Underscoring the level of work that is still required to even determine what "5G" actually is, Japanese operator NTT DoCoMo this week said it will conduct "experimental trials" of emerging 5G technologies together with six vendors: Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Fujitsu, NEC, Nokia, and Samsung.
The operator said it plans to test the potential of 5G mobile technologies to exploit frequency bands above 6 GHz and realise very high system capacity per unit area, and new radio technologies to support diverse types of applications including machine-to-machine (M2M) services. It added that it sees the commercial deployment of 5G in 2020.
DoCoMo also provided some insights into what 5G is expected to bring: ultra-high-speed data transmissions at more than 10 Gbps; 1,000-fold the capacity of existing LTE networks; connectivity for massive numbers of devices to support the ever-expanding market of M2M services.
"5G studies are starting to gain real momentum as we point toward 2020," said Seizo Onoe, Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer at DoCoMo. "I am delighted that we will collaborate on 5G experimental trials with multiple global vendors from this early stage."
The operator added that indoor trials will start this year, with outdoor field trials then planned for next year. It started its initial research activities into 5G as early as 2010.
Nonetheless, general descriptions of 5G remain hazy: vendor partners used terms such as the "network of you" and a "human centric intelligent society", which might leave most onlookers scratching their heads about what this means in reality.
Nokia's Networks CTO, Hossein Moiin, came up with a description that sheds some light on how the new 5G world might be perceived: "Future wireless networks will interconnect not just humans but also machines and objects, creating a vibrant overlay of virtual and physical worlds with a huge variety of use cases," Moiin said.
Despite the lack of concrete standards or clarity about what 5G will bring, momentum is certainly building, as demonstrated by the discussions at this year's Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona. The fact that DoCoMo, for one, is bringing together six leading vendor partners is a welcome sign of industry collaboration.
Janette Stewart, principal at Analysys Mason, recently warned that the diverging viewpoints emerging from different parties may pose a risk to the harmonised development of 5G, and recommended greater cooperation with work to define 5G at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to help achieve the full 5G vision.
- see this DoCoMo release
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