Ericsson, in partnership with Oppo and MediaTek, performed successful 5G voice and video over New Radio calls in Sweden, a basic capability needed for future standalone NR (SA NR) 5G deployments.
The test was conducted at Ericsson’s Stockholm headquarters in a 5G standalone environment using the vendor’s commercial Radio System products, a modified commercial Oppo smartphone and MediaTek’s Dimensity 1000 series SoC.
Oppo said after dialing, the two phones “connected almost instantly” and with a keypress switched to a high-definition video call. The calls were conducted over sub-6 GHz TDD (Time Division Duplex) spectrum, according to an Ericsson spokesperson.
This follows a successful VoNR interoperability test between Ericsson and MediaTek last December, which the pair touted as an industry first.
Early 5G deployments, like those in the U.S., have used non-standalone NR (NSA NR) architecture, where the core is still anchored in LTE. Currently 5G smartphones rely on 4G connections to support voice calls, but 5G helps boost data, according to Ericsson. When carriers’ 5G networks move to SA NR, they’ll need to support native 5G voice calling.
"After spearheading 5G rollouts across the world, we are gearing up for the next step: 5G Standalone services,” said Hannes Ekström, head of Product Line 5G RAN at Ericsson, in a statement.
5G is often noted for capabilities like super-fast speeds and massive capacity, but voice calling is still a key function, as is video. This has become even more apparent as millions of Americans and people worldwide have shifted behavior, working and staying at home amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, and using voice and video calls to connect.
On March 22, for example, AT&T reported wireless voice calls were up 44%, compared to usage on a normal Sunday.
Verizon CTO Kyle Malady last month in a statement said that after years of a steady decline in the amount of time users spend talking to each other, particularly on wireless phones, voice was picking back up. “The move to staying at home has reignited people’s hunger to stay connected, voice-to-voice,” Malady said.
Verizon saw voice usage spike 25% from March 12 compared to March 19, with wireless voice usage up 10% and call durations increasing 15%.
A survey by Enea last month found 27% of mobile operators expected to begin deploying 5G SA within 12-18 months, but it’s unclear yet if or how many may change plans because of the coronavirus crisis.
5G Americas President Chris Pearson previously told FierceWireless that the industry group still anticipates the start of operators transitioning to SA NR in 2020 and 2021.