Relative to 4G, 5G will be deployed on a larger number of spectrum bands, and will also rely on a greater number of approaches for using wireless spectrum. Qualcomm (QCOM) asserts that it's well-prepared to address all of these upcoming deployments.In addition to talking with Qualcomm product marketing exec Nitin Dhiman about his firm's RF chip efforts (a recap of that discussion can be found here), I had a chance to talk with Dean Brenner, Qualcomm's VP of Spectrum Strategy and Technology Policy, about his firm's expectations for 5G spectrum usage. Here's a run-down of notable things shared:
5G Support Around the World Brenner insists Qualcomm is pleased across the board with how governments are auctioning and allocating 5G spectrum. "If this had been 4G, 3G or 2G, I would have a long list of grievances about that," he said. But with 5G, Qualcomm doesn't need to "convince a single regulator" to act.
And at a time when U.S. carriers such as Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) have been among the most vocal supporters of deploying 5G within high-frequency, millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum, Brenner declares the perception that only the U.S. cares about mmWave to be a myth. As evidence, he notes South Korea's usage of mmWave, which has a tremendous amount of capacity but limited range, as well as the European Commission's recent allocation of mmWave spectrum for use across the EU.
Qualcomm, it should be noted, has been ahead of the pack in developing mmWave RF antenna modules for 5G phones.
5G in Unlicensed and Licensed SpectrumBrenner spent a fair amount of time talking about Qualcomm's efforts to support the use of 5G within unlicensed spectrum bands. He noted that carriers that have deployed a 4G technology known as License Assisted Access (LAA), which allows 4G to simultaneously run across licensed spectrum and unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz band (also used for Wi-Fi), will be able to upgrade their base stations to support a 5G version of LAA.
Qualcomm is also pushing to open up the 6GHz band, which could be unlicensed in some regions (such as the U.S.) and licensed in others, for LAA use. In addition, since 6GHz is a "greenfield" band that isn't used for Wi-Fi or other technologies, Qualcomm sees an opportunity to use beamforming technology to let multiple users rely on the same spectrum at the same time. Brenner suggested the 6GHz band could be used for 5G industrial IoT deployments in places such as factories, ports and warehouses.
With regards to 5G deployments in licensed, sub-6GHz, spectrum bands, Brenner noted there isn't a single approach that carriers around the world have standardized on. A mixture of low, middle and high frequency bands are being used, and carriers are both deploying 5G on brand-new spectrum and leveraging a technology known as dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) to deploy it in 4G bands. Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55 5G modem, which is expected to start appearing in commercial devices by year's end, supports DSS.
Wi-Fi and 5GWhen asked about how Qualcomm sees Wi-Fi and mmWave 5G -- two technologies that have some similarities in terms of their range and capacity -- complementing each other, Brenner argued 5G's reliability and ability to support very low latencies (i.e., the minimum time needed for a bit of data to get from point A to point B) make it a good fit for various applications that Wi-Fi isn't ideal for. Examples he gave included autonomous cars, remote surgery and industrial networks.
"5G aims to enable us to do all the things wirelessly that we can't do wirelessly today," he said.