SK Telecom, Ericsson and Qualcomm plan 5G NR trials for 2017

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The 5G trials keep on coming, with Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies and SK Telecom jointly announcing on Wednesday that they plan to conduct interoperability testing and over-the-air field trials for 5G NR (New Radio) technologies being developed based on 3GPP specifications.

The trials – slated for the second half of next year – are intended to showcase new 5G NR technologies that utilize wide bandwidths at higher frequency bands to achieve multi-gigabit data rates for apps like virtual reality, augmented reality and connected cloud services.

Specifically, the joint trials will test 3GPP 5G NR MIMO antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques that can provide robust and sustained mobile broadband, even in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) environments and device mobility scenarios.

The trials will also use scalable OFDM-based waveforms and a new flexible framework design that are also part of the 5G NR specifications. The trials are expected to yield valuable insight into the unique challenges of integrating 5G NR technologies into mobile networks and devices, the companies said in a joint statement:

The interoperability testing and trials, which will launch in Korea starting in the second half of 2017, are intended to track closely with, as well as help accelerate, the first 3GPP 5G NR specification that will be part of Release 15, the global 5G standard that will make use of both sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum bands.

Tracking the 3GPP specification is important because it promotes adherence and validation with the global 5G standard, accelerating the time to standard-compliant devices and infrastructure. It will also drive forward compatibility to future 3GPP 5G NR releases.

The trials aim to push the mobile ecosystem toward rapid validation and commercialization to ensure that 3GPP Rel-15 can see “timely commercial network launches”, which presumably means by the general 2020 target year for commercial 5G, although SK Telecom and rival cellcos KT and LG U+ intend to launch live 5G networks in time for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018. (KT is reportedly pushing to have a pre-standard 5G network deployed before the end of next year).

A number of operator and vendor alliances have been formed in the past year to speed up the 5G standardization process, as 5G is a far more complex ecosystem than previous “G”s.

“As 5G rapidly gains momentum, a globally agreed and unified standard becomes imperative to achieve early commercialization of 5G and build an efficient ecosystem around it,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, EVP and CTO of SK Telecom, in a statement.

“The roadmap of 5G technologies is incredibly complex, and trials based on the global 3GPP 5G standard, such as this, are critical to continuing our long history of leadership integrating advanced wireless technologies in form-factor accurate devices to ensure timely deployment of 5G networks,” Matt Grob, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Qualcomm Technologies, said in the same statement.

Describing 5G as “the greatest opportunity our industry has ever experienced”, Ericsson senior VP and CTO Ulf Ewaldsson added the trial collaboration “will demonstrate compliance to 3GPP and support the accelerated commercialization of the global 3GPP 5G standard.”

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