T-Mobile, Samsung plan 5G trials using pre-commercial systems at 28 GHz

Samsung 5G
Samsung's 5G-related product line-up includes a small cell, prototype mobile device and chipset.

While Samsung Electronics America on Wednesday announced it is collaborating with T-Mobile US on new demonstrations and lab tests designed to bring 5G mobile networks to the masses, the two entities have actually been collaborating for a while now.

The latest collaboration includes initial testing later this year of 5G mobility in an outdoor environment using T-Mobile’s 28 GHz spectrum and Samsung’s 5G proof-of-concept system, which will be enabled by Samsung’s advanced beamforming technology. In early 2017, additional in-depth trials will continue using a Samsung pre-commercial 28 GHz system.

“We are excited to work with Samsung to see how we can bring to life key attributes of emerging 5G technology, including extreme speed, low latency and massive connectivity,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray in a press release. “Our collaboration with Samsung’s networks technology will enable us to enhance 5G development and availability.”

Samsung’s ongoing collaboration with T-Mobile in 5G has taken place across a number of different areas, from use case definitions exploring the use cases that make the most sense for an operator like T-Mobile, all the way through to demonstrations and deep dive technology sessions. “We’re working with them to sort of understand how they plan to move forward with 5G,” Alok Shah, VP of strategy, BD and marketing at Samsung’s Networks Division, told FierceWirelessTech on the sidelines of CTIA Super Mobility 2016. 

Work currently is moving ahead at 28 GHz, but T-Mobile owns some licenses at 39 GHz that it acquired in the MetroPCS deal, so the expectation is that the research will expand over time.

Shah pointed out that T-Mobile doesn’t really have the same use cases that Verizon, AT&T and other companies with wireline assets are pursuing. “It’s great – it’s an opportunity to explore a different set of use cases around mobility and leverage all the work that the research teams have done around mobility, IoT and other types of use cases,” he said.

Rural areas are still not really conducive for millimeter wave small cells due to the radius; it’s hard to get the density of small cells for the kind of broad coverage that you would need for mobility. “I think that will come with time but LTE will remain a coverage layer for everybody,” he said.

Besides T-Mobile, Samsung has publicly announced 5G-related work with Verizon and Sprint. To be sure, Samsung’s research team has been involved in 5G going back almost six years now, accumulating a lot of knowledge on the propagation characteristics of spectrum at higher bands, including how it reacts with foliage and heavy rain in the environment.

In the early days, the common understanding was it was “very difficult to make things work in millimeter wave for these outdoor wide area networks because path loss is higher, which is true, but after some research and study, we figured beamforming is the right way to overcome that challenge,” said Charlie Zhang, VP of Standards and Mobility Innovation Lab at Samsung Research America. They found that building an active antenna array system both on the base station side as well as on the mobile terminal side, that’s how it was able to get the beamforming gains to overcome the path loss in those bands.

Ted Rappaport, who was responsible for setting up the wireless academic institution at the University of Texas at Austin and later went on to establish the NYU Wireless entity in Brooklyn, New York, was the first collaborator for Samsung to get measurements for path loss and associated study in order to get millimeter wave R&D off the ground. Samsung also has other collaborations across the world, including with universities in Southern California (USC), Korea and Europe because in order for a channel model to work effectively, you really need a series of measurements in different areas because a wireless system has to work not only in New York City, but other cities as well.“

When asked about recent announcements from Ericsson and Nokia about 5G-ready gear and bold plans about supplying it to operators, Shah said Samsung has demonstrated advances around fixed wireless and mobility use cases, and it has developed a proof-of-concept system today at 28 GHz that has been used in demos with the FCC and leading operators. The company expects to move forward with commercialization with its operator partners but isn’t announcing its product roadmap just yet.

For more:
- see this press release

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