5G: the network technologies of tomorrow are being invented today!

Orange is preparing 5G, a multi-service network that in 2020 will connect smartphones, connected objects and equipment that will disseminate content in 360° or using augmented reality. We’ll look at the technological challenges with Emmanuel Lugagne Delpon, Director of Orange Labs Networks.

5G will offer improved performance in terms of speed and bandwidth. In our labs we have already demonstrated broadband capacity of 15Gbp/s alongside our partner Ericsson.

5G will be the mobile network of the next decade starting in 2020, but what technologies are behind it?

Emmanuel Lugagne Delpon: A mobile network is a set of relay antennas that allow smartphones to enjoy wireless access. It’s also what we call a core network, what links one antenna to another and allows them to connect to the web. 5G is a core network evolution to manage and co-host the range of services we offer to customers, in addition to a new mobile access network.

In concrete terms, what will make 5G possible?

Emmanuel Lugagne Delpon: The key technology behind 5G is a new mobile access technology called “Massive MIMO” (Multiple Input Multiple Output). A Massive MIMO antenna is a smart antenna made up of a large number of miniature transmitters. Whereas current antennas do not take into account the location of smartphones in their areas, the new Massive MIMO antennas will be smart and will follow each smartphone a bit like the beam of a flashlight. This principle will deliver faster speeds, accommodate a greater number of users, reduce the electricity usage and increase mobile coverage.

What technological leaps will 5G make?

Emmanuel Lugagne Delpon: 5G will offer improved performance in terms of speed and bandwidth. In our labs we have already demonstrated broadband capacity of 15Gbp/s alongside our partner Ericsson. In 2017 we also carried out field tests with Massive MIMO technology with our partner Huawei in Romania and that experiment enabled us to prove that 5G will accommodate 4 times as many users for a given frequency!

Technically, how will you roll out 5G at Orange?

Emmanuel Lugagne Delpon: At first we will probably roll out 5G by providing minimum changes to the 4G core networks and setting up new 5G antenna technologies. It is very important to understand that we intend to reuse existing mobile sites so we have to ensure that the new antennas dovetail as precisely as possible with the 4G sites we currently have. That means reusing towers and electricity supplies but changing antennas, electronic equipment and network connections. We have asked Nokia and Kathrein to co-build a new type of antenna that can handle both 4G and massive MIMO 5G. Such an antenna will continue to be compact enough to be installed easily at our existing mobile sites.

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