Major International 5G Trials and Pilots

USA, Japan, South Korea and China are the leading countries in terms of 5G readiness. A number of Gulf countries claim to have launched 5G mid-2018.

The most advanced countries in terms of 5G trials and pilot tests are the USA, China, Japan and South Korea.

Worldwide 5G commercial launch is expected in 2020, meanwhile, many operators have implemented live demonstrations in sports events such as:

  • Korea Telecom in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang (in February 2018),
  • Verizon in the super bowl game in the New York City (in February 2018)
  • Telstra at the  Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Queensland in Australia (April 2018).

The next large event of this type is planned for Summer Olympics and Paralympic games in Tokyo (in 2020) were 5G will be demonstrated by NTT DoCoMo, Huawei and Tobu Railway.

USA

AT&T has suggested a commercial launch by the end of 2018. Verizon is expected to launch fixed wireless services in 2018. T-Mobile plans to start deployments in 2019 with a nationwide deployment by 2020. Sprint is suggesting a commercial launch late in 2019.

China

China Mobile is currently trialling pre-comercial 5G and targetting 5G commercial services to be launched by the end of 2019. China Unicom and China Telecom are targeting 2020 for commercial services.

Japan

KDDI, Softbank and NTT DoCoMo are targeting commercial launch by 2020.

South Korea

South Korean MNOs displayed 5G at the Winter Olympic Games in early 2018. Their initial plan for commercial 5G launch was 2020, but KT, SK Telecom and LGU+ now plan the launch of coordinated 5G commercial services in March 2019.

Europe

First 5G commercial services will appear in 2019 and commercial large-scale introduction is targeted for 2020.

Gulf Countries

Qatar and UAE both claim to be the world firsts to have launched 5G. Without any 5G device available, it appears to be a 5G infrastructure demonstrator rather than a full commercial launch.

The United States is a well advanced country in terms of 5G. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is pursuing a comprehensive wireless strategy. Clearing 11 GHz of high-band spectrum for 5G was one of its first action in favour of 5G as early as 2016. In 2016, it announced a 400 million USD funding dedicated to research on 5G.  It now intends to make more mid-band spectrum available.

Concerns about cyberattacks from China resulted with an attempt from the Trump administration to build a secure 5G network (possibly under government control). The FCC and the wireless industry have pushed these attempts back.

5G Americas is the strong arm of 5G at regional level (partnership agreements with major standardisation bodies and wireless entities).

Spectrum issues

The FCC voted in 2016 for the release and development of nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum intended to be used for fixed and mobile broadband bandwidth uses: 3.85GHz to be allocated under licenses in the bands 27.5-28.35GHz and 37-40GHz and 7 GHz, under general authorization, in the band 64-71GHz.

As the 28 GHz auction is about to be held, the FCC is considering clearing mid-band spectrum.

 

  • July 2016: the FCC made available a total of 10.85 GHz in the 28 GHZ (27.5-28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37-38.6 GHz), 39 GHz (38.6-40 GHz) and an unlicensed band at 64-71 GHz.
  • November 2017: the FCC made available an additional 1700 MHz of high band spectrum for flexible terrestrial wireless use in the 24 GHz (24.25-24.45/24.74-25.25 GHz) and 47 GHz (47.2-48.2 GHz) bands.
  • March 2018: the FCC announced that it would like to held auctions of the 28 GHz and 24 GHz bands by the end of the year (November 2018 for the 28 GHz auction).
  • June 2018: the FCC voted to proceed with making the upper 26 GHz (25.25–27.5 GHz) and 42 GHz (42–42.5 GHz) bands available for 5G services, while examining further aspects of the bands already in the 5G pipeline.
  • July 2018: the FCC is considering options for up to 500 MHz of spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 GHz frequencies. Satellite companies currently use the frequencies.

