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5G? Not so fast: Nokia is betting on two more flavors of LTE first

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Nokia has unveiled its 4.5G Pro AirScale base station, as well as fleshing out its 4.9G portfolio.


Image: Nokia

If you’re expecting the next generation of mobile network technology to be 5G, you might need to think again: Nokia is betting there’s room for one more iteration of LTE before fifth-generation tech goes mainstream.

Nokia last year announced its initial 4.9G products, saying it expects the first networks using the tech to go live later this year, ahead of the launch of the earliest 5G networks in 2018, timed to coincide with the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Now, fleshing out its 4.9G portfolio, the company has also released a massive MIMO adaptive antenna. With a 64-transmitter and receiver setup, Nokia says the antenna can jack up a cell’s downlink capacity fivefold.

The antenna uses 3D beamforming tech, whereby mobile signals are targeted directly to devices, rather than broadcast in all directions. 3D beamforming will also form part of the 5G specification when it’s eventually published in 2018.

While some operators are already starting to build out their 5G networks ahead of the publication of the 5G spec, all will be looking to squeeze some more investment out of their LTE investments at the same time, which the likes of 4.9G is intended to help them do.

As well as boosting capacity, 4.9G should lower latency to 10ms and increase throughputs up to several Gbps.

“You can see this as a long-term complement to 5G,” Phil Twist, marketing VP at Nokia’s Networks business, said. The first networks based on the official 5G standard should be arriving in 2020.

Nokia is equally bulking out its product suite for another strand of LTE: what it’s calling 4.5G Pro with the launch of its AirScale Micro Remote Radio Head.

The kit will, says Nokia, mean 1Gbps speeds from LTE Advanced Pro networks, which is 4.5G Pro in Nokia speak. Such speeds are available from 20MHz of licensed spectrum, when used alongside unlicensed spectrum.

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