28GHz modem set for pre-standard 5G trials

Article By : Rick Merritt

The Snapdragon X50 delivers 5Gbits/second downlinks and multiple gigabit uplinks for mobile and fixed-wireless networks.

Qualcomm has announced plans for a 28GHz modem that will be used in separate pre-standard 5G cellular trials by Verizon and Korea Telecom. The news is the latest indication some vendors want to speed up the roll out of elements of 5G, a move one source said comes “at the expense of innovation.”

The Snapdragon X50 delivers 5Gbits/second downlinks and multiple gigabit uplinks for mobile and fixed-wireless networks. It uses a separate LTE connection as an anchor for control signals while the 28GHz link delivers the higher data rates over distances of tens to hundreds of meters.

The X50 uses eight 100MHz channels, a 2×2 MIMO antenna array, adaptive beamforming techniques and 64QAM to achieve a 90dB link budget. It works in conjunction with Qualcomm’s SDR05x mmWave transceiver and PMX50 power management chip. So far, Qualcomm is not revealing more details of modem that will sample next year and be in production before June 2018.

Verizon and Korea Telecom will use the chips in separate trials starting late next year, anticipating commercial services in 2018. The new chips mark a departure from prototypes not intended as products that Qualcomm Research announced in June.

Korea Telecom plans a mobile 5G offering at the February 2018 Winter Olympics. Verizon plans to launch in 2018 a less ambitious fixed-wireless service in the U.S. based on a specification it released in July. KT and Verizon are among a quartet of carriers that formed a group in February to share results of early 5G trials.

For its part, the 3GPP standards group is also stepping up the pace of the 5G standards efforts it officially started earlier this year. It endorsed in September a proposal to consider moving the date for finishing Phase I, an initial version of 5G anchored to LTE, from June 2018 to as early as December 2017, according to a recent Qualcomm blog.

“We are looking to accelerate the [5G] standards effort with key decisions coming in the next quarter or two,” said Peter Carson, a director of product marketing at Qualcomm. “Early trials will help accelerate the learning curve…trying to implement [services] in real commercial form factors now will help accelerate [an understanding of the] trade offs,” he said, noting that 28GHz requires new test techniques to handle insertion and cable losses.

Not everyone agrees.

“There are several powerful operators and vendors who have a primary goal of expediting 5G at the cost of much innovation in Phase I,” said one engineer who attends 3GPP meetings on the 5G radio standard but asked to be unnamed.

“Any real innovation—including new use cases—in my view, will hopefully happen in Phase II which has been delayed a few months to March” including discussions of specs for vehicle-to-vehicle links and support for bands between 40 and 100 GHz, the engineer said.

“There has been no delay in Phase II—3GPP is currently investigating acceleration of the Release 15 Work Item (or Phase I), which Qualcomm is a supporter of,” countered a Qualcomm representative.

The proposal to step up the Phase I deadline would have no impact on the Release 16 aka Phase II work, the representative said. Under the original schedule the Phase 1 spec would be final is early 2018, opening the door to commercial services in 2019 with Phase II following it by a year or two.

Next: Why 3GPP debates are dragging beyond midnight »

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