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Summary:

NTT Docomo is performing groundbreaking new trials of new wireless technologies that could boost capacity to 10 Gbps on future mobile networks. It’s not 5G, but it could become part of a future 5G standard.

Japanese mobile giant NTT Docomo plans to conduct experimental trials of new high-bandwidth network technologies that could deliver up to 10 Gbps over a wireless link and connect millions of new devices to the mobile network. The hope is these new radio technologies could become part of the emerging 5G standard.

Docomo is working with network vendors Ericsson, Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent, Samsung, NEC and Fujitsu to conduct lab trials at the carrier’s R&D center in Yokosuka, followed by outdoor trials network year.

NTT Docomo is exploring a part of the electromagnetic band that has been previously deemed useless for mobile use: the vast swaths of wireless spectrum above 6 GHz. By bringing together huge numbers of frequencies and using big antenna arrays to carriers could introduce reams of new capacity into their networks, but there’s also a question of whether they can use that capacity in truly mobile networks or just transmit it only to devices that stay put. Hopefully trials like NTT Docomo’s will help answer those questions.

To its credit, NTT Docomo was very careful to say these trials were just experiments to test the technology’s potential ahead of 5G’s formal standardization process. It plans to submit its findings to the mobile industry researchers starting in 2016. Docomo’s vendors aren’t being so careful, though. According to Ericsson, it’s just deploying a 5G network for the Japanese carrier.

As I’ve written before, this kind of overzealous of marketing of 5G doesn’t do anyone any good. By conflating tests of individual technologies with 5G itself, vendors like Samsung and Ericsson are basically co-opting the term 5G before the industry can figure out what it wants to accomplish in the next generation of mobile networking. In this case, they’re reducing 5G to a mere equation of speed. As I wrote in Gigaom’s Reinventing the Internet series this week, though, there’s a lot more complexity to building wireless networks of the future than supplying fatter pipes.