With the non-standalone 5G New Radio (NR) specification approved by 3GPP in December 2017, the telecom ecosystem is rapidly conducting standard-compliant interoperability testing to prepare for commercialization as soon as the second-half of this year. The non-standalone 5G NR standard uses the LTE core and RAN with the addition to 5G component carrier whereas standalone 5G NR, set for standardization in June, has a new core and RAN.
Early spec-based 5G deployments will leverage LTE investments to provide primarily enhanced mobile broadband services, as well as support for the booming internet of things. Once the standard was adopted at a meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, operators, vendors and device OEMs immediately got to work on interoperability testing to help ensure a rapid commercialization that can help them begin to return on the massive, and ongoing, investment in 5G. Let’s take a look at recent global 5G NR interoperability testing.
Verizon claims first 5G NR call using licensed millimeter wave spectrum
Earlier this month, inside a Nokia facility in Murray Hill, N.J., the network infrastructure vendor worked with Verizon and Qualcomm to complete what is being billed as the first over-the-air call based on 3GPP’s non-standalone 5G New Radio specification and using licensed millimeter wave spectrum.
Verizon, based on its acquisition of licenses previously held by XO Communications, has licensed millimeter wave spectrum holdings in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands. This test used 28 GHz spectrum, according to Verizon spokesman John O’Malley, and transmitted a 4K video stream. “With the bandwidth 5G provides on millimeter wave spectrum, we felt 4K video was the best application to showcase the technology versus an over-the-top voice call,” O’Malley said in a statement to RCR Wireless News.
On the network side, the test used a Nokia AirScale baseband and radio, AirFrame server and AirScale Cloud RAN equipped with standard-compliant software. Qualcomm provided a prototype smartphone form factor device that supports millimeter wave spectrum, which the chipmaker debuted in September 2017.
Verizon is planning to offer a standard-compliant 5G commercial service later this year. Building on tests conducted throughout 2017, Verizon is targeting the second half of this year to use fixed wireless to provide a residential enhanced mobile broadband service. Plans call for an initial deployment in Sacramento, Calif., with additional deployments in two to four more markets.
Intel, Huawei, DT advance 5G in C band
As China’s state-owned telecom giants race to deploy 5G in the C-band spectrum (4 to 8 GHz), equipment-maker Huawei said in January it has completed the world’s first 5G NR interoperability and development testing based on the Release 15 standard with a commercial base station. The company said the test was based on the largest C-band cell bandwidth defined by the 5G NR standard.
Huawei said it has been working on 5G with T-Mobile US parent Deutsche Telekom since 2015. In this test, its commercial 5G New Radio base station was used with Intel’s 5G New Radio mobile trial platform. Intel, Huawei and DT say they have jointly verified the fundamentals of the new 5G 3GPP NR standard, including new synchronization, coding, frame structure, and numerology components underlying the interconnection of the NR-compliant terminal and network.
Intel VP Asha Keddy, the company’s VP for next generation and standards, said network testing in China typically occurs on a much bigger scale than in North America, with many trials addressing hundreds of sites. She expects China to roll out 5G in two rounds, first in the C-band and then in the millimeter wave bands that the North American operators are testing now.
“China has publicly said it will be a world leader,” said Keddy, “The Chinese government has been very clear they want to lead.”
KT, Qualcomm, Samsung eye 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands
Gearing up for larger-scale trials later this year, South Korean operator KT, working with compatriot network and device OEM and San Diego-based Qualcomm, is testing 5G NR in the 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands; the former is seen as a key global 5G roaming band, while the latter millimeter wave frequencies provides massive, hot spot-type capacity.
Over-the-air testing, based on KT’s spectrum, Samsung base stations and prototype user equipment from Qualcomm, achieved multi-gigabit-per-second data throughput, according to KT.
“This 5G NR trial will pave the way to a successful launch of 5G NR networks and mobile devices, which will market another technology breakthrough,” KT EVP and Head of Networking Strategy Seo Chang-Seok said. Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon added, “As the industry works toward the goal of commercial launches of 5G NR products and networks in 2019, close collaboration among global mobile industry leaders on testing and successful trials are necessary to validate the technologies and continue to build and improve our capabilities.”
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