Ericsson, China Mobile test drone on path to 5G

Chris Houghton, Ericsson's head of region Northeast Asia

Ericsson teamed with China Mobile to trial a prototype 5G drone that the vendor said is a step towards creating a low latency, distributed 5G network.

The Sweden-headquartered vendor stated that this technology could be used for mission-critical applications such as support for emergency services, if low latency could be guaranteed by the operator’s network to ensure the safety and reliability of such services.

Conducted on China Mobile’s network in Wuxi in China’s Jiangsu province, the drone was flown using the operator’s mobile network with 5G-enabled technologies. It conducted handovers across multiple sites that were simultaneously in use by commercial mobile phone users, to prove the real-world potential of the nascent 5G technology.

The drone trial has been conducted as part of a step towards creating 5G networks in which part of a network can be distributed and dynamically deployed at the cellular edge. The approach aims to reduce end-to-end latency, and also to serve a range of 5G use cases.

Ericsson and China Mobile have collaborated under the banner of the China National Key 5G Project since the beginning of this year, focusing on user-centric 5G network architecture evolution. Reducing latency for mission critical use cases by dynamically deploying part of a network through distributed cloud close to the radio edge is one of the aims of the project.

Huang Yuhong, deputy head, China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI), commented that the companies are looking to explore, “the 5G possibilities in vertical industries and new use case scenarios”, and that they are working together to prepare commercial 5G networks by 2020.

Chris Houghton, head of region Northeast Asia at Ericsson, said. “With commercial implementation expected from 2020, Ericsson’s 5G research is coming out of the labs and into live test networks. We see tremendous opportunities in 5G, and we are mobilising the ecosystem and collaborating with industry leaders such as China Mobile to help make 5G a reality.”

However, in June researchers at Johns Hopkins University demonstrated just how easy it would be to use a laptop to take down a commercial-use drone, thanks to security flaws. The researchers stated that drone manufacturers are not paying enough attention to security, but instead, "Security is often an afterthought”.

China Mobile and Ericsson showcased this 5G demo at Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2016.

For more:
- see this Ericsson release

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