France picks a first XI for 5G mmWave trials

France sets out a series of trials for 5G in mmWave band.

The French comms regulator has announced details of 11 trial 5G projects that will be awarded 26GHz spectrum.

The agency said it had received 15 applications for projects, with 11 getting the nod to go forward. Projects will be awarded 26GHz spectrum for a period of three years. They must have a working network by January 2021 and they must make that network available to third parties.

Arcep said it would be announcing more projects in the coming weeks.

You can read the full list of projects here, but to pick some highlights..

Nokia is named as being involved in four projects, including one at its own R&D centre at Paris-Saclay.  There are no mentions for Ericsson, Huawei, Samsung or ZTE.

Orange is the “host” operator for two projects – one of which is taking place at its own research centre. Bouygues has three projects – two will be sited at business/technical parks (one that will deploy both indoor and outdoor at a business park), and its third trial will be with SNCF at a railway station.

For TMN’s money, the two most interesting looking projects are a joint project at the Grand Port of Le Havre and another in La Defense.

The Port project will test things such as container operations, as well as energy and smart charging grids. It is one of the few to have a specific “vertical” focus. There are several 5G trial or live networks in big Ports but not in mmWave bands as yet. What will mmWave add to these sorts of applications? As well as Nokia the trial involves EDF, Siemens and as the local City authority.

The trial in Paris’ La Defense (an area of modern office and retail buildings – think steel and glass etc) will look at testing out a neutral host model, and won’t be run by a kit vendor or MNO, but by the property owner. The trial will look at siting kit on street furniture and also taking a run at the thorny issue of mmWave indoor coverage. The aim is to deliver “turnkey access to operators that will supply the networks”. Both in terms of performance and market economics, this might be an interesting one to keep an eye on.

Other projects include a mix of the sort enhanced MBB type stuff you might expect – AR apps and super-fast access in places like train stations and museums. Several of the test-bed type projects will be used to validate network performance and invite third party companies in to have a play. Some of these third parties may already be part of industry 5G incubator schemes.