Trials and Strategies towards 5G

AT&T

Since early 2017, AT&T has been performing fixed wireless & mobile 5G trials; The company works with partners such as Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, and Intel. After Austin, TX, AT&T expended trials to Waco, TX, Kalamazoo, MI and South Bend, IN. AT&T observed results above expectations:

Waco, TX
  • Provided 5G mmWave service to a retail location more than 150 meters away from the cell site and observed wireless speeds of approximately 1.2 Gbps in a 400 MHz channel.
  • Observed latency rates at 9-12 milliseconds.
  • Supported hundreds of simultaneous connected users using the 5G network.
Kalamazoo, MI
  • Observed no impacts on 5G mmWave signal performance due to rain, snow or other weather events
  • Learned mmWave signals can penetrate materials such as significant foliage, glass and even walls better than initially anticipated.
  • Observed more than 1 Gbps speeds under line of sight conditions up to 900 feet.
South Bend, Indiana
  • Observed a full end-to-end 5G network architecture, including the 5G radio system and core, demonstrating extremely low latency.
  • Successfully provided gigabit wireless speeds on mmWave spectrum in both line of sight and some non-line of sight conditions

AT&T plans to launch 5G mobile services to 15 cities or population centers by the end of 2018, including Dallas TX, Atlanta GA, Waco, TX, and Charlotte, NC, Raleigh, NC and Oklahoma City. AT&T remains reserved about 5G FWA.  AT&T is expected to launch 5G with a mobile “puck” as first device: at the January conference call on company earnings, CEO Randall Stephenson said:  “It’s not going to be a handset, because handsets just aren’t available, think of this as a puck”.

Verizon

Since 2017, Verizon has been testing mmWave 5G service in 11 cities (in Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville, Brockton, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle, and Washington, DC.).

FWA is the major use case for 5G at Verizon. The company plans to have an initial fixed wireless broadband commercial launch by the end of 2018 in 3 to 5 American cities including Los Angeles, Boston and Sacramento.

Mobile 5G could follow FWA 5G introduction within a half year. Verizon is expected to use CPE units and home routers from Samsung and the Motorola Mod Z3. Data speeds of several Gbps have been achieved, dropping fast to several hundred Mbps at distances of 2000 feet. Verizon mentioned operating in high-frequency bands would not require LOS (Line-Of-Sight).

Sprint

Sprint, which could merge with T-Mobile US later in 2018 or 2019, disclosed a number of target markets ahead of its planned commercial launch in the first half of 2019. In February 2018, it named Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington DC as its initial wave of mmwave 5G markets. Additional markets were revealed in May 2018, including New York City; Phoenix, AZ and Kansas City.

In June 2016, Sprint demonstrated a 5G trial using 73 GHz frequencies. This 5G trial was coordinated with Nokia. Peak download speeds delivered reached 2Gbps. Attendees experienced a live, highly responsive, streaming virtual reality (VR) system, as well as live streamed video in 4K ultra HD.

T-Mobile USA

T-Mobile announced to target mobile 5G launch by 2020 in 30 cities including Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, CA, New York City and in a number of other cities. Unlike its competitors, T-Mobile is not expected to launch 5G in mmwaves. It announced it will use its 600 MHz spectrum primarily and 28 and 39 GHz frequencies in the second stage. The idea behind is to be able to get high speeds with a broad coverage.

5G deployment in China is strongly backed by the government. 5G ranks among the strategic priority for the whole country (13th 5-year plan 2015-2020 and Made In China 2025 Initiative launched in 2013). In January 2017, the MIIT published a report on “ Development Planning for Information and Communication Industry (2016-2020) in which it sets the objective of becoming one of the Global leaders of 5G.

The Made In China 2025 initiative aims for a commercial 5G launch by 2020. As part of the country plan and initiative, the authorities awarded grants to local 5G oriented companies including ZTE and Huawei. ZTE and Huawei received 72 million USD for 5G.

In October 2017, the Chinese government kicked off the 3rd phase of 5G technology research and development tests. This phase aims to get pre-commercial products ready for when the first version of 5G standard comes out in June 2019.

