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Ericsson set to field test 5G radio prototypes

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Ericsson is to conduct operator field trials of new 5G radio prototypes in 2016, after developing new multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO) and beamforming technology. If the field trials are successful, operators will be able to use them in live outdoor and indoor network environments and across multiple sites.

The new radio models have 64 radio chains and 128 antenna elements in a compact, pole or wall-mounted form factor. Since these new radio access prototypes can adopt cloud-based network slicing techniques they will give network operators more options for adapting to demand. The NFV enabling kits will also create the foundations on which operators can create differentiated services for consumers, enterprise and a variety of industrial IoT applications.

In Japan mobile operator NTT Docomo is currently using the Ericsson 5G Radio Test Bed and will receive these new prototypes for its own field trials. The race is on between mobile operators anxious to establish a lead in radio access as the launch of 5G services looms closer, according to NTT Docomo CTO Seizo Onoe. A key technology concept to be mastered is the virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) and its application in the cloud.

Operator differentiation will not be based on lab trials but on what they are able to achieve in live network environments, said Onoe. Smaller and more powerful radio access devices could be critical and insights from these field trials will help Ericsson to further the intelligence gather from its 5G Radio Test bed. “Ericsson’s 5G Radio Prototypes will help us to gain insights into the potential for 5G in our network environment and market,” said Onoe.

With 5G commercial network beginning in 2020, operators need to expedite their testing of equipment, according to Arun Bansal, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Unit Radio at Ericsson. “In order to be ready in such an aggressive time frame it’s high time testing move into real world environments for practical application,” said Bansal, “As a leader in standardisation, it’s important for us to be able to contribute with hard data rather than just theoretical discussions.”

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