Now that the 3GPP has adopted an initial 5G specification, chipmakers and device manufacturers can start developing end-user equipment for next-generation networks. But it’s not enough to have a standard in place — companies also want to know there’s a market in place as they consider multi-million dollar investments in new technology.
5G Americas has argued that global spectrum harmonization will support device development, a position echoed by some of the most respected voices in the industry. James Kimery, director of marketing, RF and communications at National Instruments, says that when a device can use similar components to connect to networks in different geographies, its addressable market is larger and economies of scale kick in.
National Instruments has a unique perspective on 5G spectrum bands because its proprietary equipment and software are being used by carriers, chipmakers and equipment vendors to test 5G hardware and protocols. Most recently the company said announced plans to collaborate with Samsung to develop 5G test user equipment. At Mobile World Congress the companies will demonstrate the device communicating with Samsung’s 28 GHz base station.
The National Instruments test device is bigger than a smartphone, as most initial 5G devices will be. One of the challenges for device makers will be creating smartphone-size devices that can accommodate the large number of antenna elements needed to support 5G.
Samsung has said it will be a 5G equipment supplier to Verizon, which plans to use 5G in the millimeter wave bands for fixed wireless broadband services. For both Verizon and AT&T, the 28 GHz band and the 37-39 GHz bands are the millimeter wave frequencies that network development teams are testing for 5G.
AT&T has promised mobile 5G this year, without saying which spectrum bands it will use or which devices might support mobile 5G. National Instruments is a longtime AT&T partner, and Kimery said he expects 5G in the millimeter wave bands to be focused on specific locations. He expects users with the right devices to enjoy 5G speeds when they are near a 5G small cell, and then fall back to Wi-Fi or LTE when they leave that area. Because of the shorter range of millimeter wave transmissions, blanket 5G coverage using millimeter wave frequencies would require an enormous density of small cells.
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