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Europe’s first standalone 5G network developed in UK

Image credit: reuters

The University of Surrey has announced Europe’s first 5G standalone (5GSA) end-to-end technology, allowing 5G-capable mobile phones to achieve download speeds of 1GB per second.

The current 5G deployment is in the form of non-standalone, which uses 5G New Radio (5GNR) complemented with 4G radio and 4G core.

To develop this groundbreaking 5GSA, Surrey’s 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) used the Massive MIMO 64x64 5GNR at 3.5GHz spectrum with 100MHz bandwidth present around its campus and its own 5G Core that was built in the UK by 5GIC researchers. The Surrey team then used a commercially available 5G capable mobile phone to test end-to-end performance of its 5GSA.

With the use of Surrey’s 5G Core technology, most 5G-enabled phones could download ultra high-definition video content in mere seconds. The standalone network could also be a gamechanger for high-definition real-time video game services, allowing people to play their favourite titles on the move.

Regius Professor Rahim Tafazolli, founding director of the 5G and 6G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, said: “This is a landmark moment for 5G and our world-leading research team, illustrating that the UK’s knowledge, expertise and capabilities are pivotal to ensuring that the promise of 5G is fully realised. This test once again demonstrates that our 5G Core is 100 per cent 3GPP standard-compliant and is a high-performing solution.

“We are in the process of developing commercial offerings of all of our 5G technologies and, with our newly launched 6G Innovation Centre, we believe the UK will also be a world leader in 6G when the technology comes to market in 2030.”

Yogaratnam Rahulan, chief architect at the 5G and 6G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, said: “This is a real breakthrough for our inhouse-built 5G mobile core network, which is compliant to 3GPP Release 15 and Release 16 standards. Our state-of-the-art core is a fully virtualised solution that can be used on any cloud-native platforms. It is also capable of network slicing and our 5G Core was previously tested with GEO and vLEO satellite communications systems.

“We are developing a lightweight Network Operation Centre to support dynamic, automated network management, control and slicing. We plan to again demonstrate the end-to-end 5G stand-alone with our own OpenRAN implementation later in the year.”

5G is a key technology in the government's ambition to "build back better". In January, a joint investment was announced between the government and businesses that will go towards nine UK-wide projects to demonstrate the benefits of 5G, with a focus on improving lives and supporting industry. The nine projects will seek to show how the country could reap the full benefits of the 5G rollout.

Regarding the UK's 5G rollout, in December 2020 Ericsson said that its plans to upgrade the UK’s mobile networks to 5G could create up to 800 jobs by 2022. With Chinese firm Huawei now firmly out of the UK 5G picture, following the UK government’s decision to ban the company from playing any role in the nation’s 5G networks, the mantle was passed to Ericsson.

The Swedish firm now has agreements in place to deploy 5G and enhance network coverage for all four major UK mobile network operators, which it says should generate around 800 direct and indirect employment opportunities.

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