SoftBank kicks off 5G trials with China’s ZTE

13 Jun 2017

Japanese mobile network operator (MNO) SoftBank has announced plans to begin its first trials of 5G technology, and to that end has partnered with Chinese company ZTE Corp to explore solutions in sub-6GHz bands, initially at 4.5GHz, ZDNet writes. The partnership deal will see the two firms trialling 4.5GHz access across Toyko, using ZTE’s 5G network solutions ‘in real-world conditions throughout metropolitan areas of the Japanese capital’.

In July 2015 ZTE signed an agreement with the MNO to deploy its ‘pre-5G’ technology in Japan, including Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (Massive MIMO) technology, via a commercial trial that took place in early 2016. The equipment vendor’s pre-5G platform was seen as a stepping stone to true 5G, which TeleGeography notes is expected to come on-stream after 2020. ZTE vice president Li Cui stated at the time that the equipment maker planned to establish a research and development centre for wireless technologies in Tokyo, and while he stopped short of putting a dollar figure on how much the company is expecting to invest in Japan, ZTE is believed to be spending up to USD220 million on 5G internationally over the next three years. Massive MIMO has been commercially deployed on SoftBank’s LTE network since 2016.

The trials have now been expanded to include 5G New Radio (NR) access technology, with ZTE spokesperson Dr Xiang Jiying saying: ‘We have a long term partnership with SoftBank in key 5G technologies such as Massive MIMO, and we are pleased to expand that work to accelerate 5G NR readiness … We are confident that ZTE will be one of the first vendors to deliver end-to-end 5G solutions.’ The Chinese vendor announced plans to introduce 10Gbps-capable 5G millimetre-wave (mmWave) and sub-6GHz base stations (compliant with 3GPP and 5G NR standards) and identified spectrum bands in February 2017. ZDNet also notes that ZTE unveiled its patented FDD-LTE Massive MIMO solution, powered by its MSC2.0 vector processing chip, at the end of 2016 after trialling it with China Unicom and China Telecom. It also launched its modular 5G IT baseband unit with Intel in February, which is compatible over 2G, 3G, 4G and pre-5G networks thanks to the use of software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) technologies, and supports cloud-radio access networks, distributed-RAN, and 5G central and distributed units.

Japan, SoftBank Corp, SoftBank Group Corp, ZTE