NTT DoCoMo, widely recognized as one of the world's most innovative mobile operators, has unveiled plans for a range of 5G experiments, making clear its intention to be at the forefront of the next wave of mobile broadband technology deployments, as it was with 3G and 4G. (See NTT Docomo Launches LTE Service.)
The operator is soliciting help from six major wireless systems vendors to see how the next generation of radio technologies might deliver mobile broadband access speeds of 10 Gbit/s, up to 1,000 times faster than 4G, according to NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM). (See DoCoMo Preps 5G Trials.)
The move will be of tremendous interest to the global mobile community, as 5G is currently just a concept -- there are no industry standards or strict guidelines as to what constitutes 5G.
There are, though, some areas of broad agreement among operators and their suppliers, particularly relating to the use of much higher frequency ranges than are currently used for commercial mobile services, the involvement of indoor and outdoor small cells, the need for flexible and automated networks (including virtualization), radio access network interworking, and energy efficiency. Oh, and the year 2020 appears to be the target for the introduction of 5G capabilities, whatever they turn out to be. (See Ready or Not, Here Comes 5G.)
And while that might seem a way off, there is tacit agreement that some guidelines need to be set very soon. (See NGMN Kickstarts 5G Initiative.)
That's why all eyes will today be on DoCoMo, which has already spelled out its hopes for 5G. (See DoCoMo's 2020 Vision for 5G.)
The operator announced Thursday that it is to engage in "experimental trials to confirm the potential of 5G mobile technologies to exploit frequency bands above 6GHz and realize very high system capacity per unit area, and new radio technologies to support diverse types of applications including machine-to-machine (M2M) services." The operator will begin with indoor trials this year at its R&D Center in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and plans to start outdoor trials in 2015. DoCoMo says it will share its findings "with research institutes and at international conferences to contribute to 5G standardization, which is expected to start from 2016."
Those trials will involve six vendor partners, each with a specific focus for their experiments:
- Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) -- "Candidate waveforms" to support mobile broadband and machine-to-machine (M2M) services.
- Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY) -- Coordinated scheduling for super-dense basestations using RRH (remote radio head) capabilities. Fujitsu plans to "verify that a coordinated radio resource scheduling algorithm for very densely deployed base stations using RRH will increase 5G capacity per area," the vendor noted.
- NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) -- Enhanced time-domain beamforming with a large number of antennas for small cells, with a focus on the 5GHz band. "These technologies are expected to improve MIMO (Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output) technology that supports mobile coverage for multiple users simultaneously while reducing interference and enabling 5G advancements that include accelerated communication speeds, improved communication quality and greater capacity," notes NEC.
- Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) -- New radio interface concepts and "Massive MIMO" (large scale antenna systems), with a focus on outdoor trials using the 15GHz band. The vendor says it has developed "advanced antenna technologies with wider bandwidths, higher frequencies and shorter transmission time intervals, as well as radio base stations built with baseband units and radio units developed specifically for the 5G trial."
- Samsung Corp. -- Super-wideband hybrid beamforming and beam tracking, with a focus on the 28GHz band.
- Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) (Networks) -- Super-wideband single carrier transmission and beamforming, with a focus on the 70GHz band. The vendor notes that its initial focus is on "exploring the potential of the millimeter wave technology" at the 70GHz band, and that the experiments will be implemented using baseband modules from National Instruments.
Missing from that list, of course, are the Chinese vendors Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763). Huawei, in particular, will want to get in on the DoCoMo action, as it is pumping a lot of resources into 5G R&D and is fighting hard to be regarded as an influential voice in next-generation mobile broadband. (See Huawei CEO Pledges 5G R&D Investment.)
But the lack of involvement of the Chinese duo should not be regarded as a snub: DoCoMo has chosen to work with its traditional partners initially, and noted that it "also expects to collaborate with other companies in its effort to test a wide range of 5G mobile technologies."
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading