British telecommunications company Vodafone and Swedish networking vendor Ericsson have collaborated with King’s College London (KCL) to perform what they claim is the first successful 5G test in the UK that works independently of existing 4G technology.
The three organisations used a prototype device in a central London 3.5 GHz spectrum field trial, as well as other technologies such as Massive MIMO, which uses multiple antennae to send and receive data with the aim of boosting capacity when a vast number of people try to connect to the network at the same time. Vodafone has already deployed this technology in its network as it believes MIMO will be crucial for the introduction of 5G.
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The project also involves the combination of different bands of mobile spectrums across the UK in a bid to increase capacity and boost data speeds. Vodafone said that combining four bands of spectrum has enabled the latest smartphones to achieve data speeds in excess of 500 megabits per second.
“These fast and ultra-reliable technologies are becoming essential for data-hungry video applications and as the Internet of Things (IoT) expands into people’s homes, vehicles and the workplace,” Vodafone said in a statement.
According to Ericsson’s annual Mobility Report, 5G will be able to transmit data about 10 times faster than 4G. In the report, the Swedish company said it expected 5G to first be deployed in metropolitan areas, and therefore IoT applications in smart cities such as smart streetlights would be some of the first use cases. Thereafter, the technology could be used as a more reliable connection for self-driving cars which would require a constant connection to the internet for safety reasons.
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Still work to do
But while Vodafone, King’s College London and Ericsson were keen to notify the industry of their claim to a first standalone 5G test in the field, Kye Prigg, Vodafone UK head of networks emphasized that building a 5G network would take time.
“Right now, we’re also modernising our network by making smarter use of mobile technology to keep ahead of consumption demands and provide the mobile coverage our customers deserve,” he said.
5G also requires the use of fibre optic cables, and Vodafone’s next step will be to work with digital infrastructure provider CityFibre to install the necessary backhaul connection requirements.
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