China Mobile Stamps Intentions on 5G

Robert Clark
News Analysis
Robert Clark
6/30/2016
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SHANGHAI -- Mobile World Congress Shanghai (MWCS) 2016 -- China Mobile has stamped its intentions on 5G, announcing one of the first 5G prototypes and affirming plans for a 2020 commercial launch.

The operator says it has built with Huawei a prototype that supports 3Gbit/s throughput in the 3.5GHz band -- the first of its kind in that spectrum. It is working with Huawei on a new prototype that would deliver 10 Gbit/s.

Liu Guangyi, CTO of the China Mobile Research Institute wireless department, told MWCS on Wednesday the company had just completed the first phase of its 5G program, in which it tested new wave forms and key technologies such as 3D-MIMO.

In the next phase China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) would trial terminal and basestation architecture and hardware, Liu said. The 3.5GHz trials will aim for 3 Gbit/s on the downlink and 1.5 Gbit/s on the uplink, with deployment of 128-antenna massive MIMO.

It expects to finish that by the end of next year and start major field trials in late 2018, with commercial launch scheduled for 2020. That timetable puts it at the forefront of the industry. NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and Korea's SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) and KT Corp. also expect to start commercial 5G in 2020. (See SK Telecom Claims 5G Trial Milestone, AT&T Lights Fire Under 5G, Plans 2016 Trials, TeliaSonera, Ericsson Join 5G Early Movers, Russia's MTS to Trial 5G in 2018, Verizon CEO: US Commercial 5G Starts in 2017 and DoCoMo & EE Share 5G Visions.)


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Yet while those operators were all early adopters of LTE, China was late to both the 3G and 4G parties as it sought to develop its TD-based systems. China Mobile did not receive its 4G licence until December 2013.

Liu said the company expected LTE-TDD to be an important part of 5G because of its better performance in higher spectrum ranges.

It has set up 5G joint innovation centers to test out the network technologies as well as use cases in areas such as IoT, AR/VR and cloud robotics.

He said massive MIMO trials with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) had been "very, very promising," boosting spectrum efficiency by eight times. China Mobile aimed to have a commercial product to deploy in in the 2.6GHz band of its LTE-TDD network, possibly as early as next year, he said.

It has conducted 5G tests at 15GHz (with ZTE and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)), 26GHz (with the University of Electronic Science & Technology in China), and in the Ka, E and V bands (with Huawei).

Liu said the trials validated new radio technologies -- Huawei's F-OFDM and ZTE's FB-OFDM -- but did not elaborate.

With Ericsson, it has trialed a new core network architecture that cut latency to 6 milliseconds, a quarter of the regular LTE level of around 25 milliseconds.

Liu called for C-band spectrum -- roughly 4GHz-8GHz -- to be assigned to 5G. It provided large contiguous bandwidth -- with up to 100MHz per channel -- and would be suitable for global roaming, he said.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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TV Monitor
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TV Monitor,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/1/2016 | 1:38:27 PM
Re: Not Late to 5G
danielcawrey

"5G will help propel Chinese smartphones to a new level"

The only foreign carriers that pledged to adopt Chinese 5G is Softbank/Sprint. So this will isolate China from the rest of world, which would suit non-Chinese vendors just fine.

Most Chinese phone companies are simple assemblers and don't have the resources to do R&D to develop phone models compatible with non-Chinese 5G networks, so they will continue to be stuck in China like they currently are.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/1/2016 | 1:22:29 PM
Not Late to 5G
It doesn't sound as though China Mobile will be late to the 5G party. 

I'm sure the company needs the capacity. In China, mobile is really important – maybe even moreso than PCs. 5G will help propel Chinese smartphones to a new level, especially given some of the homegrown companies like Xiaomi. 
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