the centre and is providing the radio access equipment for the test bed. It will not be a closed Huawei shop, though, with the vendor providing open programmable APIs for the equipment so that other companies can bring technologies of their own to the test bed.

So what will the test bed actually be comprised of? How do you provide a test bed for 5G technologies, when you don’t 5G itself yet?

Luke Ibbetson, head of R&D at Vodafone, one of the operator members of 5GIC (along with EE and Telefonica), said that it would be formed of LTE-A-like technologies to start with, a mixture of macro and picocells deployed across the University of Surrey campus. In time, as technologies emerge more 5G-like tech will be added. Huawei’s CTO Wireless Technology, Dr Wen Tong, said that the test bed would be an “ultra dense” network.

Steve Bowker, representative of another 5GIC partner, Aircom (a TEOCO company), confirmed the open nature of the trial. Aircom is providing its planning and design software package to the trial, and in time wants to provide its assurance and optimisation tech as well.

Fujitsu is providing some underlying infrastructure and its software as a service to support data analytics and automated processing of management and control. Adel Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe said that 5G will be nothing without this critical element of high availability, automated analytics providing network control and optimisation.

Huawei is spreading its R&D dollars across Europe and Asia as it invests in likely candidate technologies for 5G. As well as the Surrey centre it is investing in a live network trial in Munich that is designed to test out industry vertical use cases – the proximity of the car and manufacturing industry in Munich being a big plus in this case.

Dr Wen Tong, CTO Wireless, Huawei Technologies, told The Mobile Network that the company thinks it has already identified a candidate technology that can deal with the differing 5G requirements – low latencies, high throughputs, ability to deal equally with millions of sensors in a cell and a few high bandwidth apps.

That’s likely a reference to a waveform called FBMC, which Huawei is backing so far as a potential waveform for 5G. (Others are not so sure about FBMC, by the way, with the likes of Alcatel-Lucent looking at another technology called UF-OFDM or UFMC.)

“We are looking for a unified technology and a unified network – a foundation to address all needs,” Tong said. “We don’t want a fragmented network.”

Tong also said he thought ultimate standardisation of 5G would happen within 3GPP.

Professor Raheem Tafazolli reiterated a claim, made two weeks ago in Berlin and reported by TMN, that the University had “cracked” the interference problem for massive MIMO in the radio access network, and has a “deployable” technology for enabling 800% greater throughput than 4G and a 14x capacity increase at the cell edge.

As before, he was sketchy on further details but he told TMN to think of the system as not 1000 antennas on a single system, but a networked effect of (say) 10 antennas on 100 remote radio heads, under the command of a Cloud-based controller. That also means you are not looking at devices having dozens of antennas on them – with the spatial limitations that brings.

A bit like Artemis’ PCell, the basic concept seems to be network MIMO, a concept that exploits interference and antenna diversity to increase delivery of the required signal. Responding to a question from Gabriel Brown of Heavy Reading, Rafazolli told a press conference that the Artemis systems requires very accurate synchronisation between base stations and as such “is not scaleable”.

“Our techniques can be implemented today because it is independent of waveform and frequency. Give me 100MHz bandwidth and a few antennas at both ends and we can demo it today. We are planing an early 2016 demo and then we can show you,” he said.

He also hinted at another coming technology – energy harvesting on the device that would enable a device to “self-energise” and therefore greatly extend battery life and make talk time limitations a thing of the past.