Qualcomm, Ericsson make demo 5G call with mobile form factor at 3.5 GHz in Sweden

Ericsson HQ (ericsson)
The OTA call was conducted in the Ericsson Lab in Stockholm, Sweden, where Ericsson is headquartered. (Ericsson)

Remember when Ericsson had to carry its big 5G prototype device on a bus? Those days are long gone, having already teamed with Qualcomm Technologies to do 28 and 39 GHz calls with a smartphone form factor device—and now they’ve added an over-the-air call using a sub-6 GHz band.

This latest call was made in the Ericsson Lab in Stockholm, Sweden, on the 3.5 GHz band. The call used Ericsson’s commercial 5G New Radio (NR) AIR 6488 and baseband products and a mobile test device powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon X50 5G modem and RF subsystem.

Even though it looks like another addition to the many “first” calls that are out there, the significance of this one is it’s the first sub 6 GHz call, said Nitin Dhiman, staff manager, Product Marketing at Qualcomm Technologies.

“I think companies are eager to call ‘firsts’ out there, but I think what really matters is what’s actually going to translate into reality,” he told FierceWirelessTech. There’s been a lot of emphasis over the past weeks or months on whether a call is over the air, using commercial equipment, and/or the type of form factor for the device, for example. Some are slicing it up to finer points, like whether the call uses 28 GHz or 39 GHz.

As this particular one used a sub 6 GHz band, “I would consider that a first for smartphone form factors,” he said.

In December 2017, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies announced interoperability development testing to help pave the way for commercial launches of 5G NR standard-compliant infrastructure, smartphones and other mobile devices in the first half of 2019.

They say the successful 5G OTA calls using both sub-6 GHz and mmWave bands are critical milestones in the commercialization process as operators and OEMs around the world can now use the companies’ products to conduct their own tests in their labs and the field.

“Achieving interoperability on different spectrums shows the strength of the 5G ecosystem,” said Per Narvinger, head of Product Area Networks at Ericsson, in a press release. “Together with Qualcomm Technologies, we’ve successfully tested 5G NR on 39, 28 and now, 3.5 GHz band. These milestones add to the commercial readiness of 5G. They also assure operators of broader capacity options to cater for diverse use cases.”

While the 3.5 GHz band is being used for 5G outside the U.S., it’s initially using LTE in the U.S., where carriers petitioned the FCC to rethink their rules for the band, which is called the Citizens Broadband Radio Services band, to position it more favorably for 5G. The FCC is set to vote on revised rules for the band at its open meeting Tuesday.