June 30, 2016
By Will Strauss
Qualcomm shows the path to 5G
This week in Shanghai, Qualcomm introduced its real-world end-to-end 5G platform designed to drive 3GPP 5G NR (new radio) standardization. The company’s 5G NR prototype system consists of both a base station and user equipment (UE) operating in the sub-6 GHz spectrum bands serving as a testbed for verifying 5G NR capabilities.
Qualcomm is showcasing the prototype system publicly for the first time at Mobile World Congress Shanghai from June 29 to July 1 at the China Mobile booth as part of their ongoing collaboration.
The system supports wide RF bandwidths of over 100 MHz, providing capability of delivering multi-gigabit per second data rates. Uniquely, it also supports a new integrated subframe design for significantly lower over-the-air latency than what is possible in today’s 4G LTE network.
So, What is 5G, Really?
First, many feel that 5G simply replaces 4G, much as 4G has replaced 3G. That is not so.
It’s clear that high radio frequencies, such as sub-6GHz bands, will be required to support greater carrier bandwidths leading to the higher data rates that industry needs for continuing progress in wireless communications. Since higher frequencies are useful only over relatively short distances, many distributed base stations, in the form of small-cells will be necessary. That is practical in high-density metropolitan areas, but further from the city centers more traditional lower-frequency 4G radio will be required, as illustrated in Qualcomm’s depiction of 4G+5G multi-connectivity across bands.:
In reality, 5G will enable the carrier aggregation of several high-frequency bands, as well as 4G and Wi-Fi, simultaneously providing connectivity across all of those bands. Macro base stations will have considerable MIMO capability to better direct connections. In rural areas macro base stations will be separated by greater distances, offering 4G coverage as a minimum and 5G coverage where possible.
Of course, 5G operation in higher frequency bands is still being developed, but the overall direction is clear.
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