Nokia trumpets 5G wins in Saudi Arabia and China

Kit vendor Nokia has announced Zain KSA is all-in with Nokia’s 5G portfolio, while China Mobile is using its new massive MIMO gear.

Zain Saudi Arabia seems pretty keen on 5G, having announced its first 5G call back in May. It didn’t say anything about where it was getting its kit from at the time, but now seems to have given Nokia the green light to shout its deal win from the rooftops. Specifically the two companies have signed a three year deal, involving Nokia’s full 5G portfolio, to roll out 5G across Saudi Arabia.

Amr K. El Leithy, head of the Middle East and Africa market at Nokia, said:  “We are committed to transforming the service experience for Zain’s customers and enhancing industrial productivity by enabling extreme broadband services,” said Nokia’s head of MEA Amr K. El Leithy. “This contract, which includes 5G RAN, backhaul, security and services, demonstrates the breadth of our full-portfolio strengths and depth of global expertise in deploying these next-generation projects.”

Meanwhile over in China Nokia has also been given the all-clear by China Mobile to crow about the fact that the massive operator is the first to use its new 320W massive MIMO Adaptive Antenna. Apparently Nokia made this antenna specifically for the Chinese market and its massive bandwidth and coverage requirements, so it must be especially gratifying to see China Mobile snapping it up.

The development of the AirScale MAA with its industry-first 320W output is the direct result of input from the China Mobile team on what they needed to speed the deployment of 5G services to their customers,” said Mark Atkinson, Head of the 5G and Small Cells business at Nokia. “We look forward to continuing to work with CMCC as its 5G plans evolve.”

Nokia likes to bang on about its 43 commercial 5G deals at the end of its press releases these days, but tends not to mention that only 23 of them are with named operators and only five are currently live. Ericsson claims 22 publicly announced 5G contracts, with nine of them live. Huawei recently claimed 50 5G commercial contracts without naming any of the operators, so it looks like a tight race between the three of them.

Three completes 5G outdoor trials in Hong Kong

3HK, the third largest mobile operator in Hong Kong have completed 5G trials on both the 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands.

The trials have been going on since the operator obtained temporary permits from the government of China’s “special administrative region”, for indoor and outdoor tests on the two frequencies in May and June respectively. The trial on the 26 GHz band used 400 MHz frequency resources and achieved a downlink peak speed of 3.2 Gbps, while the 3.5 GHz trial used 100 MHz resources, hitting speeds of 2 Gbps. The latter trial was on Massive MIMO technology, which enabled 3HK to claim to be the first to conduct live outdoor broadcast via a 5G network in the 3.5GHz band, although the operator hastened to add a footnote that the “first” claim was made “based on publicly-available information”.

“Three Hong Kong took the initiative to carry out end-to-end trials in various 5G bands in preparation for a new era of mobile communications,” said Kenny Koo, CEO of Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong, of which 3HK is a subsidiary. “We welcome the government’s decision to allow various of its premises to accommodate 5G base stations, and we hope the application and approval processes can be simplified and accelerated to help Hong Kong’s 5G development.”

3HK explained the rationale behind trialling out on both 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz. It believed that long-term development of 5G technology requires different spectrum bands to complement one another. The mmWave band (for example the 26GHz and 28GHz bands) delivers high-speed service but the cells’ coverage is limited. To achieve greater coverage the mmWave band needs to be complemented by the 3.5 GHz band. Such an arrangement enables operators to extend coverage and provide a seamless 5G experience and to meet all the various demands on 5G applications.

While China may not be the first country to go live with 5G – its mobile operators are more likely to by-pass the non-standalone mode and go full blown to standalone mode – Hong Kong is often among the leading markets to adopt the latest technologies, as was the case in 3G and 4G. Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, and the site of 3HK’s massive MIMO trial, Causeway Bay, is right in the centre of the commercial and business district.

Cobham gets massive testing gig with China Mobile

UK connectivity provider Cobham Wireless has announced the China Mobile Research Institute is using its massive MIMO test solution.

While massive MIMO is already a thing with more advanced flavours of 4G (4.5G and decimals thereafter), China Mobile has apparently brought in this set of Cobham kit to help out with its 5G testing. It’s all about testing the performance of multiple parallel signals which, despite the fact that we’ve been looking at it for a while, is still something that needs a fair bit of work to get the hang of.

“Cobham Wireless has an excellent understanding of the requirements of validating 5G Massive MIMO performance and has the ability to innovate and unlock the bottleneck of the industry,” said Dr Guangyi Liu, CTO of the Wireless Department at the China Mobile Research Institute. “This experience will be very important to China Mobile as the company moves towards 5G. It is the excellent partner to ensure the network complies with the new 3GPP 5G specification, whilst validating performance capabilities for Massive MIMO.”

“Cobham Wireless’ test solution is implemented on a software-based validation platform, which can easily adjust to new standards, positioning the operator at the forefront of 5G innovation as its network evolves,” Dr Li-Ke Huang, 5G Research and Technology Director at Cobham Wireless. “We are excited to be working with China Mobile as it sets new benchmarks in the development of 5G.”

