Ericsson plans 2Gbps 5G small-cell unit for 2019 launch

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Radio Dot customer China Mobile says new 5G version from Ericsson will play ‘key role’

Ericsson says it has taken the next step towards 5G by announcing a small-cell product that will bring coverage to offices, factories and shopping centres.

The 5G Radio Dot is a new version of an existing Ericsson product that delivers 3G or 4G services indoors. Like its predecessor, it is connected to the macro network via standard Ethernet cable.

“We have about 70 customers [for the existing version], really big volumes from China, Japan and the US,” said Martin Ljungberg, strategic product manager for small cell solutions at Ericsson. He said that China Mobile and China Unicom are both customers for the existing Radio Dot.

AT&T announced last week that it plans to have 5G services running in a number of US markets by the end of 2018, but Ljungberg would not confirm whether the company was likely to be a customer for 5G – partly because of spectrum challenges.

The new 5G Radio Dot operates on bands from 3GHz to 6GHz, which are not available for 5G in the US, he explained. “The US will start 5G in the low bands, but I suspect they might look at refarming [higher bands] for 5G.” Last week’s AT&T 5G announcement “is not something we can comment on”, he added.

According to Ljungberg, the new 5G Radio Dot has a top speed of 800Mbps when it has 100MHz of spectrum available, but could run to 2Gbps with carrier aggregation.

Typical applications will be shopping malls, offices, hospitals and universities, he said. It won’t be sold as a consumer unit, though some existing Radio Dots are used in apartment blocks, he said.

“An important part of 5G will be machine-to-machine applications and we see opportunities for providing 5G coverage indoors – and manufacturing is a good example of that.” Ericsson is working with Swedish ball-bearing maker SKT on indoor applications of the Radio Dot, he said.

Huang Yuhong, deputy head of the China Mobile Research Institute, said: “The Ericsson Radio Dot system is already widely deployed in our 4G networks. As an innovative small cell solution, it further enhances our indoor solutions and will continue to play a key role in the 5G era. We’re happy to see Ericsson evolving the Radio Dot to 5G technology.”

The new 5G model won’t be available commercially until 2019 after trials later this year, said Ericsson.