Qualcomm gives preview of its MWC demos, talks new concepts for 5G

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Amid new demos that Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) will use to lure attendees at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona later this month, its engineers are discussing a concept in 5G that represents a transition never to have been done before.

If that sounds a little Star Trek-ish, it is -- in the sense that engineers are talking about boldly going where the industry hasn't gone before. That is, with previous generations of technology, the industry used dual-mode or multi-mode devices to move from or between 2G and 3G and from 3G to 4G, but it wasn't done in a concurrent manner, the way they're talking about structuring it for 5G.

durga malladi

Durga Malladi, VP of Engineering at Qualcomm, shows
an Enhanced LAA demo.

In phones today, consumers can do a voice call using VoLTE and the call can fall back to circuit-switched if it needs to move to the 3G network. The same with data – the consumer is using either 3G or 4G, but not both at the same time. With 5G, the idea is to provide concurrent connectivity – at least, that's what Qualcomm engineers are talking about.

"Our view is that it provides a good anchor and blanket coverage with 4G and 5G drops in nicely with both millimeter wave and sub 6 GHz," said Durga Malladi, vice president of Engineering at Qualcomm Technologies, during a media event at Qualcomm offices.

As for "how" it gets done, that's something the standards bodies will be discussing in the coming months, starting in March. While there's a lot of talk about 5G of late, Qualcomm is still projecting that the first real wave of 5G will come in 2020, with 5G Phase 2 coming after 2021.

On the way to 5G, however, operators and vendors often say there's still a lot of steam left in LTE and LTE Advanced. Qualcomm this week also announced what it describes as the world's first over-the-air LAA trial, which was done in November 2015 with Deutsche Telekom (DT) in Nuremberg, Germany. The trial used LAA test equipment designed and deployed by Qualcomm Research, the R&D division of Qualcomm Technologies. Deutsche Telekom provided the licensed spectrum for the LTE anchor carrier augmented with 5 GHz unlicensed spectrum and used on a multiple node LAA test network deployed over Qualcomm Technologies' Nuremberg campus.

The idea with LAA is there's an anchor carrier in licensed spectrum, and everything else is in unlicensed. Enhanced LAA, or eLAA, is the next iteration. In LAA, the aggregation is done only in the downlink, whereas with eLAA, it's both downlink and uplink, Malladi explained. And LWA – which denotes LTE + Wi-Fi Aggregation -- offers the ability to aggregate LTE and Wi-Fi. "We also want to see the best possible combination of LTE and Wi-Fi because all of our phones have LTE and Wi-Fi in them, so what's the best way to aggregate both?," he said.
The company gave media a sneak preview of some demos it plans to show at MWC, which takes place Feb. 22-25. One demo combines both the uplink and downlink in an enhanced LAA scenario, while another involves a 28 GHz 5G millimeter wave system that uses beam forming, beam switching and a lot of tiny antennas to transmit data and video.

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