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Huawei and Samsung back UK '5G' program

Research centre based at University of Surrey looks to lead next generation standards, with Telefonica as chief carrier

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 9 October, 2012

READ MORE: UK | R&D | Standards | LTE

It had to happen. 4G is apparently so old hat, even though three-quarters of operators have not deployed it in any volume yet, that we are already thinking about '5G'. The term will be misused as much as '4G' - which in technical terms we haven't achieved yet - but at least the '5G Innovation Center', opened in the UK this week, is more than a marketing slogan. It houses a serious effort to work on next generation wireless technologies.

Based at the University of Surrey south of London, the Centre will receive £35m ($56m) in initial financing, about one-third of that from the UK government's research funding program, and the rest from a group of companies. These include Huawei and Samsung, both rapidly raising their European wireless infrastructure profile on the back of LTE advances. They will both be keen to enhance their influence and IPR still further in the new wave of standards.


Joining the two vendors are the lead operator partner, Telefonica Europe, which has also recently been taking an almost Asian-style role in backing advanced research initiatives and seeking to have its hand on the rudder of new technologies. Other participant are Fujitsu Laboratories Europe, Rohde-Schwarz and Aircom International.

Professor Rahim Tafazolli, who heads up Surrey University's Centre for Communication Systems Research (CCSR), told GigaOM: "We have been doing advanced research and we have influenced many technologies for 3G and 4G. This time, on 5G, our research is going to be quite visible, not just us contributing indirectly. The UK will be the playground for advanced technologies for mobile broadband communications."

There are ironies in this, considering the UK has lagged behind most major European economies in deploying 4G, after a series of legal challenges and regulatory disputes over spectrum allocation. It has finally got some limited LTE services - a TD-LTE fixed wireless offering from UK Broadband in south London, and from the end of this month, the first roll-outs from lead cellco EE (formerly known as Everything Everywhere) in its refarmed 1.8GHz spectrum. Auctions of 2.6GHz and 800MHz spectrum will follow early next year, with regulator Ofcom seeking to accelerate the timetable to allow Vodafone, O2, 3UK and potential new players to enter the market more rapidly.

The main focuses of the Surrey research program will be increased spectral efficiency, cell capacity (up to 10Gbps speeds, said Tafazolli), and energy efficiency. However, this is a long term project - the participants are looking at current R&D turning up in standards in about 10 years' time.

There is not even a technical definition of the term '5G' from the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), which specifies 4G to be 1Gbps when stationary, far ahead of current LTE or even LTE-Advanced real world capabilities.

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