The two vendors framed this latest test as an important move because it added another sub-6 GHz band to their collection of frequency bands that have undergone so-called Interoperability Development Testing (IoDT). “It brings a new sub-6 [GHz] frequency band one step closer to commercial rollout,” Ericsson added.
According to Ericsson, the IoDT data call was compliant with the 3GPP Release 15 “early drop” specification that was frozen in March 2018 but further stabilized in September, “and which is the basis for commercial launches expected in the first half of 2019.” Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson have already completed similar IoDTs on 28 GHz and 39 GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) bands, as well as on the 3.5 GHz band based on the September specifications.
Here, Ericsson is taking some care to clarify that the 5G standard has not been quite finalized as yet. Indeed, in December the 3GPP was forced to concede that it had to delay the delivery or “freeze” schedule for the third and final step of Release 15 by three months to March 2019. The third step, the so-called “late drop,” essentially concerns the development of architecture options to aid the migration from LTE to 5G.
The lab demonstration on the 2.6 GHz band used Ericsson 5G hardware – including its 5G NR radio AIR 6488 and RAN Compute products – and Qualcomm’s mobile smartphone form-factor test device based on the Snapdragon X50 5G modem and antenna modules with integrated RF transceiver, RF front-end and antenna elements.
Although much focus has been placed on the use of mmWave frequencies for 5G, vendors and others have continued to emphasize the important role that sub-6 GHz spectrum will play. Indeed, a July 2018 report from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), titled Spectrum for Terrestrial 5G Networks: Licensing Developments Worldwide, clearly illustrated at the time that sub-6 GHz spectrum, as well as low-band spectrum below 1 GHz, will play just as big a role in 5G deployments globally as mmWave spectrum above 24 GHz.
In its Mobile Economy 2018 report, GSMA Intelligence also noted that a large number of 5G trials are currently being conducted worldwide using various spectrum bands, especially 3.5 GHz and 26/28 GHz. The report added that more than 30 markets are planning to assign spectrum in these two spectrum bands over the next couple of years.