Qualcomm, Ericsson, SK Telecom plan 5G NR trials in H2 of 2017

Qualcomm 5G (Qualcomm)
Qualcomm Technologies 5G NR trial platform (Image: Qualcomm)

In a sign that 5G is inching ever closer to the commercialization stage, Qualcomm Technologies, Ericsson and South Korea’s SK Telecom announced plans to conduct interoperability testing and over-the-air field trials based on 5G New Radio (NR) standards that are being developed in 3GPP. The interoperability tests and trials will be conducted in the second half of 2017.

The trials are intended to closely track and help accelerate the first 3GPP 5G NR specification that will be part of Release 15. The press release announcing the deal doesn’t identify exactly which spectrum will be used in the SK Telecom trials, only that the global 5G standard will make use of both sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave spectrum bands.

The companies say the trials will showcase new 5G NR technologies that use wide bandwidths in the higher frequency bands to increase network capacity and achieve multi-gigabit-per-second data rates. Such technologies are said to be critical in meeting the connectivity requirements for things like virtual reality, augmented reality and connected cloud services. In addition, they say the proliferation of 5G NR technology can make it more cost-effective and easier for multi-gigabit internet services to reach more homes and businesses.

“As we did in both 3G and 4G, we are excited about collaborating with leading operators and industry stakeholders such as Ericsson and SK Telecom to accelerate the path to 5G,” said Matt Grob, executive vice president and chief technology officer, Qualcomm Technologies, in a press release. “The roadmap of 5G technologies is incredibly complex, and trials based on the global 3GPP 5G standard, such as this, are critical to continuing our long history of leadership integrating advanced wireless technologies in form-factor accurate devices to ensure timely deployment of 5G networks.”

Alex Jinsung Choi, EVP, chief technology officer at SK Telecom, also emphasized in the press release that a globally agreed upon and unified standard is imperative to achieve early commercialization of 5G and build an efficient ecosystem around it. “As 3GPP NR is a global 5G standard, we are delighted to announce early 3GPP NR trials with leading 5G players, Ericsson and Qualcomm, with which we have made remarkable world’s first footprints in the past with previous generations of groundbreaking mobile technologies.”

Specifically, the trials will involve 3GPP 5G NR Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques to deliver mobile broadband communications at higher frequency bands, including non-line-of-sight (NLOS) environments and device mobility. It will also make use of scalable OFDM-based waveforms and a new flexible framework design that are also part of the 5G NR specifications.

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It’s worth noting that while there could be fixed wireless components to these trials, the real emphasis here appears to be on mobility. Verizon Wireless has vowed to be the first U.S. carrier to offer a 5G service, but its market trials planned for early next year revolve around fixed wireless.

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Earlier this year, 3GPP kicked off a study item on 5G NR, defining a new OFDM-based wireless standard for the basis of 5G, and last summer, Qualcomm announced its 5G NR prototype system and trial platform. The spec is starting to materialize and as that work item gets worked on in 3GPP throughout 2017, it’s important to think about trials and interoperability testing and having prototype systems aligned to that spec, according to Matt Branda, director of 5G Technical Marketing at Qualcomm Technologies.

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“Now that 3GPP standardization efforts to develop the 5G NR global specification are well underway, interoperability testing and over-the-air field trials based on this specification (such as our recent announcement with SK Telelcom and Ericsson) are critical to accelerating wide-scale 5G commercial network launches based on a global standard,” Branda told FierceWirelessTech. “Early 5G mmWave deployments based on non-3GPP specifications will assist in this acceleration by allowing us to gain valuable insights from putting leading-edge mmWave 5G technology in real products on real networks.”

When the industry meets at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of February, no doubt there will be all kinds of 5G demonstrations and announcements, and stakeholders will have a chance to weigh in how their wares will be compliant with 5G NR or how they’re aiming to meet the evolving standards.