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UK Kicks Off 5G R&D

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

Even before the U.K. has widespread 4G services available, a British university is about to start work on developing the next generation of mobile technology -- and the team there is calling it 5G.

The University of Surrey has raised £35.6 million (US$57 million) and partnered with eight telecom equipment vendors and operators to open a research facility called the 5G Innovation Center, which will span four square kilometers to provide researchers with real-life radio environments, both indoors and outdoors, in which to test the new technologies.

Of the initial funding, £11.6 million ($18.6 million) comes from the U.K. government, while the remaining £24 million ($38.4 million) comes from telecom companies participating in the project.

Those companies include Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Samsung Corp. , Telefónica Europe plc (O2) , Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. , Rohde & Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG and Aircom International Ltd. . Two other companies are involved, but the university is not able to name them at this time.

The center is dedicated to developing mobile technology that would be deployed sometime after 2020, which would be the generation of wireless that follows LTE-Advanced, according to Professor Rahim Tafazolli, director of the Center for Communication Systems Research (CCSR) at the University of Surrey, who will oversee the 5G center. Tafazolli is quick to assert that LTE-Advanced is not 5G. "That's 4G," he said. (See What We Mean When We Say '4G'.)

The goal of the 5G research team is to develop mobile broadband technology that will enable shared throughput per cell site (the limit of downlink capacity shared between connected devices) of up to 10Gbit/s, he explains. That's compared with LTE shared throughput per cell site of up to 100Mbit/s.

To achieve that goal, the researchers will develop small cell technologies, wireless backhaul and fiber backhaul technologies to achieve that. Those developments will result in proposals to standards bodies, such as the International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) and 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) . (See What Will the RAN Look Like in 10 Years? and RAN Revelations .)

While LTE-Advanced will be a starting point for the 5G research, the group will look at advanced orthogonal frequency division multiplex (OFDM), which is the technology that underpins LTE and LTE-Advanced. But it will also look at new non-orthogonal waveforms that could be the foundation for 5G wireless networks. So, as Tafazolli explains, the 5G center will take two approaches to its research: one is evolutionary, advancing OFDM technologies; the other will look at completely different technologies to OFDM.

The spectrum to be utilized for 5G technology could be either the frequencies below 3GHz or the millimeterwave bands between 60GHz and 90GHz.

The launch of the 5G center marks the first time that the university has worked with so many telecom companies together on one project, although it has worked with each of the partners individually in the past. By taking such a consensus approach to technology research, it is hoped that this project will not only save time in development and standardization processes but also R&D costs for the companies involved.

That's partly because the technologies studied at the 5G center can be tested in real-world environments before formal proposals are made to standards organizations.

"Whatever the technology we propose, it will be tested and optimized in a real environment," says Tafazolli.

"We want to use the test bed as a playground for companies large and small ... to generate fifth generation mobile standards," he says.

The U.K. isn't a world leader when it comes to commercially available 4G services, but this project looks like it will put the country at the forefront of 5G development.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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Michelle Donegan
Michelle Donegan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:19:31 PM
re: UK Kicks Off 5G R&D

Prof. Taffazolli noted that the program is only working with small cells for 5G, and that's one of the reasons why the target peak downlink of 10GBit/s per base station is so much higher than LTE and even LTE-Advanced.

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