Vodafone has completed the world’s first trial on a full end-to-end (E2E) network of a technique to improve the range of high frequency spectrum that can in future be used to deliver 5G to its customers.

Italy’s Ministry for Economic Development has made frequencies available to Vodafone so that it can trial pre-standard 5G in Milan. Vodafone Italy has built an E2E test network for that purpose.

High frequency bands can connect many users at the same time, but broadcast over a more limited distance than lower frequencies. However, Vodafone, working with Huawei, has pioneered a new approach to improve the coverage range of that high frequency spectrum.

 

The Vodafone Village in Milan where the Group's first 5G testing on a trial network is taking place

 

Instead of using a single frequency band to communicate between a smartphone and the network, the two telecoms companies tested using different frequency bands for downlink and uplink transmissions.

The downlink is used to receive data from the network - like news read on a smartphone - and the uplink is used to send data through the network - like emails or posts on social media.

The trials compared two scenarios using Vodafone’s 5G test network sending Gigabits of data. In scenario one, the same high frequency band was used for both the downlink and uplink. In scenario two, a high frequency band was used for the downlink, while a low frequency band was used for the uplink.

This capability — known technically as uplink & downlink decoupling — is currently being standardised by 3GPP, a leading organisation through which industry-wide standards are agreed for the implementation of new telecoms technology.

Vodafone measured up to a 10-fold improvement in uplink coverage when utilising the low band. That means that using the technique, customers would get a stronger signal even in areas where 5G coverage is limited.

Francisco Martin, Head of Radio Product for Vodafone Group, said:

“This test of pre-standard 5G uplink and downlink decoupling will help us to deploy the technology efficiently to support our customers as soon as we launch services.”

Vodafone expects to launch 5G services in 2020, in markets where it has appropriate spectrum, once the standard is agreed by 3GPP and compatible telecoms equipment and devices are available. 

 

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