Qualcomm, China Mobile and ZTE combined their 5G expertise and demonstrated what’s being described as the world’s first end-to-end 5G New Radio (NR) Interoperability Data Testing (IoDT) system with a data connection based on 3GPP Release 15.
Conducted at China Mobile’s 5G Joint Innovation Center, the demo used ZTE’s 5G NR precommercial base station and Qualcomm Technologies’ 5G NR sub-6 GHz user equipment prototype. The end-to-end 5G NR system operates at 3.5 GHz and supports 100 MHz bandwidth, compliant with 3GPP Release 15 5G New Radio Layer 1 framework, which includes scalable OFDM numerology, advanced channel coding and modulation schemes and the self-contained slot structure that enables the low latency.
Compliance with the specification enables the multivendor aspect of it, according to Qualcomm Technologies Director of Technical Marketing Matt Branda. “You sort of need a common language,” which is the standard in the making, to enable the multivendor capability, he said.
The demo is further proof that the industry is going to complete the nonstandalone implementation of 5G NR by the December 2017 deadline, paving the way for larger-scale trials and deployments based on the specification.
Some stakeholders earlier this year questioned whether completing all the work required to meet the December deadline would be achievable. In September, 3GPP agreed to put some study items on hold in order to meet the deadline and promised to deal with them in the first half of 2018.
Branda said there are always questions about whether the specification will be finalized on time, so this is yet another indication that’s happening and equipment will be built off those specs. Once the standard is finalized, it’s reasonable to expect equipment will be ready for 2019 network launches.
“It’s another milestone that we’re first to achieve,” he said, and that sets it up for standard-compliant trials that will kick off with operators and infrastructure vendors in 2018.
So, where does Qualcomm see itself stacked up against the competition, which includes rival Intel, which just this week announced its family of 5G NR multimode commercial modems?
“Claiming victory before you get to the finish line is premature for anyone,” he said. “But I am very proud and confident of where we stand because of our continued leadership in delivering on these milestones,” both from a standard-compliant prototype systems standpoint as well as standard-compliant trials.
Last month in Hong Kong, Qualcomm showed that it is capable of putting a millimeter-wave connection in a handset form factor. The demo with China Mobile, however, did not include a user device as small as a smartphone; it’s still using small refrigerator-sized equipment for that.