AN UPDATE ON 5G NR MILLIMETER WAVE (mmWAVE) NETWORK PERFORMANCE AND NEW USE CASES
A lot has happened with 5G NR (New Radio) in the last year since we published our first paper for Qualcomm on 5G NR. In addition to the proliferation of new 5G NR smartphone models, including mid-tier 5G NR smartphones, there have been several technology advancements which have made 5G NR easier to deploy, capable of achieving even higher data speeds, and introduced compelling new use cases. As an update to last year’s whitepaper, we highlight some of the advancements associated with 5G NR mmWave (millimeter wave), or 5G NR deployed in millimeter frequency bands, specifically 28 GHz and 39 GHz in North America.
The most effective means of increasing data speeds is to increase the bandwidth of the radio channel(s) serving the mobile device. In the last several months the wireless ecosystem has increased the amount of mmWave bandwidth providing downlink and uplink data transfers, literally doubling the channel bandwidth in both directions by introducing larger downlink and uplink carrier aggregation schemes. Specifically, network infrastructure, chipsets, and mobile devices in North America now support eight 100 MHz channels (8×100 MHz or 8CC) in the downlink direction and two 100 MHz channels (2×100 MHz or 2CC) in the uplink direction. Previously, the limitation was 4CC in the downlink direction (cell site to mobile device) and 1CC in the uplink (mobile device to cell site).
In addition to increases in user data speeds, there are new 5G NR mmWave use cases, thanks to technology advancements as well as to the overall market maturity. Operators have always been interested in using 5G NR mmWave to offer fixed wireless access (FWA) services, and with the recent introduction of high-power CPEs (consumer premise equipment) and slight modifications to the configuration of the mmWave radio channel, the prospect of mmWave FWA is compelling. In addition to extending the effective range of the mmWave signal to several kilometers versus a few blocks, the high-power CPE enables mmWave signals to provide meaningful data speeds with near- and even non-line-of-sight (NLOS) radio conditions.
5G NR mmWave services are no longer limited to outdoor deployment scenarios. When deployed indoors, mmWave cell sites provide surprisingly good coverage for enterprise use cases. In effect, the mmWave signals extend well beyond LOS conditions, providing coverage in front and behind the 5G NR mmWave radio, as well as around hallway corners and into individual office spaces, thanks to the reflective nature of the mmWave signals.
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