The operator Orange invited us to Les Terrasses Du Port shopping center in Marseille to present the device set up for 5G. It was not only an opportunity to discover the space reserved for the general public which presents the uses of the 5G imagined by the operator. We also discussed the next steps of the deployment of 5G with the teams of Nokia and Orange, the opportunity to take stock of an ambitious year 2019.
In October, we were in Hong Kong where Qualcomm announced its solutions (modem and antennas) to equip the first 5G smartphones. The vast majority of smartphone manufacturers will equip the American equipment manufacturer to be ready in 2019 to market 5G ready products. In France, it is likely that the first wave of 5G phones will have no 5G network available to connect. Well almost. Orange and other operators are allowed to conduct life-size tests in some cities. For the incumbent operator, four cities are concerned by its tests.
Marseille: up to 80 antennas 5G
We were in Marseille where the deployment of 5G in the 3.5 GHz bands has begun, 40 antennas will be installed for the spring of 2019 and 70 to 80 by the end of 2019. Do not expect 5G packages, Orange will select about 500 users who will be equipped with a "big" smartphone and will be able to enjoy the first 5G network before everyone else. The opportunity to test the network in real conditions to discover the first uses of this new generation of wireless network. Nicolas Roy, Networks and Services Technical Director at Orange, does not yet know how to select users. We will have to wait a few more weeks.
Read on FrAndroid: 5G Network: All that will change, what uses and why technology is important
Here is the 5G in the 3.5 GHz bands that interests us. This is a first deployment of the 5G Non-Standalone that operates the 4G network. More specifically, Non-Standalone 5G is based on 4G to work: the connection uses 4G LTE while 5G carriers are used to increase data rates and reduce latency. On the other hand, Standalone (SA) 5G, which can be described as "true" 5G, will exploit a "new network architecture" and will be deployed much later.
The 5G in several stages
Starting next year, first users will be able to expect speeds of 400 Mbit to 2 Gbit in downstream rate and 20 to 50 Mbit in upstream rate for a latency of about 10 to 15 ms. This is already a huge improvement over the 4G LTE. Two to three years after the launch of the commercial 5G (2020), the expected bit rates and latency will be much more impressive: 1 to 10 Gbits for the downstream rate and a latency of 2 to 5 ms. To achieve these performances, mobile operators will have to deploy many antennas, update the core network but also expand the frequency band allocated to this technology.
The 5G will therefore use millimeter waves (the mmWave bands), but also use frequencies below 6 GHz to allow a wider deployment. ARCEP decided on the 3.4 – 3.6 GHz band that offers a large amount of spectrum. The reallocation of frequencies already used by 3G and 4G is studied, but more complicated. The 700 MHz band could play a role here. Bridging the shorter millimeter range also requires the use of smaller cells and using techniques such as Massive MIMO (Multi In Multi Out) to multiply capacity and beamforming to intelligently channel signals to electronics.
Installation in a restaurant kitchen
The operator Orange has decided to work with Ericsson and Nokia to deploy the 5G. The two equipment manufacturers shared the first cities: Ericsson in Lille, Nokia in Marseille. Point of 5G smartphone on this first test, Nokia equipment was installed in a restaurant kitchen.
In this atypical place, an optical fiber reached a server connected to a 5G antenna. It is this type of 5G antenna that will begin to appear in every corner of our cities. They are roughly the size of 2G-3G-4G antennas, an engineer from Orange assured me that the operator would take the opportunity to reduce the size of current antennas. Since the characteristics of these technologies are now fixed and evolutions, the antennas have been miniaturized. 2G-3G-4G antennas and 5G antennas will coexist side-by-side.
On the other side was a smaller antenna to receive radio waves. About 15 meters separated the two antennas and a barrier was installed for security. Obviously, the power was reduced to the minimum for this antenna supposed to be installed above a building. As you can see, this is a massive device usually used in the laboratory for testing.
Once the connection was established, WiFi routers and antennas were arranged in the restaurant room to provide connection to the different demonstration equipment. Orange had planned a few workshops to imagine the uses authorized by the 5G.
Robotics, virtual reality, connected objects, 4K video stream …
This is the case of Magic Leap One glasses in image of one, but also ABB Robotics articulated arms. The latter will make it possible to deploy everywhere equipment that was used until now in production plants. The 5G connection is useful for HD video streams that are analyzed by algorithms on dedicated servers. The information analysis and the very low latency of the system make it possible to very quickly return commands to the robot so that it can perform the expected tasks and interact with a third party.
One of the other bluffing demonstrations was the augmented reality to be able to exchange in real time with a tele-adviser. The latter was able to give specific recommendations for connecting your equipment. Finally, a 360-degree video was broadcast from the Orange Vélodrome stadium to the commercial Les Terrasses Du Port.
Even if these demonstrations and meetings are premature, other operators like Free Mobile prefer to remain discreet on these technical tests, they make the 5G more real. It's been more than four years since the 5G is regularly a topic in one of the tech media, and it will soon be a reality for many consumers. Beyond the higher throughput, this technology will make it possible to modernize technical installations such as the network cores of mobile operators but also to adapt the allocation of frequency bands.
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