Qualcomm is helping accelerate 5G New Radio (NR) deployments by releasing a 5G NR platform specifically for small cells and remote radio heads. The FSM100xx platform will support small cells that operators deploy in dense urban areas to help boost coverage. It can also be used for fronthaul, which is the interface that delivers traffic from the baseband units (BBUs) to the remote radio heads.
Qualcomm said the FSM100xx small cell platform will support millimeter wave (mmWave) and sub-6 GHz spectrum so operators will be able to switch between the low- and high-frequency spectrum bands. In addition, the platform has a software-defined modem so that operators can upgrade it as the 5G standards evolve.
Interestingly, Qualcomm said that the 5G NR product will support various options for interface splits between central unit and remote radio head. This means that operators will be able to use the platform with their virtualized 5G RAN to handle fronthaul traffic.
The FSM100xx can be deployed outdoors as well as indoors. This is notable because one of the downfalls of using mmWave spectrum for 5G is that the signal has difficulty penetrating buildings. Qualcomm said that it can support power over Ethernet (PoE), which is needed for inside deployments using high spectrum bands. In addition, it can handle massive input, massive output (MIMO) implementations and provide multi-gigabit throughput.
All four top U.S. operators are in the midst of deploying 5G NR with plans to commercially launch the service in some markets either later this year or in 2019. Qualcomm said the new platform will be ready for sampling in 2019 and it is currently working with some customers to give them early access.
Just last week AT&T revealed that during its 5G NR trials using mmWave spectrum it learned that things like foliage and coating on windows could impact the signal. The company also said that it was learning to use signal reflections to extend coverage.