Telefónica will turn two Spanish cities into "5G living laboratories" as part of the latest step in the effort to advance its development of the fifth generation of mobile networks, the Madrid-based wireless carrier said Monday. The company chose Talavera de la Reina and Segovia as its testbeds and will be partnering with Ericsson and Nokia on the project. The initiative will start this year and should enable truly wireless 5G connectivity across both cities by 2020, as well as a transitional 4.5G solution before that. Following the deployment of Telefónica's experimental networks, the population of both cities will be able to access its 5G services, as will all local businesses. The testing cities are both located in central Spain and are 190 kilometers (118 miles) apart from each other. The experiment is still relatively limited in nature, with the populations of both cities being under 140,000 combined, thus accounting for less than 0.3 percent of the Spanish population, according to 2016 census data.
Telefónica is targeting peak download speeds ranging from 1Gbps to 10Gbps, as well as a latency between 1ms and 5ms. The telecom giant is also planning to specifically focus on the capacity of the experimental network that it claims will be able to serve up to 100 times more devices than its current 4G offering. The Segovia project is being supported by Nokia, while the infrastructure in Talavera de la Reina will be deployed in partnership with Ericsson. The wireless carrier intends to leverage the technologies of both companies as part of the test and will presumably use the project as an opportunity to review the two rivaling solutions before deciding on its long-term partner meant to assist it in ultimately offering nationwide 5G coverage. The initial implementation of the network will rely on Telefónica 's existing 4G infrastructure in the two cities, allowing users to benefit from its first offerings without upgrading their devices. The test will eventually lead to the deployment of a standalone 5G network which is expected to be available by 2020.
The mobile service provider is simultaneously developing new 5G use cases meant to take advantage of the next-generation connectivity solutions, many of which should be tested in its two target cities. Augmented and virtual reality services, connected vehicles, and Internet of Things gadgets are just some projects currently being pursued by the company. The firm's deployment of 4.5G solutions will start in the coming months, around the time a similar technology is meant to be introduced in San Marino. Europe is expected to be at least several years behind the United States in continent-wide 5G coverage. Most estimates have the four largest wireless carriers in the U.S. deploying their 5G networks on a national level by 2020.