Move to 5G to be Evolutionary rather than a Dramatic Step-Change: Vodacom

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Double exposure businessman using smartphone with 5G network and city overlay background
Double exposure businessman using smartphone with 5G network and city overlay background (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

Vodacom, South Africa’s biggest mobile phone operator, expects the move to 5G to be evolutionary rather than a dramatic step-change, according to Vodacom’s chief technology officer Andries Delport.

He made this comments after Vodacom’s parent company, Vodafone announced that in partnership with Huawei they have jointly demonstrated the world’s first 5G call on the new NSA (Non-standalone) 3GPP 5G new radio (NR) standard and sub 6GHz spectrum. This comes just two months after the standards were ratified.

This is a significant step towards deploying a commercial service and making 5G a reality.

Vodafone is one of the leading multinational operators driving the 5G agenda.

“Vodacom has a unique competitive advantage in being able to leverage this technology and global standard,” argued Delport.

“For South Africa, it is imperative that the required spectrum becomes available in order for Operators and Service Providers to stay in sync with the global adoption of 5G. Having said that, we expect the move to 5G to be evolutionary rather than a dramatic step-change.”

He added that Vodacom’s path to 5G will build on the foundation of 4G with key technologies such as active antennae, network function virtualisation and ensuring that we have high-capacity fibre and microwave connected base stations.

Logo of Vodafone
Logo of Vodafone (Photo Credit: www.shutterstock.com)

The call, using a test network, took place in Spain just ahead of Mobile World Congress which starts on February 26.

Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone’s Group Head of Networks Strategy and Architecture, said: “This is a significant milestone for Vodafone towards the introduction of 5G. The credit for this must go to the engineers in Huawei and Vodafone who have worked tirelessly since December. This successful test will enable us to move forward with further trials of 5G across Europe during 2018.”

The standards organisation 3GPP agreed the Non-standalone global standard for 5G as part of its ‘Release 15’ in December 2017.

In the test, a dual connectivity 4G to 5G live data call was completed using a test device. The connection started on 4G and then established the data connection on 5G. The engineers also successfully tested a live HD video call using the same route.

The test is believed to be the first demonstration of all end-to-end elements of a 5G call (not just data over a 5G connection, but also all the control information required to set up the call and route it between 4G and 5G networks).

A 5G NR end-to-end test network was built to undertake the trial and used 3.7GHz spectrum. Huawei Radio Access Network (RAN) and core network equipment was deployed to support the test with micro-service centric architecture, control plane / user plane separation, unified access and network slicing technology.

Yang Chaobin, President of Huawei’s 5G product line, said: “Huawei is fully committed to the further development of this end-to-end 5G network technology. This test result shows the maturity of 5G based on the 3GPP standard. We are ready to continue our collaboration with Vodafone and enter commercial trials.”

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