Meet 5G NR, a Little Taste of the 5G Future
Instead of waiting until 2020 for a full-fledged 5G launch, some businesses want to roll out a piece of the new wireless standard within two years. Now, 22 companies have signed off on a proposal for an intermediate standard, called Nonstand-Alone (NSA) 5G New Radio (NR), and plan to start work at the 2017 3GPP RAN plenary meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on March 6–9.
5G is the planned wireless standard for a world of ubiquitous connections, from mobile phones to Internet of Things devices and connected cars. NSA 5G NR would use existing evolved packet core and LTE radio networks as anchors, adding a new 5G radio access carrier by 2019.
The Case for 5G NR
According to Fierce Wireless, Qualcomm announced its first successful 5G connection on February 21 and plans to move forward aggressively to bring the intermediate standard to market. Much has been made of plans to use millimeter wave spectrum for 5G – in the 30 GHz to 300 GHz spectrum bands — but Qualcomm argues widespread coverage will require harnessing sub-6 GHz bands as well.
Millimeter waves can carry large amounts of data at high speeds, but they can’t travel as far as waves in lower spectrum bands, and they’re more easily blocked by obstacles like buildings and walls. To compensate, 5G carriers will have to add many new antennas to their infrastructure. Sub-6 GHz capabilities should boost performance of all existing cellular networks thanks to massive multiple-input multiple-output antenna deployments, says Qualcomm Senior VP of Engineering Durga Malladi in a Light Reading column.
Rolling out NSA 5G NR means acquiring more products to market faster, such as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 5G modem. Malladi says the intermediate standard will enable a new class of smartphones and improve immersive experiences in virtual-reality and augmented-reality headsets.
“The significantly lower latency, coupled with higher reliability and security, also enables mission-critical control services such as control of drones, industrial equipment, robotics and autonomous vehicles,” writes Malladi.
Easing a Costly Transition for Operators
Patrick Moorhead of Forbes agrees the intermediate standard could help the industry accelerate investment while recouping some initial outlay with earlier product sales.
“What makes this announcement interesting is that it will help bring 5G NR to the market faster while also allowing operators to accelerate the pace of their initial investment,” Moorhead writes. And although all operators will have to open their wallets for a 5G world, an intermediate standard could help companies spread out their 5G migration costs.
“This milestone of sorts could allow for more operators to make the transition to 5G NR without spending vast sums of money,” Moorhead continues.
Notably, Verizon declined to sign onto the proposal, continuing a position staked out last October. Fierce Wireless reported in a separate article that Verizon objected to the early rollout as making little sense in terms of workflow.
“In order to effectively define a nonstand-alone option which can then migrate to a stand-alone, a complete study [on] stand-alone would be required to derisk the migration,” Verizon said in a statement to the news source.