NTT DoCoMo conducts first real-world 5G trials in Japan

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NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest wireless carrier, has been conducting its first real-world tests of its upcoming 5G network technology, in partnership with Nokia Network, as the company prepares to launch its high-speed network to consumers by 2020.

During a 5G data transmission test at a commercial complex in Tokyo, which took place on October 13th, the network produced 5G speeds in excess of 2Gbps. The trial used millimetre-wavelength signals at 70GHz and was the first real environmental test of this technology, as previous tests have all required transmitter line of sight. Recently, Huawei and NTT DoCoMo also demoed 5G wireless speeds using sub-6GHz bands. This resulted in end speeds at around 3.6Gbps.

“To date, no test had achieved a 5G data transmission in a commercial complex, such as a shopping mall, due to problems with base stations being out of line of sight and diffused reflections causing the attenuation of highly directional millimetre signals … This time, however, the trial was successful thanks to the use of two new technologies: beam-forming, which focuses radio waves in a specific direction, and beam-tracking to control beam-direction according to the mobile device’s location,” – DoCoMo

The use of beam forming and device tracking is seen as a key innovation to overcome issues with mm-wave mobile propagation and to bring fast 5G speeds out of the laboratory and into the real world. In Europe, a number of big names in electronics, including Nokia, are also looking into this technology too, through the mmMAGIC (Millimetre-Wave Based Mobile Radio Access Network for Fifth Generation Integrated Communications) project.

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While unlikely to reflect of the final real world speeds that consumers will see during the eventual launch, this 2Gbps result is substantially faster than the world’s leading 4G network. A title currently held by New Zealand, which scores the highest average mobile network speed at 36Mbps.

DoCoMo is planning to be one of the first to launch its 5G network, which is expected to arrive sometime in 2020.