Qualcomm has just announced a key 5G win, with its family of X50 5G New Radio modems picked by a slew of prominent original equipment manufacturers for their first wave of 5G mobile devices. One of those OEMs is Netcomm Wireless; with the Sydney-based global firm now equipped with the chipsets to drive a new line of 5G hardware, CTO Steve Collins told CommsDay that 5G would mark a tipping point for replacing wireline with fixed wireless even in urban areas.

Qualcomm has revealed an impressive array of OEMs that will be using its kit, including Asus, Fujitsu, Nokia phonemaker HMD Global, HTC, Novatel Wireless, LG, Netgear, Oppo, Sierra Wireless, Sony Mobile, Telit, Wingtech, Xiaomi and ZTE as well as Netcomm. All will be working to commercialise 5G devices, from phone handsets to mobile broadband gateways, for both the sub-6GHz and millimetre-wave spectrum bands starting in 2019. Qualcomm’s first wave of chipsets are based on the non-standalone 5G standard ratified by the 3GPP in late December.

Netcomm will be using the Qualcomm tech to increase and extend its established strength in fixed wireless. “4G devices for Netcomm have really been focused on this fixed wireless use case, delivering broadband solutions over a wireless connection – with a lot of focus in rural and outer urban deployment, not so much in the high density urban deployments. We see 5G as the real enabler for wireless broadband connectivity into that more urban environment, when we’re looking at replacing fixed-line services using wireless technology,” Collins told CommsDay. “It might be fibre replacement, or legacy copper replacement… 4G could do the speeds, 4G could implement a broadband connection but didn’t scale very well for lots of users. 5G, finally, is where we believe the technology’s finally at a point where you can genuinely do wireless connectivity to the home – we call that ‘wireless fibre’.

 “If you look at the urban areas, traditionally, with 4G, there isn’t a lot of spectrum on the market. Telstra, for example, has a fair amount by worldwide standards … and even then, that bandwidth is largely utilised by handsets. So if you then try and add every household to have a broadband connection, all doing Netflix at 7pm, you have a huge congestion problem just because of the physics of the amount of spectrum you have available,” he explained.

MIGRATION: “Now 5G has a number of features that go a long way towards mitigating that. We’re going to get more spectrum… particularly in the higher frequencies, [and] that gives you capacity; the downside is your cell gets smaller and you can’t penetrate as much. But the other thing 5G does is massive multiple-input, multiple-output with beam steering, which allows the basestation to be much more targeted about where it sends the signal, and that reduces the congestion load on the cell.”

“The operators now have a challenge because they have to run more cells, and backhaul those cells; but everything we see in the market [suggests] they’re going to do that. [And] it’s not just the proliferation of small cells; it’s also the abstraction of the intelligence of the device into software-defined networking. So a lot of the complicated intelligence that would normally exist in a basestation can be pulled back into cloud-type infrastructure, and then the small cell gets cheaper to deploy, and simpler. There’s lots of things lining up all at once that create the perfect storm to enable this technology.”

Collins added that 5G hardware solutions would retain the ability to use 4G as well, for instance via carrier aggregation across the standards or dynamically switching between the respective frequencies as needed for particular use cases. He also noted that Netcomm would be carefully targeted about the order it released its own products into various markets, with different geographies getting access to different spectrum bands for 5G at different times and OEM support for specific bands being dependent on chipset availability, but said that “it’s safe to assume that when the time is right we’ll have a product for the Australian market.”

“We are aiming to be one of the first in the world in this category – so early 2019 would be my bet.”

Petroc Wilton

Source: CommsDay. Used under license