Industry Insights

5G Leaps from Chipsets to Devices

2019-02-22  |  4 min read 

While Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 was all about chipset demonstrations, this year’s conference is set to demonstrate the rapid evolution of 5G with a focus on devices, especially that of the highly awaited smartphone.

In the context of 5G, scalability is a key concern for participants across the value chain not only from a spectrum perspective to cover FR1 (450 MHz to 6 GHz) and FR2 (24.25 to 52.6 GHz) frequencies but also from a workflow perspective from development to manufacturing. In addition, 5G’s new radio access technology, 5G New Radio (NR), has given rise to two phases in the 5G rollout based on the non-standalone (NSA) version of the standard approved in December 2017, and the standalone (SA) version completed in June 2018.

5G NR Deployment Outlook

The first 5G networks will be implemented in NSA mode and leverage existing 4G network infrastructure. 5G-enabled smartphones will connect to 5G frequencies for improved data throughput and use 4G for other duties such as talking to cell towers and servers. Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) is the primary use case for these deployments; the technology will boost downlink data rates up to 20 Gbps and uplink ones up to 10 Gbps. There is a strong move in the NSA direction currently by operators across the world, including the U.S., to maximize the investments they have made in network infrastructure over the past 10 years.

However, mobile operators, especially Chinese service providers, are also working on 5G NR SA mode, which does not rely on an anchor in the long term evolution (LTE) network. Slated for deployment in 2020, 5G NR SA will bring more interesting use cases more likely to deliver on the 5G promise to operators by enabling low-latency applications such as Industry 4.0 and autonomous driving and network slicing, a new networking architecture that uses the principles of software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) used in fixed networks to create multiple virtual networks on a shared physical infrastructure, thereby enabling new business models.

5G NR deployment options

The Imperative for Minimizing Design Costs

For 5G NR NSA, and even more so for SA, engineers will face significant challenges and generate demand for innovative network emulation solutions to conduct research and development (R&D), design verification, conformance testing, and operator acceptance testing, and truly assess the real-world performance of devices.

Currently, a major technical challenge faced by smartphone designers, and more specifically modem designers, comes from the various frequency ranges used for 5G. Spectrum bands for FR1 frequencies range from 1 to 255 while mmWave bands range from 257 to 511. Different sub-slices will be available depending on where the device operates because frequency zones differ across the world. Engineers are striving to minimize design costs while supporting all possible frequency combinations. There is a dire need for a single and easy-to-use platform to address this challenge.

Learn more about Keysight’s 5G Network Emulation Solutions here.