China Mobile has completed device and infrastructure interoperability testing with Huawei and Intel ahead of the operator's plans to rollout standards-based 5G in China.
China Mobile Communications Corp. has said that it uses the most recent 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G standalone (5G SA) standard on the mainland by 2020. The standalone spec doesn't require 4G LTE as a control plane to start and end 5G data sessions, unlike the earlier non-standalone spec. China Mobile has also promised to deploy 10,000 5G base stations by 2020. (See China Mobile to Deploy 10,000 5G Basestations by 2020 and China Mobile Confirms Aggressive 5G Standalone Plan.)
The operators and the vendors undertook the 3GPP 5G New Radio interoperability testing on the C-Band, which some observers are hoping will become a global mid-frequency 5G standard and is already such in China and Europe in the 3.5GHz tranche of the spectrum. The C-band encompasses 3.3GHz to 4.2GHz and 4.4GHz to 5GHz. (See South Korea's 5G Auction Raises $3.3B and FCC Mulls Opening Up 4.9GHz for 5G, Robots & Drones.)
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. provided multi-antenna (64 transmitters and 64 receivers) networking equipment for the test. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) had some 2 transmitter/2 receiver user test devices on hand.
"It was a multi-vendor 5G NR IODT with full protocol, full channel, and full procedure completed, which means that 5G network and 5G terminals from different vendors can not only perform functional tests but also can further implement 5G service tests and support various enhanced mobile broadband services such as ultra-high-definition video and VR -- with transfer rates of 1.5Gbps," Intel said of the interoperability tests.
China Mobile is currently planning a pre-commercial trial in five cities in the third quarter of 2018, with about 500 base stations. It will expand that to 20 cities early next year, with another 500 base stations, to test out business applications.
A solid "in" with China Mobile could be a win for Intel, as China is expected to become the biggest single market for the new wireless technology over time.
The operator has also inked a 5G infrastructure deal with Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) this week.
Of course, there has been voiced concerns over whether China is gaining a 5G "lead" over the US of late. Examination of the 3GPP specification shows that multiple operators and vendors from across the globe, however, have contributed to the standard so far. While the timelines for initial 5G deployments, largely track to similar timelines in both countries, with US operators potentially having an edge with early commercial offerings. (See Has China Really Opened Up a 5G Gap? , Trump on 5G: It's a 'Gamechanger' and Trump Bill Paves Way for US 5G Spectrum Auction Later in 2018.)
The speed with which Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gets 5G spectrum ready for auction is likely to be the largest stumbling block to American 5G ambitions. The first millimeter-wave auction is due late this year.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading