Telstra unveils ‘5G Innovation Centre’

Housed at Southport Exchange

Telstra has formally launched a 5G Innovation Centre on the Gold Coast to house tests of technology based on the emerging next-generation wireless standard. 

The telco’s announcement comes in the wake of a move last year by standards organisation 3GPP to push ahead with an accelerated roadmap for the standardisation of 5G. The decision by 3GPP laid the basis for beginning the rollout of 5G services in 2019.

3GPP has endorsed an interim standard dubbed Non-Standalone 5G NR (New Radio). The standard envisages the deployment of 5G equipment while telcos still run 4G core networks. A second standard, Standalone 5G NR, will follow and be based on 5G core networks.

Telstra and Ericsson in November last year announced that they had achieved world first: A data call over spectrum in the 26GHz (mmWave) band, which is expected to be see use in 5G services.

The two companies had previously teamed up in September 2016 for the first public demonstration in Australia of 5G technology. Using 800MHz of spectrum in the 15GHz band, two base stations were able to deliver different 10Gbps data streams to two prototype 5G user devices during the demonstration.

“From our new 5G Innovation Centre we will be completing a number of 5G firsts in 2018 to ensure Australia remains at the forefront of mobile technology,” Telstra chief operations officer Robyn Denholm said. 

“5G has the potential to transform the way we all live and work. Like previous generations of mobile technology it will deliver more capacity and faster data speeds but on top of that it will support vastly more connected devices at very high levels of reliability and lower latency.”

Last year Telstra handed over more than $72 million to pick up spectrum in the 1800MHz, 2GHz, 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz bands.

In addition to supporting customer and data usage growth, the telco said that the additional spectrum would support the deployment of 5G.

Rival telco Optus last week revealed its plan to launch a 5G-based fixed wireless service in “key metro areas”. The company said its new service would be offered from “early 2019”.

That announcement followed a trial at Optus’ Macquarie Park HQ in Sydney that employed C-band and mmWave spectrum. The trial, which was conducted with commercial grade customer equipment, achieved download speeds of 2Gbps.

In 2017 Optus announced it had begun upgrading its mobile network to ‘4.5G’ — LTE-Advanced Pro — following a 2016 trial. The telco also revealed details of its trial of massive MIMO, which is a component of 5G.

Australia’s third mobile carrier, Vodafone, has revealed details of its march towards 5G, including in September staging a field demonstration of MIMO using a Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) band — a trial it described as a “significant step towards 5G.” 

The federal government and regulatory body the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have also been preparing for the 5G era.

In October, the government unveiled its 5G strategy, including convening a working group to assess issues and opportunities for the adoption of the new wireless standard. Communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield has described 5G as representing “an inflection point not just for the telecoms sector but also for the entire Australian economy.”

Last year the ACMA began the process of reallocating spectrum in the 3.6GHz band for use in 5G services. The organisation has also been consulting on accelerated release of spectrum in the 26 GHz mmWave band for use in 5G services.

The author travelled to the Gold Coast as a guest of Telstra.

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