Intel has been running trials around their 5G solutions which were announced earlier this year. Intel’s 5G modems are powered by their own Altera and Stratix FPGA solutions and even the Intel Core i7 processors. Today’s announcement is all about incorporating 3GPP’s NR specifications into Intel’s 5G trials.
Evolution of the Intel 5G Mobile Trial Platform
Intel first announced their 5G Mobile Trial Platform last year. And in February this year, at the Mobile World Congress 2017, Intel showcased live demos of the 2nd Generation Intel Mobile Trail Platform. This was when they first showcased interoperability between base stations of multiple partners, however, the platform as a whole was released in August 2016. Essentially, this meant that more stakeholders could get onto the platform and the tests performed from that point onwards would indicative of a more real-world performance.
The 2nd Gen Intel Mobile Trial Platform supported sub-6 GHz and mmWave bands. These allow for the massive bandwidth needs of the future but there’s a crucial issue with them – transmission on these mmWave bands suffer from high path loss and low penetration. In fact, most would find it extremely difficult to penetrate a single wall. The solution is to have a close integration with 4G LTE so that when users are moving towards the edge of a cell or the communication signal faces blockage, it can immediately fall back onto 4G LTE to ensure a seamless experience.
Intel’s 2nd Gen Mobile Trial Platform comes integrated with 4×4 MIMO support allowing it to handle multiple clients using multiple antennae at both end to reduce errors and connection issues. The 2nd Gen Intel Mobile Trial Platform is what’s being widely used for the current phase of their 5G trials by all of their partners.
3rd Gen Intel 5G Mobile Trial Platform
Unveiled today, the 3rd Gen Intel 5G Mobile Trial Platform features support for the 3GPP NR specifications which include the set of frequency bands of the radio spectrum that were finalised by all stakeholders. These include the following bands: 600-900 MHz, 3.3-4.2 GHz, 4.4-4.99 GHz, 5.1-5.9 GHz. 24.25-29.5 GHz, 28 GHz and 39 GHz. These are all part of 3GPP’s series 38 specifications that are now in Release 15.
Of all the bands mentioned, the 3rd Gen Intel 5G Mobile Trial Platform will support 600-900 MHz, 3.3-4.2 GHz, 4.4-4.99 GHz, 5.1-5.9 GHz, 28 GHz and 39 GHz for their world wide testing.
The 3rd Gen trial platform supposedly features 2x the processing capability than the 2nd Gen Mobile Trial Platform owing to the fact that Intel has moved onto using their newer Gen Intel FPGAs and Intel Core i7 processors. And the system as a whole can handle a throughput of 10 Gbps.
NSA 5G NR
The 5G standard is still being developed by all the stakeholders which not only include hardware manufacturers such as Intel and Ericsson but also telecom service providers such as NTT DOCOMO, AT&T, SK Telecom, Vodafone and others. Holding trials like these allows hardware manufacturers to leverage the field programmability of the FPGAs to rapidly iterate and improve upon the protocol, all the while providing valuable feedback to the protocol committee.
The stakeholders aim to accelerate the process of finalising the 5G specifications at the earliest, which is why the Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G NR draft was decided upon. It will act as an intermediate milestone that allows for trials to commence simultaneously while the 5G protocol is still being worked upon. Thus, saving time and allowing deployment of the 5G technology, as early as 2019. The 5G NR specification is currently expected to be finalised in September 2018.