Ericsson and China Mobile successfully complete a 5G drone prototype field trial on operator’s network. Handovers performed between sites simultaneously in use by commercial mobile phone users. Ericsson and China Mobile have been collaborators in the China National Key 5G Project since the beginning of 2016.

Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and China Mobile have partnered to conduct the world’s first 5G-enabled drone prototype field trial on operator’s network. The trial represents a major milestone on the road to 5G.

In the trial, held in Wuxi in China’s Jiangsu province, a drone was flown using operator’s cellular network with 5G-enabled technologies and with handovers across multiple sites. In order to demonstrate the concept’s validity in a real-world setting, the handovers were performed between sites that were simultaneously in use by commercial mobile phone users.

The potential use cases for this technology include mission-critical applications such as support for emergency services. However, end-to-end low latency needs to be guaranteed by the operator’s network to ensure the safety and reliability of such services.

Ericsson and China Mobile have been collaborating in the China National Key 5G Project since the beginning of 2016, focusing on user-centric 5G network architecture evolution. One of the project’s aims is to optimize latency for mission-critical use cases, by dynamically deploying part of a network through distributed cloud close to the radio edge. The drone trial is therefore an important step toward 5G networks in which part of a network can be distributed and dynamically deployed at the cellular edge in order to reduce end-to-end latency, and to serve a range of 5G use cases at the same time.

Huang Yuhong, Deputy Head, China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI), says: “China Mobile join hands with Ericsson on research and trials of 5G key technologies, leveraging China Mobile’s 5G joint innovation center as the platform. Both companies target to explore the 5G possibilities in vertical industries and new use case scenarios, and together drive towards 5G commercial capability in 2020.”

Chris Houghton, Head of Region Northeast Asia, Ericsson, says: “With commercial implementation expected from 2020, Ericsson’s 5G research is coming out of the labs and into live test networks. We see tremendous opportunities in 5G, and we are mobilizing the ecosystem and collaborating with industry leaders such as China Mobile to help make 5G a reality.”

Ericsson and China Mobile showcased this 5G demo at MWC Shanghai 2016, held June 29 to July 1, 2016.

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