Time has accelerated significantly in 2018 and China Mobile brought forward its scheduled 5G launch by one year and finally plans to offer 5G services by year-end 2019 (pre-commercial launch in the course of 2019).

Spectrum issues

MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) has approved/reserved a number of bands for 5G:

  • The 3-3.6 GHz is officially reserved. Trials were approved in the band in January 2016. The 3.3-3.4 GHz part is limited to indoor use.
  • The 4.8-5 GHz is also reserved for 5G service, China has also solicited opinions on the 24.75-27.5 GHz) and 37-42.5 GHz bands. Trials were approved in the mmwave frequencies in July 2017.

MIIT identified other bands for 5G:

  • MIIT will likely free up the 3.6-4.2 GHz
  • Lower frequencies (below 3 GHz were also mentioned for 5G, notably the 700 MHz band which has the largest spectrum band available. However, the 700 MHz spectrum is not available to China Unicom. MIIT might make available spectrum at 1 GHz or 2.5 GHz to Unicom. China Mobile will receive spectrum in the 4.8 GHz-5.0 GHz frequencies.

Trials and Strategies towards 5G

The government of China authorised 5G trials in 16 cities in April 2018. As at mid-August 2018, Chinese players have ended 5G speeds tests: they are able to offer maximum DL of 3 Gbps on a single terminal.

China Mobile

China Mobile started to conduct 5G trials during the second half of 2016. China Mobile plans to start offering 5G services in 2019, which is a year earlier than originally planned (2020). In 2018, China Mobile announced marge-scale trials in five cities including Shanghai and Hangzhou by the third quarter of 2018 with about 500 base stations (100 first base stations by end June 2018). Trials will be extended to 20 cities early 2019 with another 500 base stations, to test out business applications. The trial network will use 3.5 GHz spectrum and some of the 4.9 GHz band.

China Unicom

China Unicom has been trialling 5G in 600 labs of 16 cities including Beijing, Tianjin, Qingdao, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Guiyang, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Fuzhou, Zhengzhou, and Shenyang. In 2019, application experiments and large-scale trials are scheduled,

China Telecom

China Telecom started testing 5G in six cities including Xiong’an, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Suzhou, Chengdu and Lanzhou in a view to test 5G in 12 cities in the end.

In South Korea, the Korean Government (Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning)   and the public-private partnership, 5G Forum, itself established in Seoul on 30 May 2013, defined the 5G mobile strategy as early as January 2014. For that purpose, the Government allocated 1.5 billion USD.

The programme of the 5G Forum (www.5gforum.org) runs over the seven-year period of 2014-2020 with a joint investment of 1.6 trillion KRW by both the Government and the private sector. Some 26 companies/institutions are part of the project comprised of private companies (operators, equipment vendors), research institutes and universities.

The South Korean carriers agreed mid-2018 to build single 5G network to save money and time. The government sees a 5G common launch in March 2019.

Spectrum issues

The government allocated 280 MHz of 3.4-3.7 GHz spectrum in June 2018 at 3.3 trillion KRW (2.4 billion EUR). Prices raised very high levels (more than 16 EUR per MHz per pop for 10 years).

At the same time, the South Korean government allocated 2400 MHz (800 MHz for each player) of 28 GHz spectrum. Each player paid ca 160 million EUR for the 28 GHz spectrum.

Trials and Strategies towards 5G

The February 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang provided a stage for displaying 5G innovation. KT was very active.

Samsung and KT provided a 4K streaming video service via a 5G network using 28 GHz spectrum. KT provided the 5G data network through a collaboration led by Intel with partners including Ericsson, Nokia and Alibaba, while Samsung unveiled its 5G mobile tablet device to deliver a 4K streaming video via Intel’s base stations. KT demonstrated on its 5G network four types of data-heavy video streaming services: Sync view, Timeslice, 360 VR and Omnipoint view. KT also showed a 5G Connect Bus using 5G, capable of autonomous driving using Lidar sensors and the V2X technology. Hyundai demonstrated five Level4 autonomous cars on a 196km trip to PyeongChang; the cars were connected to the KT 5G net for entertaining the passengers;

The Radio Policy Vision Council of the MIC (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications) held in 2014 presented the roadmap for 5G. Following this report, the 5GMF (5G Mobile Forum) was established late in September 2014.

