Huawei pushes 5G towards reality in Germany and China tests

Huawei is to the fore in the latest 5G tests, announcing breakthroughs in China and Germany.

In the latter, Deutsche Telekom is claiming to have turned on Europe’s first 5G connection on a commercial network, in a demonstration with Huawei. The connection, on DT’s network in central Berlin, delivered downstream speeds of over 2Gbps and latency of 3ms, in the 3.7 GHz band.

The German operator was using pre-standard ‘non-standalone 5G NR’, the strand of the 3GPP specs which is being fast-tracked for completion in early 2018 – but still requires an LTE anchor network.

“With this real world achievement, Deutsche Telekom is making its first important step towards a 5G network launch,” said Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, the operator’s CTO. “When the standard is defined, we will trial it in 2018 to prepare the ground for a wider deployment of commercial sites and the offering of devices for the mass market as they become available.”

CEO Timotheus Höttges has already announced plans to deploy 5G across DT’s entire network footprint starting in 2020, though he has also voiced concerns about the potential cost, especially when using higher spectrum bands that require large numbers of base stations.

Germany’s government said in a recent policy paper that it expected operators to increase investments in fiber backhaul. DT says most of its 4G sites are now backhauled with fiber, but a national 5G roll-out could double the number of mobile sites to between 44,000 and 50,000, Thomas Dannenfeldt, CFO, said earlier this year.
Dannenfeldt recently there would be a significant increase in fiber-to-the-home from 2019, and that could also support backhaul for smaller cells.

Meanwhile, Huawei’s latest Chinese 5G demonstration focused on the 4.9 GHz C-band spectrum, which is seen as a primary 5G band by the country’s regulator. It said its test had achieved peak cell throughput of over 20Gbps as part of the  China 5G Technology Research and Development (R&D) Trial, organized by the IMT-2020 (5G) Promotion Group.

This is all part of the second phase of China’s 5G radio technology development. During the tests in Huairou District, Beijing, the vendor used pre-standard 5G New Radio with a range of the technologies it has pushed to be part of 5G standards – Massive MIMO and polar code, plus other technologies which help to use the entire 200 MHz bandwidth on the 4.9 GHz carrier, to achieve seamless wide area coverage despite the relatively high frequency.

Both 3.5 GHz and 4.9 GHz are central to this phase of China’s 5G R&D process. Earlier this year, Huawei completed trials in three typical scenarios on 3.5 GHz carriers.