Ericsson, Swisscom and Qualcomm do 5G dynamic spectrum sharing

Dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) is all about the smooth transition from 4G to 5G and is an important part of rolling out a 5G network.

The incremental 5G progress news has dried up to such an extent this year that telecoms journalists have sometimes been forced to go and find things out, which is a massive hassle. So we’re grateful to Ericsson, Swisscom and Qualcomm for taking one more step towards proper, viable 5G with this thing that they just did.

Specifically the three companies say they collaborated to make the first over-the-air, DSS 5G data call in 31 October in Switzerland. It’s not clear why it took them over a week to announce it, however. Maybe they weren’t sure if it had worked. They had managed a 5G call using spectrum sharing in September, but that was just boring old vanilla spectrum sharing. Now it’s dynamic.

“Ericsson Spectrum Sharing (ESS) allows Swisscom to best leverage the existing frequency spectrum and infrastructure for 4G and 5G customers, depending on their needs,“ said Patrick Weibel, head of 5G program, Swisscom. “Spectrum sharing will ensure that Swisscom can provide extensive 5G coverage to its customers as soon as possible.”

says, “With Ericsson Spectrum Sharing, service providers can reuse their Ericsson Radio System investments on bands currently used for LTE to support a fast introduction of 5G,“ Hannes Ekström, head of product line 5G RAN, Ericsson. “This first ESS 5G data call by Swisscom, on commercial platforms, is an important step to enabling cost efficient, nationwide 5G coverage and services.”

“Coverage is the next killer app for 5G, and we congratulate Ericsson and Swisscom on this significant milestone,“ said Dino Flore, vice president, technology, Qualcomm Europe. “Spectrum Sharing will be a key catalyst for nationwide 5G coverage, helping deliver ubiquitous 5G services to consumers.”

The thinking behind dynamic spectrum sharing is that there’s no point is reserving a bunch of 5G spectrum if there’s hardly any demand for it. So initially a site using DSS tech will be beaming out mostly 4G waves, but as people switch to 5G it can move the dial in that direction.

Qualcomm claims 30 5G fixed wireless access deal wins

5G has opened up a whole new channel for Qualcomm to flog its modems through and it seems to have got off to a decent start.

The company has announced that its X55 5G Modem-RF System has been bought by over 30 global OEMs to form part of fixed wireless access customer premises gear that they’ll start flogging sometime next year. The bandwidth promised by 5G makes fireless a viable alternative to fixed broadband in certain scenarios and it looks like that market is picking up.

Here are 34 companies that were prepared to admit they were making Qualcomm-powered FWA kit: Arcadyan, Askey, AVM, Casa Systems, Compal, Cradlepoint, Fibocom, FIH, Franklin, Gemtek, Gongjin, Gosuncn, Inseego, LG, Linksys, MeiG, Netgear, Nokia, Oppo, Panasonic, Quanta, Quectel, Sagemcom, Samsung, Sharp Corporation, Sercomm, Sierra Wireless, Sunsea, Technicolor, Telit, Wewins, Wingtech, WNC, and ZTE.

“The widespread adoption of our modem-to-antenna solution translates into enhanced fixed broadband services and additional opportunities to utilize 5G network infrastructure for broad coverage in urban, suburban and rural environments,” said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon. “Due to the development ease of our integrated system and industry movement toward self-installed, plug-and-play CPE devices, we expect OEMs will be able to support fixed broadband deployments beginning in 2020.”

In related new Qualcomm has also unveiled a new reference design that integrates 5G and Wi-Fi 6 for all your FWA home gateway needs, claiming it’s a plug-and-play alternative to boring old fixed line broadband. They’ve whacked the X55 modem and the Networking Pro 1200 platform into one handy package that Qualcomm will be hoping companies such those listed above will build into their gear.

“This new home gateway reference design can help ISPs and broadband carriers deliver triple-play home internet to customers, including fiber-like high-speed data, television and phone services, all with support for hundreds of devices, in a high-performance single-box solution powered by the latest connectivity offerings from Qualcomm Technologies,” said Nick Kucharewski, GM of the Wireless Infrastructure and Networking Business unit at Qualcomm.

