Keysight Technologies has extended its collaboration with Qualcomm to accelerate commercialization of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) technology, which will enable mobile operators to quickly and cost-effectively roll out (3GPP Release 15) 5G new radio (NR) data services (independent of 4G LTE or 5G IMT 2020 signaling/ control plane or mobile packet core).
DSS enables a mobile operator to flexibly allocate existing spectrum across low-, mid- and high- frequency bands, by dynamically switching between 4G LTE and 5G NR coverage based on traffic demand. Mobile operators can leverage DSS to deliver the best possible performance and coverage for a mix of 4G and 5G devices. Mobile operators are expected to start deploying DSS on the prevailing 4G LTE base stations by 2020, thereby accelerating 5G services worldwide. As such, DSS will greatly expand the capability of 3GPP Release 15 – 5G New Radio (NR) devices, according to Keysight.
Keysight’s 5G network emulation solutions was said to accelerate the development of Qualcomm Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF System to support DSS. This collaboration bodes well for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon technology as the latest 5G network emulation solutions is enabled to support speed, latency, reliability and the emerging 5G infrastructure.
“Our continued collaboration with Keysight on 5G technology, which was initiated in 2015, has enabled Qualcomm Technologies to accelerate the implementation of DSS, a critical feature that will help mobile operators quickly transition to 5G,” said Jon Detra, vice president, engineering, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc, in a statement.
“Keysight helps us develop and validate our Snapdragon 5G Modem-RF System designs at a pace that will help accelerate 5G commercialization.”
“Our extended collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies on 5G technology enables device makers and mobile operators to cost-effectively build out 5G coverage”, said Kailash Narayanan, vice president and general manager of Keysight’s wireless test group.
Earlier this year, Keysight announced that the company’s 5G collaboration with Qualcomm resulted in several industry breakthroughs: the industry’s first Global Certification Forum (GCF) validation of 5G NR conformance test cases for radio frequency (RF) demodulation and radio resource management (RRM); and the industry’s first announced 5G NR data call in the Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD) mode.
Many Other Companies Working on DSS:
Ericsson has also collaborated with Qualcomm by making the world’s first 5G data call using DSS as we reported in this IEEE Techblog post. Also, Verizon is said to be working with chip makers and equipment vendors to advance DSS, which its CEO Hans Vestberg envisions applying across its full spectrum holdings. The carrier identified DSS as a key feature for their broader 5G deployment.
Paul Challoner, vice president of network solutions for Ericsson North America, said that he expects “multiple large customers” to use DSS around the second half of the year. While he noted that Swisscom mentioned using DSS in its recent announcement about its 5G deployment, he said the operator isn’t necessarily going to be the first to use it. DSS will only work with 5G-ready equipment, so operators that haven’t upgraded their network gear in the past couple of years won’t be able to use DSS. Challoner said that most of the large operators have upgraded their networks with 5G-ready equipment, but he noted that smaller operators may need to look at DSS as an extra incentive to upgrade their networks quickly. “This is a capex friendly way to get to 5G,” he said.
Qualcomm is already developing chips for consumer devices that will enable them to make use of DSS-enabled spectrum. Dean Brenner, senior vice-president of Spectrum Strategy and Technology at Qualcomm, has called DSS a game-changer. Phones that use DSS will need chips that support the different cellular standards. It’s not completely clear when the chips needed for the flexible phones will be commercially available.
Steve Scarlett, head of technology for Verizon customer business at Nokia, said that the timing of DSS deployment really depends upon the availability of 5G handsets that have the spectrum sharing capability because existing LTE handsets won’t be able to take advantage of the network upgrade, and operators need to be careful so DSS doesn’t impact existing LTE customers. Scarlett also said that he believes DSS will eventually be critical for 5G roaming because the spectrum bands where LTE is deployed are already being used globally for LTE roaming. Once 5G becomes more pervasive, operators will need to figure out a way for users to roam and still get the same 5G services. “There are timing signals in LTE that can’t be messed with,” Scarlett added.
Ed Gubbins, senior analyst with GlobalData, said that the value of DSS really depends upon the operator’s spectrum assets and their 5G rollout plans. Some operators aren’t planning to use overlapping spectrum for 4G and 5G, so they won’t need DSS. He also noted that DSS is really intended to be used by each vendor’s existing 4G customers. In other words, Ericsson customers will likely use Ericsson’s DSS product and Nokia’s customers will use Nokia’s product. The same will occur with Huawei and Samsung, which also offer spectrum sharing solutions.
The Berlin-based IFA consumer electronics show keynotes from Qualcomm, Huawei, and Samsung illustrated the telecom supplier industry’s strong dedication to 5G System on a Chip (SoC). Yet this comes more than one year before the IMT 2020 Radio Interface Technology (RIT) standard has been completed and six months (or more) before 3GPP Release 16 (which will specify ultra low latency and ultra high reliability) has been finalized. Hence, we wonder if major revisions of announced 5G SoC’s and chipsets will be required in IMT 2020 standard endpoint devices?
Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon’s keynote presentation described the company’s 5G strategy, which is focused in part on driving access to 5G end point devices. Amon promised to bring 5G mobile phones to the masses with a high-end modem and said Qualcomm chips would also power mid-price 5G devices reaching the market next year.
Qualcomm’s second-generation X55 modem supports 5G at both sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave frequencies and supports peak downlink speeds of 7 Gbps and peak uplink speeds of 3 Gbps.
