It’s the first time pre-standard 5G has been demonstrated to work independently of existing 4G network technologies. Working alongside academics at King’s College London, the test is a first in the UK, and the precursor to further collaboration between the three.
Vodafone UK Head of Networks Kye Prigg said: “We’re delighted to be the first provider to test standalone 5G in the field, however, building a 5G network will take time. Right now, we’re also modernising our network by making smarter use of our existing mobile technology to keep ahead of consumption demands and provide the mobile coverage our customers deserve.”
Vodafone plans to continue testing 5G technology ahead of its commercial deployment from 2020. Live trials will explore the use of 5G services in new areas such as factory automation, smart energy grids and remote surgery.
“Supporting our customers in making 5G a reality is key for us,” said Marielle Lindgren, Head of Ericsson in the UK and Ireland. “This is a live trial in a densely populated central London urban area and the first time in the UK that we’ve been able to show pre-standard 5G working independently. We remain committed to advancing 5G development in the UK, working closely with leading operators and ecosystem players to enable global scale and drive the industry in one common direction.”
Engineers were able to showcase a number of technologies at King’s College London, including Massive MIMO. The technology, which is already being deployed by Vodafone in its network, is the key building block for 5G. Massive MIMO uses multiple antennae to send and receive data more efficiently to boost capacity where lots of people connect to the network at the same time.
Mischa Dohler, Professor of Wireless Communications and Director of the Centre for Telecommunications Research at King’s College London, said: “We are immensely proud to support two of the industry’s biggest names in one of the most exciting technology trials of our era. It is the product of years’ long engagement with both Ericsson and Vodafone, and testimony to King’s incredible research and innovation capabilities.”
The project is also combining or “aggregating” different bands of mobile spectrums across the UK to increase capacity and boost data speeds. By combining four bands of spectrum, for example, Vodafone enables the latest smartphones to achieve data speeds in excess of 500 megabits per second (Mbps).
A number of companies are exploring 5G development including LG, Huawei, Samsung, Arqiva and the BBC.