UK university makes major 5G breakthrough

A 5G consortium led by the University of Kent has successfully achieved speeds of up to 5Gbps in trials designed to test the suitability of Ethernet for the fronthaul components of next generation mobile networks.

iCIRRUS (intelligent Converged network consolidating Radio and optical access aRound USer equipment) is an EU Horizon 2020 funded 36-month project comprising 11 members, including Orange, the University of Essex and the UK’s Viavi Solutions.

It believes that because Ethernet equipment is already widely used and available, it can be a low-cost way of getting data from the antennas to the base station, where it is then sent on via fibre backhaul.

5G Ethernet fronthaul

Mobile operators could then pass on the savings to customers and it could even be used to improve 4G.

It believes the latest trials, conducted at Telekom Slovenije’s headquarters, are a major step forward for 5G as the fronthaul system was able to achieve rates of 100Gbps on the fronthaul network and 5Gbps in 5G speeds.

It is expected that the first commercial 5G networks will go live in 2019 – one year earlier than expected – offering low latency, high capacity and speeds of up to 10Gbps. Lab trials have already reached this threshold, while EE and Huawei successfully achieved 2.8Gbps in the UK’s first ‘end to end’ test late last year.

There are several testbeds in the UK, while last week the government revealed the winners of a £25 million funding competition. Six projects are set to receive grants of up to £5 million to investigate the potential for 5G to transform a range of sectors, including healthcare, agriculture and tourism.

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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.