While standards boards are still agreeing on the definition of 5G mobile networks, telecommunications equipment manufacturers and wireless service providers worldwide are already hard at work conducting field tests with the goal of advancing this emerging technology. The Chinese tech giant Huawei and the Japanese wireless carrier NTT DoCoMo are some of the busiest companies in this regard. About a year after teaming up to demonstrate a 3.6 Gbps 5G network, the duo have joined forces once again, this time to perform the first large-scale 5G field trial in the 4.5 GHz frequency band in the world.
The trial was conducted this week in the Minato Mirai 21 District of Yokohama, Japan, and achieved an impressive total user throughput amounting to 11.29 Gbps while simultaneously realizing 0.5-millisecond one-way user plane latency. For added context, 4G LTE has a theoretical throughput of up to 300 Mbps according to some of the most generous estimates but in practice achieves nothing close to that speed. In a similar vein, the average 4G LTE latency is approximately ten times higher, i.e. slower than what Huawei and DoCoMo managed to achieve in Yokohama this week. This is all the more praiseworthy in the context of this trial being conducted in an urban scenario with technology which is compliant with the latest 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) agreements. In other words, this wasn't a demonstration of 5G capabilities in a completely controlled environment but a practical application of new mobile networks technology, something with potential for actual commercial implementation.
Both Huawei and DoCoMo labeled the test as a tremendous success, with Huawei adding that this accomplishment is of fundamental importance for the development of fifth generation mobile networks. So, what are the future implications of this field trial? In the short-term, there really aren't many. However, looking at the broader picture, the results of this experiment suggest that the telecommunications industry is on the right track to standardize and commercialize the 5G technology by 2020, at least according to Takehiro Nakamura, head of DoCoMo's 5G Laboratory who oversaw this test. Interestingly enough, Huawei announced another related breakthrough less than a month ago when the Chinese tech giant partnered with Vodafone to conduct the world's first 5G test in high and low-frequency bands in an urban, densely populated area.