Qualcomm unveils 5G radio prototype in time for MWC Shanghai

ITEM: Qualcomm will be showing off a brand new 5G prototype system and trial platform – or at least a video of it – at Mobile World Congress in Shanghai this week

The “5G New Radio (NR)” system includes a base station and user equipment, and serves as a testbed for verifying 5G NR capabilities. According to Qualcomm, the prototype supports RF bandwidths over 100 MHz wide, capable of delivering “multi-gigabit per second data rates”, as well as a new integrated subframe design for “significantly lower over-the-air latency” compared to LTE today.

Qualcomm says the new prototype adds to subsidiary Qualcomm Technologies’ existing 5G mmWave prototype system, which operates at 28 GHz using beamforming and beam-steering techniques to operate in non-line-of-sight environments.

However, the 5G NR prototype is aimed at spectrum bands below 6 GHz, which Qualcomm says is “a critical part of allowing for flexible deployments with ubiquitous network coverage and a wide range of use cases.”

That’s a notable detail, writes Caroline Gabriel, research director and co-founder of Rethink Research, because despite the hype about the role of millimeter-wave in 5G deployments, most initial 5G activity is going to be in the sub 6-GHz bands:

Dense small cell networks in 28 GHz or above may enable the most radical new business cases in future with massive flexible capacity, but it will be technically challenging to have them fully commercial by 2020 – at that stage, most early movers will follow the familiar pattern of focusing on coverage and on boosting the performance of established services like 4K video streaming.

That will almost certainly mean sticking to an air interface based on well-understood OFDM, whereas some companies, including Qualcomm itself, are advocating a different technology for some of the emerging use cases, such as millimeter wave networks and ul- tra-low latency M2M.

For those of you attending MWC Shanghai, you can’t see the actual prototype, but you can see a video of it at the China Mobile booth (Hall N1 booth A20). You can also see video demos of Qualcomm’s millimeter-wave prototype and sub-6 GHz prototype at the Qualcomm booth (Hall N2 booth C38).