5G mobile networks may still be a few years away, but that doesn't mean the technology's not already being tested in Australia. Vodafone and Huawei teamed up to show off massive multi-device data throughput in a real-world setting, using its existing frequency spectrum in Sydney's south to hit transfer speeds of 717Mbps.
The test used Vodafone's 20MHz of 1800MHz FDD frequency holding — used for most 4G bands currently — and a Huawei 5G active antenna unit. That antenna uses 32 internal transmitters and receivers for a technology called beamforming — already used in some high-end home Wi-Fi routers — to steer the signal towards receiving devices using the most appropriate antenna.
717Mbps is no joke, and it was achieved across eight devices; Vodafone says it's seeing increases in data usage of 60 per cent year on year, with the proliferation of mobile video and streaming music, as well as future uses like 4K and augmented reality, widely expected to push current networks to their breaking limit. 5G is being designed to deliver fast speeds to many users simultaneously, and massive MIMO is a crucial part of that — the telco is calling it "a significant step towards 5G".
Vodafone's previous tests used a full 200MHz of spectrum and were able to hit 5Gbps download speeds — enough to snag a season of Game of Thrones in 10 seconds. Latency was also phenomenally low in that test at 3ms, where ideal 4G latency usually sits around seven times higher at 20ms.
The telco says it plans to roll out FDD Massive MIMO to some sites during 2018. [Vodafone]