Ericsson, Qualcomm mark 5G call on CBRS spectrum

Ericsson CBRS
The trial was conducted at Ericsson's North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, using FCC test licenses. (Ericsson)

The benefits of Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum at 3.5 GHz and the era of 5G have been celebrated ad nauseum in the wireless world. But the two together, conducting a 5G New Radio (NR) call using CBRS spectrum? Not so much.

That’s in part because CBRS launched with great fanfare using LTE spectrum, and that was not only fine – it was a boon for enterprises, particularly those looking for a slice of spectrum they could call their own.

With CBRS, enterprises can tap their own private LTE networks, with or without a license from a wireless carrier. They can use General Authorized Access (GAA) spectrum, which is unlicensed, or deploy via licensed Priority Access License (PAL) spectrum.

Today, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies announced what they’re describing as a “significant achievement” for the industry – the first over-the-air 5G New Radio (NR) call on CBRS spectrum.

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Conducted in a recent field trial at Ericsson’s North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, the call was done using Ericsson radios 4408 and AIR 6449 and a smartphone form-factor test device powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform with the Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF system.

It used a Standalone (SA) 5G network configuration with rooftop radios allowing for various test scenarios, including intra- and inter-band mobility and carrier aggregation (3.55-3.7 GHz TDD and C-band), as well as mobility between n48 and 5G low-band or 4G, according to a press release.

With this over-the-air 5G NR call, Ericsson and Qualcomm “now deliver the power of 5G NR to CBRS shared spectrum,” according to the companies, although they were short on details on exactly when all of this is going to happen in a commercial setting. The trial was made possible with FCC test licenses.  

“The promise of 5G NR in the CBRS band offers nearly unlimited potential for enterprise applications and industries, and we are excited to once again collaborate with Qualcomm Technologies in this industry first achievement,” said Paul Challoner, vice president, network product solutions at Ericsson North America, in a statement. “This demonstrates our technology leadership and investments to date, and the fruits of our collaboration to drive the promise of private networks in the Industry 4.0 evolution.”

“This 5G NR call over CBRS spectrum is a significant milestone with Ericsson in enabling the full potential of 5G and will help address the increasing data demand and evolving use cases for wireless connectivity among consumers, enterprises, governments and other organizations,” said Francesco Grilli, vice president, product management at Qualcomm Technologies. “Qualcomm Technologies has been at the forefront of commercialization of CBRS with support since 2017 in our Snapdragon Mobile Platforms, LTE modems and the Snapdragon X55 and X65 5G Modem-RF Systems, and we are excited to create opportunities for deployment and to enable better user experiences in a wide array of scenarios.”

Ericsson rival Nokia has been at the forefront of CBRS since the early days as well.

Nokia’s private wireless systems became 5G-capable last year, so 5G can be added to existing LTE networks when the ecosystem is ripe and the first 5G use cases start to come along, Nokia’s Stephane Daeuble told Fierce earlier this year. At that time, he said most analysts predict that 5G private wireless won’t overtake 4.9G/LTE until the 2029-2030 timeframe.