Verizon boasts first 5G call using 3GPP-based standards

Verizon store front (Monica Alleven)
Verizon said it's the first network provider to conduct an over-the-air call on a 3GPP-compliant 5G New Radio system using licensed spectrum. (FierceWireless)

Not long after claiming to make the first pre-commercial 5G video call, Verizon is boasting another 5G first in the form of an over-the-air call on a 3GPP-compliant 5G New Radio (NR) system using licensed spectrum.

The test used Nokia 5G network technology on a 5G NR prototype device provided by Qualcomm Technologies and Verizon’s licensed 28 GHz spectrum. According to Verizon spokesman John O’Malley, it was actually a 4K video stream. While a voice call could be accomplished, “with the bandwidth 5G provides on millimeter wave spectrum, we felt 4K video was the best way to test and showcase the technology versus a voice call,” he said.

The operator says it was an important milestone on the road to preparing its network for widespread implementation of commercial 5G mobile services for consumers and enterprises. The test was conducted this month at Nokia’s facility in Murray Hill, N.J., and follows prior interoperability testing between Nokia and Qualcomm.  

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Nokia and Qualcomm reported last week that they had successfully completed interoperability testing in the 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum compliant with the global 3GPP 5G NR Release 15 standard; they used the commercially available Nokia AirScale base station and device prototypes from Qualcomm Technologies. Their collaboration will provide the basis for 5G NR field trials with operators this year. 

The over-the-air 5G call with Verizon was completed over Nokia’s CloudRAN solution, which is comprised of the Nokia AirScale baseband and radio, AirFrame server, and AirScale Cloud RAN running 5G NR 3GPP-compliant software. The Qualcomm prototype device included an optimized millimeter wave RF front-end design in a smartphone form factor. 

The call that Verizon did during the Super Bowl last month used its precommercial 5G technology that was formed out of the 5G Technology Forum as opposed to the specs coming through 3GPP. That video call was between Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam and KT Chairman and CEO Chang-Gyu Hwang using two fully functioning prototype 5G tablets developed by Samsung.

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Both Verizon and rival AT&T expect to be first with their respective 5G technologies. Verizon is focused on providing massive bandwidth, ultra-high speed and single digit latency for emerging fixed and mobile use cases, with fixed being of particular attention as a broadband replacement.

AT&T has said it will introduce a mobile 5G service in a dozen markets this year with a “puck” serving as the mobile hotspot until real 5G smartphones debut in 2019.

T-Mobile expects to launch 5G nationwide by 2020, starting in 2019 at 600 MHz, and Sprint has vowed to launch mobile 5G services on its 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings on a nationwide basis in the first half of 2019.