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The path forward for sub-7 GHz wide-area 5G technology

More than 100 operators on six continents have deployed 5G networks, according to data compiled by Ookla. And, with 5G here now and already making an impact on consumers and businesses, the next step is scaling these networks to offer nationwide coverage and put advanced services in the hands of more users.

While 5G will ultimately comprise a mix of low-, mid- and high-band frequencies, initial rollouts are largely based on a particular operator’s mix of spectrum assets. Verizon and AT&T, for instance, went to market with millimeter wave-based 5G which provides impressive speeds in a smaller area. European operators like Swisscom and Deutsche Telecom used mid-band spectrum to provide a good mix of speed and coverage. T-Mobile US turned up 5G using 600 MHz, providing an incremental improvement over LTE speeds but coming with nationwide reach.

Focusing in on the valuable sub-7 GHz frequencies–often described as the “beachfront real estate” of spectrum–what’s next for expanding 5G coverage and what type of use cases will this robust availability support?

Qualcomm’s John Smee, vice president of engineering, explained that the company’s R&D team is working on real world 5G network and use case testing as well as simulations of how sub-band full-duplex Massive MIMO and advanced 5G positioning, among other focuses, all meant to continue to drive both 5G technological advancement and adoption.

“Just 10 years ago, the world was getting its first taste of mobile broadband,” he wrote in a recent blog post. “Now in 2020, we are no longer just talking about the feasibility of 5G — we’re driving global commercial deployments and preparing its expansion into new devices, services, and industries.”

At its Sorrento Valley campus in Southern California, Qualcomm has set up a standalone 5G network using 100 megahertz of 3.5 GHz spectrum and multiple, 256-element Massive MIMO radios. Tingfang Ji, senior director of engineering at Qualcomm, demonstrates in the below video how network performance shifts as more users are added into the coverage area.

Expanding wide-area 5G coverage opens up new use cases like boundless augmented reality, Ji said. “Our test network is not only used to test and verify modem and RF designs, but also used to develop advanced 5G services.” With pervasive 5G, “The AR experience is not limited to the processing capability of the AR goggles and smartphone. It’s also supported by an edge server connected with ultra-low latency, high capacity 5G link.”

Operators using TDD spectrum to launch 5G services are driving adoption of Massive MIMO radios which, at a very high level, group together antennas at the transmitter and receiver to provide increased throughput and spectral efficiency. Qualcomm is looking to take this to the next level through the development of sub-band full-duplex for Massive MIMO.

Today with static TDD transmissions, downlink and uplink signals take turns. With sub-band full-duplex, a portion of antenna and frequency resources are dedicated to uplink and the rest support downlink; this configuration also makes interference cancellation more practical. “The notion of sub-band full-duplex is an important step in enabling wide-area full-duplex and is significantly different from other approaches in the past,” Qualcomm Senior Director of Engineering Kiran Mukkavilli said. “Sub-band full-duplex is a paradigm shift and we believe that this can play a key role in future evolution of 5G networks.”

Another Qualcomm research focus is wide-area 5G positioning. A key data point in pinpointing the location of user equipment is observed time difference of arrival, or OTDOA; this measure can allow gNodeBs to locate a device but it requires at least three nodes that are tightly synchronized in time. Alternatively, Mukkavilli explained that by using angle of arrival and multiple roundtrip time measurements (RTT+AoA), a single cell can locate a device in the network.

To get a better understanding of Qualcomm’s work in full-duplex massive MIMO and advancing 5G positioning, watch the demonstration below.

It’s clear that 5G is evolving to better support existing use cases like enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access while also adding feature sets that enable more IoT use cases, including high-performance industrial IoT that requires higher reliability and lower latency. As these new networks take shape, the mix of devices and consumption patterns will require a concurrent upgrade to data management practices.

Qualcomm’s Senior Director of Engineering Gavin Horn described the three-pronged consideration of holistic data management:

  • Data ownership–establishing ownership structure for devices and associated data;
  • Data provenance–establishing a single version of the facts;
  • Data governance–control the management and access of data.

For a detailed discussion of Qualcomm’s data management platform, watch this video demonstration.

“As 5G networks continue to proliferate across the globe, we’re continuously working to give operators and OEMs the tools and platforms to create 5G-enabled experiences and transform how the world connects, computes and communicates,” Qualcomm SVP and GM of 4G/5G Durga Malladi wrote in a blog post. “5G is here, and it’s ushering in a new era of innovation, the Invention Age. We can’t wait to see the many ways people around the world will experience it.”

―RCR Wireless News

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