Around 300 million USD have been dedicated by the Japanese authorities to promote the Industrial IoT and related technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

Japanese operators target the roll out 5G in time for hosting the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in August 2020.

Spectrum issues

Japan mainly supports the 28GHz (27.5-29.5 GHz) band for 5G.The MIC has also approved the 3.6-4.2 GHz and the 4.4-4.9 GHz frequencies.

Trials and Strategies towards 5G

NTT DoCoMo

NTT DoCoMo carried out a number of 5G trials with the Chinese vendor Huawei. For example, the two companies cooperated with Tobu Railway to trial a 5G system at Tokyo Skytree Town using 28 GHz spectrum in March 2018. Earlier in November 2016, they carried out a large-scale field trial using 200 MHz of spectrum in the 4.5 GHz band in Yokohama, Japan. This trial aimed at testing Ultra Reliable and Low Latency Communications resulted in network speeds up to 11.29 Gbps total and less than half-a-millisecond latency. NTT DoCoMo and Huawei also completed 5G integrated access backhaul trials using the 39 GHz frequencies.

With Nokia, NTT DoCoMo tested 5G on the 90 GHz band.

More recently, in May 2018; NTT DOCOMO achieved a 5G field trial at 28GHz, involving a 5G base station and a car travelling at around 293km/h.

SoftBank

SoftBank is also working with Huawei to demonstrate 5G. A demonstration included real-time UHD video transmission (throughput of over 800 Mbps) using ultra-high throughput, remote control of a robotic arm and ultra-low latency transmission as well as remote rendering via a GPU server using edge computing.

With ZTE, Softbank achieved DL speeds of 956 Mbps in Nagasaki in October 2017.

In August 2017, Softbank and Ericsson performed 5G trials using 4.5 GHz frequencies.

KDDI

In December 2017, KDDI and Samsung completed a successful 5G demo on a train moving at over 100km/h. The distance  between two stations was approximately 1.5km. Companies achieved a successful DL and UL handover as well as a peak speed of 1.7 Gbps.

KDDI has also performed 5G trials, mainly with Ericsson and Samsung Electronics. Between September 2017 and March 2018, KDDI and Ericsson tested a PoC in the 4.5 GHz frequency band in a many cities across Japan.

There is a variety of 5G tests and experimentations with divergent results. For example, In Switzerland, Sunrise and Huawei demonstrated use cases on a 5G end-to-end network. Download throughputs of 3.28 Gbit/s were achieved, using spectrum in the 3.5Ghz band. 5G was tested with Virtual reality, 360° live video and 4K video streams.

VimpelCom signed an agreement with Huawei in Russia to test 4.5G and 5G technologies. Both companies are testing LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) and LTE-Advanced Pro (4.5G) technologies, whilst also developing and testing Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies throughout the year.

In Germany, Deutsche Telekom, Intel and Huawei have collaborated to achieve 5G interoperability and development testing based on the 3GPP R15 Standard with a commercial base station. This test was based on Huawei’s 5G commercial base station and Intel’s third generation 5G NR Mobile Trial Platform (MTP), while it also incorporates Massive MIMO multi-antenna and beamforming technology enabled by the standard framework.

Orange and Bouygues Telecom managed to reach respectively 15 and 25 Gbit/s, and the tests by Samsung did not exceed 1.7 Gbit/s. Most experts agree that the 5G will achieve an average rate of 1 Gbit/s. Recent tests (Feb 2018) in real conditions carried out in Finland by the mobile operator Elisa, in partnership with Huawei, have achieved the 1Gbit/s rate.  The partnership also tested virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and gaming applications on the 5G testbed, achieving speeds of 1.4 Gbit/s between the base station and the device. The 5G network has managed to provide a constant connection of at least 700 Mb/s, against 50 Mb/s for the 4G LTE, so we would have a speed at least 14 times faster.

The standards of 5G New Radio (5GNR) are not yet decided and the most advanced services in this field are still in pre-commercial phase. It is therefore impossible at the moment to say what would be the actual flows of the 5G once deployed.

Apart from the countries described above and the EU, other countries started planning 5G deployments such as India, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the Gulf Countries (UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia).

The Indian government is strongly backing 5G deployment. Indian authorities established a 5G forum with a budget of approximately 76 million USD dedicated to 5G research and development.

The government launched two strategic initiatives to address these challenges: India’s Smart Cities Mission and Digital India. 5G will be central in achieving these government-backed initiatives that focus on easing the stress of urban population growth and closing the digital divide among the citizens from different social backgrounds.

India has significant infrastructure challenges that will limit 5G deployment, such as the lack of a robust network to connect cellular sub-networks to a core networks. The majority of mobile subscriptions are still 2G, and MNOs have already begun considering to leapfrog from 2G/3G directly to 5G. A reasonable target for 5G launch is 2022.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) is harmonizing spectrum in the 3.3-3.6 GHz band and 26 GHz band, along with the 71-76 GHz, the 81-86 GHz and the 57-64 GHz frequencies as 5G candidate bands.

The DoT ordered operators to vacate spectrum in the 3.3-3.4 GHz range by the end of September 2018. For the 3.3-3.6 GHz spectrum, the government and the regulator TRAI suggested a reserve price of 30% of 1800 MHz FDD band i.e. 985 INR per MHz (12.4 EUR) considering the 1800 MHz reserve price of 3285 INR. Mid-frequencies should be put for sale in 20 MHz blocks with a spectrum cap of 100 MHz per bidder.

Ooredoo announced it has launched its 5G commercial network in July 2018. Considering 5G mobile devices are not ready yet, it states it is waiting for manufacturers to produce 5G capable devices.

Du announced the rollout in 2018 of a limited service of 5G. Du’s announcement follows rival Etisalat’s plans to roll out 5G commercial fixed devices in September 2018.

The SA Kingdom has set up a national 5G task force to prepare the foundations for a large scale 5G rollout before the end of 2019,

Since May 2017, CITC (Communications and Information Technology Commission) awarded 160 MHz of additional IMT spectrum in 700 MHz, 800 MHz, and 1800 MHz bands to mobile operators Mobily, STC and Zain.

CITC issued testing licenses to all three operators in May 2018. The 3.6-3.8 GHz licenses allow the MNOs to test 5G with 100 MHz of spectrum between June 2018 and year-end 2019.

Latest News in Europe

Draft 5G auction conditions in Germany

The BundesNetzAgentur released 5G auction draft conditions awaiting final validation in November 26, 2018.

5G in the UK: EE expands 5G trials while 3 UK reveals a £2 billion investment plan

EE announced the opening of nine sites for 5G NR trials, and 3 UK announced an investment plan for the development and commercial launch of 5G services

700MHz auctions planned for 2019 in Spain and Belgium

The frequency band will be gradually released for 5G applications by March 2020 in Spain

Vodafone announced its 5G partners in Germany

Vodafone Germany partners up with Deutsche Bahn and automobile firms for the first 5G mast in the country.

ARCEP consultation: 5G and Innovation

ARCEP launched a public consultation on 5G spectrum allocation methods and conditions

ESA actions in the 5G field

How to get ESA funding for trials combining 5G with space applications in the context of 5Groningen?

Deutsche Telekom has taken another step towards commercial 5G launch

Deutsche Telekom announced a network partnership with Telefonica in October 2018 and an eight-point plan on 5G for Germany.

Italian 5G spectrum auction

The auction on 21 September raised 4.42 billion EUR, of which 2.2 billion EUR for mid-range frequencies

3.4-3.8 GHz auctions in Finland

The 130 MHz licences were awarded to the three different players

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