The 5G Test Summit, held at Mobile World Congress 2017, brought together industry organisations, mobile network operators and vendors of 5G technologies to issue a joint declaration on the future direction of 5G trials and testing. The Summit emphasised the criticality of creating a unified global standard, backed by a strong unified ecosystem.

Industry organisations ITU, 3GPP, NGMN, GTI and GSMA attended the event and were joined by executives from AT&T, China Mobile, NTT Docomo and Vodafone. In addition, the vendor community was represented by Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm. Speakers from each of the participants detailed the current state of play in 5G roll-out and set out their expected timeframe for increased testing of the technologies as they mature towards early commercial launches in 2020.

“We’re all working for achieving an ecosystem which is unified through the adoption of unified 5G standards,” François Rancy, the director of the ITU’s Radiocommunications Bureau, told the Summit, adding: “We’re about halfway through the effort of creating the unified standards and ecosystem.”

That effort is complex and involves many different organisations working closely together to turn 5G into reality. “5G reshapes society,” said Wang Xiaoyun, the vice chair of the IMT-2020 (5G) promotion group and general manager of the department of technology at China Mobile. “The low latency, communications density, energy efficiency and peak data rate [that 5G offers] are very important for operators and people. 4G was to build a road by 5G is to build a city, to create a cross-industry ecosystem.”

Wang added that she saw the role of the 5G Test Summit as being to advocate a 5G unified standard and ecosystem that enables smooth global roaming as well as global scale to reduce cost. China Mobile itself is setting up what it claims will be the world’s largest 5G trial network in Huairou, Beijing, with six vendors involved. The operator will have more than 100 sites participating in 5G trials in 2019, she said.

Other operators are also advancing well in their early test efforts. “We see 5G as an evolution, not a single event,” Gordon Mansfield, the vice president of RAN and device design at AT&T, told the Summit. “5G addresses massive communications throughput and capacity and critical IoT applications with ultra-low latency. AT&T wants to take DirecTV and put it on mobile and offer 4k video, augmented reality applications. We see 5G standards as being the proving ground and a unified standard helps us get to a unified ecosystem. We already have some friendly customer trials underway and want to expand into pilot projects that will allow us to have early products.”

Takehiro Nakamura, the vice president and general director of the 5G Laboratory at NTT Docomo, has also started trials. “Commercial deployment is set for 2020 initially in areas where high performance is required,” he said. “It’s very difficult to deploy [5G] nationwide from the beginning. From this year, we will trial more and more and at larger scale and over a larger area.”

The timeframe although measured in years is demanding and operators have some concerns about accelerating standardisation. “Unless we make decisions towards the end of the year, we’ll lose time in having the commercial chipsets available to meet our needs,” Luke Ibbetson, the director of Vodafone Group R&D, warned the Summit. “Never underestimate the benefits of having global scale behind the technology. As we got towards 5G we need to resist any attempts to fragment the ecosystem which will only cost us money and slow us down.”

Another speaker at the Summit, Arnaud Vamparys, the senior vice president of radio networks at Orange, who has been working on NGMN’s 5G Trial and Testing Initiative, discussed how the organisation is working on developing building blocks for operators to use for the construction of their 5G networks. “The testing strategy is being defined and test cases will follow,” he said. “Interoperability testing will be triggered by a 5G work item in [3GPP] Release 15 which will start at the end of this year.”

Industry organisations and mobile operators were not alone in acknowledging the complexity involved in the 5G test, standardisation and roll-out process. “5G will be the enabler of the fourth Industrial Revolution but it needs a global unified standard, new services and new markets, technological innovation and a mature industrial chain to succeed,” said Yang Chaobin, the president of the 5G product line at Huawei. “The test pattern in 5G will be different to that of 2G, 3G and 4G so it must be unified to ensure the user experience is good. The test pattern must take account of pooled hardware resources, fully distributed architecture and full automation.”

“5G needs cross industry, end-to-end integration testing that brings multiple industries, cloud RAN and applications together,” Yang added. “In 2017, 5G testing will open a super-connected era.”

Towards the end of the Summit, representatives from the companies participating in the 5G Test Summit came together onto the stage to initiate the Global 5G Test Trial Declaration, a joint statement of intent for the trial and testing of 5G technologies. AT&T, China Mobile, NTT Docomo, Vodafone, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Keysight, MediaTek, Nokia, Qualcomm, Rohde & Schwarz, ZTE and Datang jointly declared the statement promoting unified, global 5G standards achieved through 5G testing, trials and cooperation between telecom operators, vendors and vertical industry partners to build a unified end-to-end (E2E) ecosystem.


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