Russia's MTS has indicated it wants to play in the 5G big league, saying it plans to carry out trials of 5G technology during the 2018 Football World Cup.
The operator, which is Russia's biggest mobile service provider by customer numbers, has today announced a major partnership with Sweden's Ericsson that will see the two companies collaborate on developing 5G networks in Russia.
The goal of launching a 5G "trial zone" during the next soccer World Cup, which Russia is set to host in the summer of 2018, puts MTS in a very small club of service providers looking to pioneer 5G technology rollout.
South Korea's SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) is also aiming to have some kind of 5G service up and running in time for the Winter Olympics in Seoul in 2018, while Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) wants to get 5G in place for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. (See DoCoMo & EE Share 5G Visions.)
The announcement by MTS also comes about a year after Russian rival MegaFon announced its own plans to build trial 5G networks in partnership with China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. in time for the 2018 World Cup.
Describing its own vision of 5G technology, Mobile TeleSystems OJSC (MTS) (NYSE: MBT) said the new standard would be capable of supporting connection speeds in excess of 10 Gbit/s and ensuring "minimal latency." The latter could prove critical for services in emerging areas such as robotics, virtual reality and remote-control surgery.
The operator also said the standard would use spectrum between 5GHz and 100GHz and require a greater number of basestations to be deployed than previous network technologies.
As MTS points out, however, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) does not plan to implement the 5G standard until 2020. That means services appearing before that date will give consumers only a taste of what 5G has to offer and not the full meal.
"Despite the fact that requirements for the network standard are only beginning to form, we believe it is of great importance to begin its development today by signing this agreement with Ericsson," said Andrey Ushatskiy, the chief technology officer of MTS, in a company statement. "In order for both sides to gain a comprehensive understanding of performance solutions for 5G networks in Russia by 2018, we plan to start testing our key vendor's developments through a series of pilot project on the MTS network next year."
MTS and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) say they will be cooperating in a number of 5G areas, including discussions with regulators about spectrum, the testing of "lean carrier" technology and the piloting of several radio interfaces designed for Internet of Things applications -- including EC-GSM (Extended Coverage GSM), LTE-M (LTE-Machine) and NB-IoT (Narrow Band IoT). (See GSMA Lauds NB-IoT Standard Agreement .)
Speaking at Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Dublin earlier this month, Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown said lean radio design would allow operators to support mission-critical applications. (See 5G Needs More Joined-Up Thinking – Heavy Reading.)
MTS and Ericsson are also planning to conduct a pilot of LTE-U (LTE-Unlicensed)/LAA (License Assisted Access) technology in the 5GHz band next year, saying this will look to combine WiFi networks with mobile network resources.
Vodafone UK is also hoping to make use of LAA technology to boost the speed and capacity of 4G services, while operators in the US are looking to LTE-U despite concern about possible interference between this technology and existing WiFi systems. (See Vodafone Plots Unlicensed Boost to 4G, Qualcomm Wants FCC to Stay Out of LTE-U Fray, Why Some Operators Think LTE-U Is Rude and Jury Still Out on LTE-Unlicensed.)
The deployment of 5G pilot solutions by MTS is scheduled to happen in 2017 in the 15GHz band, according to the operator's statement, with construction of a test area for 5G getting under way in 2018.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading