The United Kingdom is combining state-of-the art auto testing and 5G testing at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. Millbrook is a leading testing facility for prototype vehicles — many of which will be connected and self-driving — and UK authorities consider it fitting to serve also as proving ground for 5G smart driving and transportation use cases.
According to Forbes, the Millbrook testbed is operated by the AutoAir consortium led by Airspan, which is joined by 5GIC, Arm, Blu Wireless, Dense Air, McLaren Applied Technologies, Millbrook, Quortus, and Real Wireless. The first trials are slated to begin in February. The system is designed to run as a neutral host to see how effectively multiple networks — BT, EE, Vodafone, Three, or O2 — can all connect to the 5G network, which will gather data on how to boost poor mobile coverage in transport corridors, and prove that constant connectivity, low latency, and high throughput can be supported by 5G.
Among the group of UK carriers, Three is perceived by the others as having the upper hand in the country's 5G race with this week's decision by regulator Ofcom to allow Three to combine two blocks of frequencies in launching its 5G service next year, reported Daily Mirror. Ofcom says the merged spectrum will allow Three to “offer increased peak speeds by using a larger carrier and potentially better coverage by having higher in-block power levels,” according to 5G.co.uk.
Another 5G test case being pushed in the UK is "smart tourism" applications, such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) experiences. The Millbrook transport testbed network is fiber-based, supplemented with a 60 GHz mesh. By contrast, the Metnet 60 GHz unlicensed mmWave wireless solution by Cambridge Communication Systems (CCS) comprises self-organizing mesh radios across the center of Bath, and will deliver up to 12 Gbps per radio, reported 5G.co.uk. A virtual reality Roman soldier showing visitors around the Roman Baths is one example of 5G-enabled tourism showcased by project participants as the system went live this week. The trial is part of the 5G Smart Tourism program sponsored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
In technology news, Samsung and LG reportedly are planning to unveil 5G phones during Mobile World Congress (MWC), held Feb. 25-28, 2019. According to CNET, Samsung will launch three Galaxy S10 models and a separate 5G phone, while LG's 5G phone will be an upgraded version of the LG G7 ThinQ with Qualcomm's new 5G chip. These 5G phones reportedly will hit store shelves in March.
Hong Kong's Communications Authority (CA) has announced plans to auction a total of 4,500 megahertz in different bands next year. According to RCR Wireless, beginning in April 2019, the regulator plans to offer a total of 4,500 megahertz, including 100 MHz in the 3.3 GHz band, 200 MHz at 3.5 GHz and 80 MHz at 4.9GHz, plus 4,100 MHz across the 26 GHz band; then, in mid-2019, a total of 380 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band, 3.3 GHz band, and 4.9 GHz band will be auctioned. By contrast, India's Department of Telecommunications said it will not be conducting more spectrum auctions until the latter half of 2019, reported Total Telecom. India is scheduled to roll out 5G services by the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, Qatar already is in full deployment mode. Vodafone Qatar this week launched its 5G network in Souq Waqif, following last week's deployment in Katara Cultural Village, and deployments in Abu Hamour, Al Azizya, Al Mamoura, Al Rayyan, Salwa Road, and Umm Salal Muhammed, earlier this year, reported Gulf Times. Vodafone Qatar CEO Sheikh Hamad Abdulla Jassim al-Thani said, "Such investments in world-class infrastructure are designed to fulfill the objectives of Qatar’s National Vision 2030 and support the country in becoming one of the most digitally connected in the world. We’re committed to building out the necessary communications network as well as the solutions and services that run on such technology in a bid to improve all our lives."
Likewise, San Marino this week flipped the switch on its massive-MIMO 5G network operated by Telecom Italia, reported Telecoms.com. Andrea Zafferani, Sam Marino’s Secretary of State for Telecommunications, said, “Today is an extraordinary day for our country. We are the first State in Europe to boast complete 5G coverage of its territory. An important result achieved thanks to the collaboration with the TIM Group and Nokia, who we thank for having believed in our country and having managed to complete this challenge.”
Meanwhile, Italian telco Fastweb and European telecom infrastructure firm Cellnex announced an agreement to deploy a 5G network in Italy. According to RCR Wireless, the deal involves Cellnex making its sites available to Fastweb, which will allow Fastweb to speed up the development of 5G networks in some areas of the cities where the company is holding 5G trials, such as Rome, Genoa, Bari, and Matera. Earlier this year, Italian operator TIM and Fastweb, in partnership with Chinese vendor Huawei, activated the first commercial 5G base station in Bari, and the first 5G antenna in Matera.
Huawei, the world's biggest supplier of network switching gear, has been accused of producing equipment with security backdoors for the Chinese government. Huawei had said that "not a single shred of evidence" supports these allegations.
“There never has been any actual proof,” Andrew Kitson, head of technology industry research for Fitch Solutions, told Japan Times. “They’ve only got to make a few insinuations for other governments to sit up and think, hang on, even if there is no proof, it is too much of a risk.”
Although cast as being politically motivated — in light of the U.S.-China trade tussle, as well as friction created by the arrest of a Huawei executive in Canada — the move to sideline Huawei at the advent of the 5G era seems to have ulterior business motives. Kitson points out to Japan Times that many who back allegations against Huawei "come from U.S. and European suppliers that are losing market share to Chinese rivals."
A German industry watchdog also concluded that the company posed no threat. Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) found no proof that Huawei's network infrastructure was any more or less secure than that of its competitors, reported Total Telecom.
"For such serious decisions like a ban, you need proof," said the head of Germany's BSI, Arne Schoenbohm.
As an aside, apparently, some people get confused with the terms "5G" and "5GHz Wi-Fi" and think they are one and the same. How to Geek explains that, while "5G" is the new, upcoming, fifth generation cellular standard, "5GHz Wi-Fi" is NOT 5G, but is just one of two frequencies of the older Wi-Fi standard (the other being 2.4 GHz). So, whenever you see the term “5G” associated with Wi-Fi, it probably just refers to 5 GHz Wi-Fi. And we should start using the term “5G” exclusively for the next-generation networks and devices.