Notable in Qualcomm’s IFA presentation is support for dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) across the 6-, 7- and 8-series Snapdragon mobile platforms. In addition to bringing down the price point on 5G phones, this fits with operators plans to rapidly scale coverage in 2020 by using DSS, which lets LTE and 5G operate in the same band at the same time. More on DSS (Ericsson and Qualcomm 5G data call) in this techblog post.
As wireless network providers introduce or expand their 5G network offerings, “We need to enable the operators to have that ecosystem ready so you can start providing new devices with dynamic spectrum sharing… We want all the users to have the benefit of this technology,” Amon told the IFA audience.
To make that 5G ecosystem possible, Amon announced Qualcomm would bring its portfolio of 5G mobile platforms out of just the 8-series and into the 7- and 6-series in 2020. Amon said a dozen OEMs were already onboard. with the 5G-enabled 7-series. “We are going to bring 5G to scale with our many partners.”
“Qualcomm have done a phenomenal job to drive the 5G ecosystem,” said industry analyst Paolo Pescatore. “It’s going faster than anyone could have ever imagined.”
–>We certainly agree with that comment – Qualcomm has done a splendid job, but much more work remains before an IMT 2020 chipset/SoC is introduced – most likely in mid 2021. Qualcomm will likely be partnering with carriers to market new devices. It’s typical for operators to market subsidized handsets in the United States, but much less so in Europe.
Verizon said in a press release that it completed the first successful FDD (Frequency Division Duplexing) massive MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) trial with a fully compatible customer device thanks to its collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm. The trial included the use of the latest Ericsson massive MIMO software and hardware along with a mobile test device powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform with an X20 LTE modem.
According to the aforementioned press release:
Massive MIMO is a key technology component in the evolution towards 5G. It has the potential of greatly improving network capacity and the customer’s experience. To realize the gains, both the network and devices need to support new TM9  functionality which leverages advanced beam forming schemes between the network equipment and the mobile device. This will raise network spectral efficiency and customer speeds.
Note 1. In 3GPP Release-10 (LTE-Advanced) Transmission Mode 9 (TM9) was introduced. TM9 is designed to help reduce interference between base stations to maximise signal stability and boost performance. The new TM-9 enables the enhancement of network capabilities and performance with minimum addition of overhead. More information on TM9 is here.
Qualcomm introduced the 845 Mobile Platform at the Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii in early December. The trial comes after Verizon and Ericsson deployed massive MIMO on the wireless carrier’s Irvine, Ca network in late October.
“We don’t wait for the future, we build it. And this is another great example of moving the industry forward,” Verizon Chief Network Engineer and Head of Wireless Networks Nicola Palmer said in the release. “Massive MIMO is a critical component of our 4G LTE Advancements and will play an important role in 5G technology that will result in single digit latency and scalability in the billions of connections,” he added.
Joe Glynn, vice president, business development at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. said: “This milestone further demonstrates Qualcomm Technologies’ leadership and commitment to continually bring innovative technologies to consumers to improve their mobile experiences. We look forward to continuing our work with Verizon and Ericsson to push the limits of LTE while ushering in a world of 5G.”
Massive MIMO is an LTE Advanced (4G) technology which has been described as being akin to a set of focused flashlights targeting users rather than a single floodlight. The high number of transmitters enables more possible signal paths and beam forming, which directs the beam from the cell site directly to where the customer is located, dramatically cutting down on interference.
Figure 1. Massive MIMO exploits large antenna arrays to spatially multiplex many terminals.
Figure 2. Active Phased Array Antenna (APAA) shown above right in 5G base stations. The combination of analog beam forming via APAA and digital MIMO signal processing for the multi-beam multiplexing is believed to be one of the promising approaches for reducing the complexity and power consumption of 5G base stations. However, that has yet to be proven in a commercial 5G deployment.
In October, Verizon and Ericsson announced they had achieved a milestone in LTE Advanced technologies by completing their first deployment of FDD massive MIMO on Verizon’s wireless network in Irvine, California. Massive MIMO improves both spectral and energy efficiency, increasing network capacity for currently compatible devices in the market. Customers experience higher and more consistent speeds when using apps and uploading and downloading files.
Ericsson’s massive MIMO portfolio is expected to be available next year, putting it in line with commercial smartphones with the TM9 compatible chipset, which are expected to hit the market in the first half of 2018.
The past year saw a lot of talk around massive MIMO, which is considered by many to be a foundation technology for 5G. At the inaugural Mobile World Congress Americas in September, Sprint and Ericsson unveiled results of 2.5 GHz massive MIMO field tests conducted in Seattle and Plano, Texas, using Sprint’s spectrum and Ericsson’s radios.
- In early September, Ericsson said massive MIMO was part of a trial with T-Mobile US using mid-band FDD spectrum on three sites in Baltimore, Maryland.
- In February, Blue Danube Systems announced the completion of commercial trials using its massive MIMO technology in licensed FDD LTE spectrum with AT&T and Shentel.
Niklas Heuveldop, Head of Market Area North America, Ericsson, said: “Advanced Antenna Systems and Massive MIMO are key technology enablers for 5G, and 4G LTE service providers and end users will also benefit from the superior capacity and network performance these technologies enable. The latest trial is another important step in the collaboration we have with Verizon and Qualcomm Technologies to further evolve 4G and prepare the network for 5G.”
The Ericsson Massive MIMO portfolio is expected to be available next year, putting it well in line with commercial smartphones with the TM9 compatible chipset, which are expected to hit the markets in the first half of 2018.