Two of these players, Qualcomm and ZTE, provide the hardware in this technological breakthrough, China Mobile is the carrier involved. Why? Because to be end-to-end you kind of need a telco in the mix, without it Qualcomm and ZTE can only offer an end-and-end solution. OK enough snark and silliness, this is really serious stuff, so on with the show.
What has this trio done? The technical term is they achieved an end-to-end 5G NR Interoperability Data Testing system. What this means is they implemented 3GPP R15 5G New Radio Layer 1 architecture standards and, well, it worked. It is one thing to announce a point-to-point call over a 5G link, while that is actually quite hard it is nothing compared to an end-to-end system. Better yet this demo used a full 100MHz of bandwidth on the 3.5GHz sub-6 spectrum, not the mid or high (mmwave) bands.
For the technical it also includes scalable OFDM numerology, new advanced channel coding and modulation schemes, and low-latency self-contained slot structures. While it is a bit out of the scope of this story, there is a ton more to the 5G standards than you might expect. Most of the hacks included in later LTE specs are baked in from the start and done right, plus a host of other goodies. In short this is far more complicated than anything LTE related, but the first big step is now public and official.
While 5G isn’t here yet, the big pieces are now about as ready as you can get, at least until the standards are fully baked. Given the amount of silicon that is already done, there isn’t all that much that will change between now and the final spec, just details. With that in mind it looks like the ambitious pulled-in targets for 5G deployments may be hit, at least by Qualcomm, China Mobile, and ZTE.S|A