Cobham reckons its 5G MIMO is special because it’s more scalable than most of the stuff that has been used previously. It’s intriguing to see Cobham continue to score this kind of gig after it sold its testing unit to Viavi a month ago. It has been trying to refocus its strategy for a while and this is presumably not a bad time to be in the wireless testing game, so it seems sensible to retain an interest in that area.

Ericsson has a school reunion at Verizon

It was just like old times at Ericsson this week as a collaboration with Verizon meant it could catch up with ex alumni and reminisce about the good old days.

The stated reason for getting together was to dabble in a spot of FDD Massive MIMO over Verizon’s network in Irvine, California. The dynamic duo used 16 transceiver radio units supplied by Ericsson to whack out beams from 96 antenna elements over 20 MHz of AWS spectrum.

But we suspect the real reason was the opportunity for a few Ericsson execs to take Verizon Head of Networks Hans Vestberg and Verizon Chief Strategy Officer Rima Qureshi out on the piss in the name of ‘client relations’. The two had previously spent decades at Ericsson and have presumably still got loads of mates there, so what better opportunity will they have to talk about old times?

In an apparent bid to reinforce the Massive MIMO cover story, the resulting press release was careful to avoid bringing attention to the underlying reunion. “While continuing to drive 5G development, the deployment of Massive MIMO offers very tangible benefits for our customers today,” said Nicola Palmer, Chief Network Officer of Verizon Wireless, who hasn’t previously worked at Ericsson. “Our collaboration with Ericsson on this new deployment continues to drive industry-wide innovation and advancements.”

“Massive MIMO is a key technology enabler for 5G, but already today, 4G LTE service providers and end users can benefit from the superior capacity and network performance this technology enables,” said Niklas Heuveldop, Head of Market Area North America at Ericsson. “The current trial is an important step in the collaboration we have with Verizon to prepare their network for 5G.”

Since Ericsson hasn’t exactly been shy about letting people go over the past couple of years, staying close to Verizon would seem to be a smart contingency move for any of its employees. Verizon seems to have decided the best way to be less dependent of kit vendors is to build its own mini-Ericsson so we would be surprised if Vestberg and Qureshi were the last to make that move.

Ericsson augments 5G platform with FDD and Massive MIMO support

Kit vendor Ericsson has revealed the first major additions to the ‘5G platform’ it launched earlier this year, featuring its first FDD radio to support Massive MIMO.

The AIR 3246 is being positioned as a piece of 5G future-proofing thanks to its support of both LTE and technologies expected to form part of 5G NR. Support for FDD is, of course, a key part of this as much of the world’s mobile networking uses that technology. The first lot of products launched with 5G branding was all TDD.

“We now expand the 5G platform that we introduced last February,” said Fredrik Jejdling, Head of Business Area Networks at Ericsson. “The new radio will enable operators to enhance 4G capacity for their subscribers today and be ready for 5G tomorrow, using the same hardware. We also complement the products with a set of network services, simplifying the journey to 5G for our customers.”

“Just as carrier aggregation has been key to adding needed capacity to mobile broadband networks, Massive MIMO has the potential to be the primary capacity enabler in the next upgrade phase, providing a smooth transition towards 5G,” said Stefan Pongratz of telecoms research firm Dell’Oro Group. “With an expected 2021 installed base of 10M LTE macro radios in high traffic and metro areas, service providers are expected to capitalize on the improved spectral efficiency made possible with Massive MIMO.”

Apparently T-Mobile US has included FDD Massive MIMO in the 5G trials it keeps banging on about, using ‘mid-band’ FDD spectrum. It’s not clear precisely what frequencies that refers to but presumably not 600 MHz. TMUS CTO Neville Ray also provided a quote but we’ll spare you the usual chest beating and over-use of exclamation marks. AIR will be commercially available in Q2 2018.

China Mobile and Huawei take another small step with Massive MIMO

China Mobile and Huawei have jointly announced the completion of the second phase of Massive MIMO research, a project with the objective of 1.09 Gbps cell throughput.

The field trials, focused on 4.5G Evolution in which spatial multiplexing of Massive MIMIO, used on commercial UEs, with the pair claiming they had achieved 1 Gbps cell throughput with 20 MHz TDD spectrum.

Huawei believes such a breakthrough will go a long way in aiding the development of 3D beamforming, accurate channel calibration, intelligent orthogonalization, advanced power distribution, and other technologies to improve efficiencies on the network.

The trial is another positive step forward in addressing congestion of mobile networks, which is becoming a much more prominent challenge considering trends in the video space. Massive MIMO has been touted as one of the most viable opportunities to reduce network strain in recent years, primarily due to the network efficiencies it offers.

Huawei has stated the commercial deployment of Massive MIMO currently reaches 720 Mbps cell throughput on a 20 MHz bandwidth. 720 Mbps is six to seven times the spectral efficiency what would be expected with a traditional base station, and should this trial prove to be transferrable to the real world, it would certainly be another positive step forward.