Qualcomm is showing all this shiny new FWA gear off at the Broadband World Forum event currently underway in Amsterdam. FWA has been a theme of the show for a little while, but this is probably the first year is has the potential to steal the limelight from fibre and that sort of thing. Having said that it’s still hard to see why anyone would opt for that when proper fibre was available.

Next year is when 5G will start to get really interesting

At a 5G/IoT day in San Diego, mobile chip giant Qualcomm outlined the current state of play with 5G and what we can expect from it in the near future.

As has been well documented, the telecoms industry got its act together a year earlier than was originally anticipated on 5G, thanks in part to using a non-standalone version as a stepping stone. This enabled the enhanced mobile broadband aspect of 5G to be introduced nice and quickly, but more novel features such as ultra-reliable, low-latency and network slicing require the full-fat, standalone version of 5G.

That will be fully standardised with release 16, which is scheduled to be rubber-stamped by the 3GPP in the middle of next year. That will open the door for things like autonomous vehicles, smart factories, mobile VR and all sorts other wireless exotica, which in turn should open up all these exciting new commercial use-cases and revenue streams 5G has long been promising.

We were able to chat to Durga Malladi, who is the 5G GM at Qualcomm, and he was quick to push back on our characterisation of eMBB as the relatively boring side of 5G. His phone was set up with Verizon 5G and he did a live speed test which yielded a download speed of 1.8 Gbps. That’s pretty impressive and, while we’re not sure where the immediate need is for such mobile bandwidth, the tech industry always seems to find a use for it.

Smart factories are something Qualcomm is especially keen to bring attention to as a validating use-case for 5G. Using unlicensed spectrum, a factory could be set up with its own private network, with a guaranteed level of ultra-reliability, that will enable all the machines and people to constantly wirelessly communicate with each other. That in turn could enable new levels of orchestration and efficiency.

A lot of the day involved Qualcomm talking up its own contribution to the progress of 5G, which is fair enough and it wouldn’t be Qualcomm if it didn’t. The company is right in the middle of all this stuff, however, so it does know what it’s talking about, and it used the event to prepare the assembled media and analysts to prepare for a big 5G year next year.

Samsung unveils its first 5G integrated chipset for smartphones

Samsung Electronics introduced Exynos 980, its first 5G integrated mobile chipset for the mainstream market. Mass production will start by the end of the year.

Samsung’s 5G devices have so far been using separate modem and APE solutions, including its own Exynos 9820 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chipsets teamed up with the Exynos 5100 and Snapdragon X50 modems. The new 5G integrated chipset announced today is Samsung’s first. With an 8nm footprint, the chipset combines the 5G modem and APE processors using 8nm FinFET process.

“With the introduction of our 5G modem last year, Samsung has been driving in the 5G revolution and paved the way towards the next step in mobility,” said Ben Hur, VP of System LSI marketing at Samsung Electronics. “With the 5G-integrated Exynos 980, Samsung is pushing to make 5G more accessible to a wider range of users and continues to lead innovation in the mobile 5G market.”

The chipset’s key specifications include:

  • Modem: supports 5G NR Sub-6GHz with max 2.55Gbps downlink and 1.28Gbps uplink speeds. It is also backward compatible with LTE, 3G, and 2G.
  • CPU: one 2.2GHz Dual-core based on Cortex-A77, and one set of 1.8GHz Hexa-core based on Cortex-A55. It may be worth noting that Samsung’s high-end Exynos 9820 can go up to a max speed of 2.73 GHz.
  • Camera support: single-camera up to 108Mp, or dual-camera 20MP+20MP. Samsung also stresses the integrated AI capability to support photo taking.
  • Video support: 4K UHD 120fps encoding and decoding with HEVC(H.265), H.264, VP9

Samsung said in the announcement that the mass production of Exynos 980 is expected to start by the end of this year, indicating Samsung 5G smartphones and tablets based on this new chipset will hit the market in the first half of 2020, if not the first quarter.

One day earlier, Samsung announced Galaxy A90 5G, a mid-range 5G smartphone, based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 platform, which is aimed at taking 5G to the mainstream users. The new Exynos 980 is likely to power the next generation of mid-range devices.

The 5G momentum in South Korea, Samsung’s home market, has been going strong. After registering 1 million subscribers by the beginning of June, government data showed that by the end of July the total number of 5G subscribers, from all three operators combined, already topped 2 million.

Here is Exynos 980’s promotion video: