Deutsche Telekom is laying the foundation for the roll-out of 5G in Germany. The first 5G antennas in Europe to fully support the new communications standard are now operating, in real world conditions, in Deutsche Telekom's network in downtown Berlin. The antennas, in three cells located in Leipziger Straße and three in Winterfeldtstraße, are based on the 5G New Radio (5G NR) standard. With this technical set-up, Deutsche Telekom has successfully demonstrated Europe's first 5G data connection over a live network.
Currently, an entire 5G cluster is being deployed in the heart of Berlin. The cluster is initially spanning an area of up to 5 km wide. The first six commercial antennas are now installed in sites in Berlin's Mitte and Schöneberg districts for test operations. An additional 70 cells are to be installed by the summer of this year, across a total of more than 20 sites. The result will be a major 5G testbed in the center of Germany's capital.
The antennas are using frequencies in the 3.7 GHz band under a testing license; in general, 3 GHz is one of the spectrum bands in focus for initial 5G deployments. Germany's Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Post and Railway) is responsible for 5G spectrum license allocation and related planning in Germany.
Walter Goldenits, CTO at Telekom Deutschland, said, "5G NR in Berlin is another major step towards 5G for all. This 5G cluster in Berlin will serve as the basis for our future commercial 5G rollout in Germany. The antennas are providing important test results. At the same time, they are real elements of what will be our future 5G network. We are preparing the ground so that our network will be ready when the first 5G-capable smartphones appear on the market."
For the pre-commercial set-up in the center of Berlin, the 5G equipment is integrated into the live network infrastructure, meaning it is interacting with Deutsche Telekom's 4G spectrum in Germany. This will enable the interconnection and field testing of future 5G services under real world conditions.
The implementation is using commercial 5G equipment from Huawei with software and terminals based on the 3GPP standard for 5G NR (in the non-standalone version). The mobile communications component for 5G was standardized in December 2017. Deploying 5G NR in the sub-6 GHz mid-band is ideally suited for 5G use cases that require wide-area coverage, multi-gigabit data throughput and millisecond low latencies.
Advanced antenna techniques are used to increase capacity and data rates in 5G NR compared to 4G. Massive MIMO greatly increases the number of antenna elements deployed at both the base station and in the subscriber device. The large numbers of antenna elements used in massive MIMO 5G antennas — up to 64 per antenna — greatly improve coverage precision for each individual user, and the use of multi-user beamforming technology in combination with massive MIMO optimizes the data transmission to each user, multiplying the efficiency of spectral use.
Moving 5G Forward
Deutsche Telekom is deeply engaged to make the introduction of 5G technology successful. To accelerate the development of new 5G applications, the company, working in cooperation with its Berlin-based hub:raum startup incubator, has launched the 5G Prototyping Program. Another relevant program, focused on low latency, is already underway. Both programs are geared towards innovative application developers seeking to exploit the advantages of edge computing and 5G network performance. These developers will have the opportunity to verify their ideas on a live environment in the 5G cluster in Berlin.
Deutsche Telekom is playing a leading role to advance the development of the 5G standard and the related industry ecosystem. At the beginning of this year, Deutsche Telekom, Intel and Huawei achieved the world's first verification of 5G NR interoperability in an operator environment. In that demonstration, the partners verified that 5G standard-compliant components from different manufacturers can function properly together. With the first standard-compliant, commercial 5G systems now available, their integration into a live network represents the next decisive step in 5G development.
At this year's Mobile World Congress exhibition in Barcelona, Deutsche Telekom announced plans to test a 5G-based system for intelligent management of energy grids. The smart grid testbed is currently being set up in Dresden. In addition, Deutsche Telekom has established MobiledgeX, a new subsidiary that aims to tap into the potential of Edge Computing and extremely low latencies.
Claudia Nemat, Deutsche Telekom board member for technology and innovation, said, "We're continuing on our strong preparation course for the rollout of 5G in 2020. Today, right in the heart of Berlin, we're taking the next decisive step — with the successful integration of commercial 5G technology into our network. We want to ensure that 5G is going to deliver on its promise of enhanced mobility, high speed and low latency."