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BT to Launch Commercial 5G Services by the End of 2019

U.K. telecom group BT says it will launch commercial 5G services before the end of next year, the company’s CEO Gavin Patterson said during a recent conference call with investors to discuss the group’s strategic plan and financial results.

“We intend to lead the market to 5G, looking to have a commercial product launched within the next 18 months,” the executive said. “We’ve already secured 3.4 GHz spectrum for 5G, and plan to participate in the 700 MHz auction,” Patterson added. BT-owned EE paid £302.6 million ($411.2 million) for 40 megahertz of the spectrum band.

The executive added that BT expects to reach 95% of geographic coverage with 4G by 2020.

“As we implement our strategy, we will remain very disciplined on capex. Our capex has increased over the last few years, and this is primarily due to the increased capacity and network investment. We expect a further step-up in reported capex for this year and next to around £3.7 billion.”

BT has been recently working with different vendors in order to pave the way for the commercial launch of 5G technology.

In November 2017, BT, together with Finnish vendor Nokia and the University of Bristol, have launched a live proof of concept (PoC) based on the 5G standard. The PoC was designed to test and validate smart urban applications over next-generation mobile networks in the city of Bristol.

The PoC will use research expertise from the University of Bristol, as well as 5G network solutions and radio access points from Nokia combined with spectrum from BT.

The test bed was initially expected to examine the optimum models for 5G as part of a future urban dense networks that will maximise coverage and speed, using a combination of research and commercial solutions such as Nokia’s AirScale and AirFrame infrastructure. Future activity will focus on the use of 5G as an enabler of IoT technologies.

In February this year, BT Group and Chinese vendor Huawei signed  a new deal to extend their strategic partnership, which will focus on 5G trials.

The partnership involves development and live trials of 5G New Radio (NR), core network technology, and 5G customer premises equipment (CPEs). The aim is to test real-life 5G performance in a range of environments in preparation for commercial launch, the two companies said.

BT and Huawei started joint work on 5G research and development in 2016. In November 2017, they announced the completion of the UK’s first 5G end-to-end lab testing, reaching 2.8Gbps downlink throughput and sub-5ms latency.

Additionally, BT and Huawei have showcased the first 5G UL/DL decoupling proof-of-concept live in London at Huawei’s Global Broadband Forum, which took place in November 2017. This technology improves C-band coverage and implements co-site deployment of C-band and 1.8 GHz band. Huawei said that this technology solves the issue of limited uplink coverage on higher frequency bands during the initial deployment of 5G networks, and reduces operators’ requirements for new sites during 5G network construction. – RCR Wireless

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