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5G New Radio (NR) will create a unified air interface

“5G New Radio (NR) is the wireless standard that will become the foundation for the next generation of mobile networks. Whereas 3G and 4G connected people, 5G will connect everything—a unifying connectivity fabric for the next decade and beyond. In other words, you will be seeing 5G NR connectivity in your smartphones, cars, utility meters, wearable and much more.”

That’s how Qualcomm Director of Technical Marketing Matt Branda describes the emerging 3GPP 5G NR standard, set to be published with Release 15 and further developed to likely include new features, functions and services from there, which will define the air interface that will support next-generation connectivity.

Based on the ongoing technical work, the 5G NR standard will consider non-standalone operation, which uses LTE as the control plane anchor, and standalone operation meaning full control plane functionality. Target use cases include Enhanced Mobile Broadband and ultra-reliable, low-latency communications in frequencies both above and below 6 GHz.

In addition to use cases like eMBB, a unified 5G air interface would also enable massive machine-type communications and everything in between by providing the flexibility to support extreme variation in requirements.

The road to 5G NR starts with adapting OFDM to accommodate the myriad 5G use cases. OFDM-based waveforms, coupled with scalable numerology, to address very wide bandwidths at millimeter wave spectrum bands above 24 GHz, as well as seamlessly combine licensed, shared licensed and unlicensed spectrum. This advancement will build on the intellectual property Qualcomm developed with LTE and Wi-Fi. For the IoT, 5G NR will use may use non-orthogonal, grant-free multiple access schemes like Resource Spread Multiple Access (RSMA), which Qualcomm is proposing, to reduce complexity derived from machine-based sporadic uplink traffic. For a deep dive into 5g waveforms and multiple access techniques, check outthis Qualcomm whitepaper.

In order to support such a variety of use cases, 5G NR will also need to support a range of latency requirements that scales to an order of magnitude lower than what is offered by LTE. Scalable Time Transmission Interval (TTI), along with a new self-contained TDD subframe design, will help deliver this. This will provide a flexible framework that will accommodate different network topologies and types of services in the same frequency channels, including support for blank time and frequency resources to allow for seamless integration of future 5G services that haven’t been conceptualized yet.

The goal of 5G NR is to essentially provide any device from a sensor to a smartphone to a vehicle with an optimized connection to always-available, secure cloud services.

5G is not just about multiplexing a myriad of services. It is also introducing (or advancing) wireless technologies that will push the capabilities of mobile networks to new heights. Advanced antenna techniques such as massive MIMO will utilize massive arrays of antennas to deliver even faster, more uniform data rates to users. Adaptive beam forming and beam-tracking techniques are enabling robust mobile broadband communications at millimeter wave spectrum bands. New narrowband IoT technologies are enabling battery operation lasting more than 10 years. And new techniques are allowing network coverage to reach farther and deeper than ever before—whether it’s deep inside a building or in the most remote locations.

As the research, development and standardization around 5G NR continues, Qualcomm is supporting the effort in many ways including with its 5G NR prototypes, which will help the industry understand how 5G technologies will work. To support these prototyping efforts, Qualcomm has introduced 5G NR systems operating at both sub 6 GHz (e.g. 4 GHz) and millimeter wave (e.g. 28 GHz) spectrum bands.

“The prototype system is not only being utilized as a testbed for our innovative 5G designs, it is also a trial platform that will track 3GPP standardization progress closely to enable timely 5G NR trials with leading mobile network operators, infrastructure vendors and other industry players,” Branda explained. “It marks real progress toward 5G commercialization.”

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