China Mobile, ZTE, and Qualcomm joined forces to achieve a 5G New Radio (NR) data end-to-end connection, based on the 3GPP Release 15 standard. The 5G NR interoperability test was performed at a China Mobile 5G Innovation Center using a pre-commercial base station from ZTE and a Qualcomm sub-6 GHz UE prototype.
According to Matt Branda, director of technical marketing at Qualcomm Technologies, this interoperability test is important because it shows that multi-vendor interoperability is possible and that the chipsets and the pre-commercial gear is complaint with the 5G NR standard, which is set to be released in December by the 3GPP.
Last March the 3GPP agreed to complete the 5G non-standalone NR specifications by December, instead of March 2018 as originally planned.
And not only does it mean that the technology is ready for 5G NR operator trials in 2018, it also means everything is on track for commercial 5G launches in 2019. “The significance of this is that it sets us up for 2018 standard-compliant trials with operators,” Branda said. “It’s an important milestone.”
While Branda admits that creating a prototype system isn’t revolutionary, he said that having a prototype with China Mobile, the largest wireless operator in the world, gives the companies involved a lot of confidence in the technology. “This shows that the technologies implemented comply with Layer 1 specs in the 3GPP. Scalable OFDM, advanced channel coding, low latency, and different modulation schemes that are fundamental to 5G NR. And these are all part of the interoperability demo,” he said.
While ZTE and China Mobile were the first, Branda said that others will soon be conducting end-to-end interoperability trials as well. Qualcomm has announced plans to work with Nokia and Ericsson on trials but those will have a millimeter wave (mmWave) component to them.