Huawei fetes 5.5G at lychee jamboree

  • Huawei is trying to get jump on 5G-Advanced rivals with a live 5.5G trial
  • The 5G-Advanced standard won't be commercial with Release 18 until 2025
  • Release 18 is only the start of the 5G-Advanced updates

Huawei is trying to steal a march on a new generation of 5G by pushing its first live 5.5G trial out after the related 3GPP Release 18 first 5G-Advanced standard was largely frozen in March – which means that further additions and modifications won’t be allowed.

Last week, Huawei held a 5.5G network trial with China Unicom at a lychee festival themed around 5G in Guangzhou’s Zengcheng district. (Live streamers apparently used a 5G service to promote and sell lychees at several orchards, in case you're wondering!) 

“A 5.5G network trial was also conducted onsite during the festival; it recorded a maximum uplink speed exceeding 500 Mbps,” Huawei said in a press release, noting this is the first trial of 5.5G during a live stream.

Huawei has said that 5.5G and 5G-Advanced do differ. "Huawei's concept for 5.5G goes beyond just mobile, we're also including 5.5G as part of our broader technology picture, including optical networks and our IP networks," said Brian Chamberlin, executive advisor for carrier marketing at Huawei in a December 2023 blog on 5.5G. However, the same blog also combines 5.5G and 5G-A multiple times in the document.

The “trial ... is pre-standard and not commercial,” noted Gabriel Brown, senior principal analyst, mobile networks at Heavy Reading.

“5.5G is more of a marketing term to describe some interim milestone between 5G and 6G,” Roy Chua, principal at AvidThink, added.

“The 3GPP is working towards 5G-Advanced,” Chua said in an email. “Release 18 specifications (just frozen) set some of the basics for 5G Advanced, but the plan is for Release 19 to have more and then likely continue into Release 20. Release 19 won't be frozen till end of 2025.”  

Some handsets, however, will show up with some elements of 5G-Advanced this year, he noted.

Huawei’s 5.5G lychee jamboree

With a 13.9% share of 5G active patent families, Huawei is the company with the largest number of 5G patents, beating out ZTE, Samsung, Qualcomm, Ericsson and Nokia, according to the latest report by consulting firm GreyB.

As such, Huawei is deep in the weeds on 5G-Advanced with the 3GPP. Like other vendors before it, however, it is not one to miss a marketing opportunity (especially one with live streamed lychees.)

As Heavy Reading’s Brown noted in an email, uplink upgrades will be a big part of 5.5G and 5G-Advanced. “We expect the importance of uplink applications to increase over the next few years. And in Release 18, 5G Advanced includes uplink enhancements such as UL CA (Uplink carrier aggregation) and UL MIMO that will help serve these users. All major vendors and operators will support enhanced uplink – it’s a critical part of 5G Advanced,” he said.