As technologies such drones, autonomous vehicles, autonomous factories, and even 4k video become more popular, the race to create and standardize the infrastructure required to support it is heating up. Verizon and Qualcomm, two companies who specialize in opposite ends of the 5G spectrum, have partnered to accelerate the process of testing.
Verizon, the mobile service carrier with towers all around the world announced that they will be conducting 5G testing trials alongside Qualcomm, who makes the popular Snapdragon connectivity chips for mobile devices. This accelerated testing depends upon a technology called 5G NR. The partnership was announced at the Qualcomm 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong.
Joe Glynn, Qualcomm's VP of business development at Qualcomm's 4G/5G Summit.
What is 5G NR?
5G NR stands for 5G "New Radio" and involves orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (ODFM), a method used to encode digital data on multiple carrier frequencies. A large number of closely-spaced orthogonal sub-carrier signals are used to carry data on several parallel data streams or channels. The primary advantages of ODFM are that it's compatible with many different networks and it's resistant to severe conditions.
Qualcomm hopes that the protocol will be the answer to uniting a diverse range of spectrums, deployments, and devices. One of the biggest obstacles for 5G is that mmWave bands suffer are susceptible to blockage, many can't even penetrate walls. mmWave bands are defined as wave bands with wavelengths below 1 cm, so this basically means anything above 20 GHz.
Qualcomm's solution to the blockage issue is to have base stations that create narrow beams that operate like spotlights. Qualcomm tested the concept successfully back in 2015 and hopes that their partnership with Verizon will allow them to scale the infrastructure.
Schedule for Testing
Verizon and Qualcomm will initially focus on securing operation for the 28GHz and 39GHz mmWave spectrum bands. Trials will begin next year and will be focused around Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G modem, which is their first modem designed specifically for 5G NR. It consists of both a modem and an SDR051 mmWave transceiver. This setup utilizes their narrow beam concept and was designed to be paired with Snapdragon processors.
Verizon and Qualcomm hope that this modem will support the first round of their commercial 5G service in 2019. Commercial adoption of 5G mmWave technology for several wireless device types isn't guaranteed—but Qualcomm and Verizon are optimistic.
“We are excited to collaborate with Verizon in making 5G NR mmWave a commercial reality for mobile devices, including fixed wireless home routers, mobile hotspots, tablets, and smartphones.” -Joe Glynn, VP of business development at Qualcomm
Full-scale adoption by 2020 is an even taller order, but the combined resources of two mobile giants like Qualcomm and Verizon might just be able to pull it off.
A timeline made by Qualcomm for 5G NR launches.
Learn More About 5G NR
5G NR is far too complex to tackle in a single article, so I've compiled a list of resources for those who would like to learn more about it. If you know of any helpful resources that I might have left out, please share them in the comments!
Snapdragon X50 5G Modem (Let me know if you find a datasheet!)
Snapdragon X50 5G Modem Infographic (PDF containing more information about how the base stations work)
Accelerating 5G New Radio (NR) for Enhanced Mobile Broadband and Beyond (PDF containing more information on 5G NR, including applications, systems, and goals)
Qualcomm's 5G NR prototype (Still no datasheet but contains some information about the prototype they are testing)