Intel announces 5G mobile trial platform

The Intel 5G Mobile Trial Platform will provide industry with a working solution to test different use cases, silicon solutions, and spectrum bands while 3GPP specifications are being developed.

Intel has announced a 5G mobile trial platform that will be developed alongside 3GPP standards and allow for collaboration from infrastructure and carrier partners.

The Intel 5G Mobile Trial Platform will allow for device innovation by supporting initial 5G New Radio (NR) specifications in live tests with partners by the end of the year, and is powered by Intel's field-programmable gate array (FGPA) circuits and Core i7 processors, enabling it to implement the latest communications protocols and air interfaces.

"What we are announcing today is a mobile trial platform that we will co-develop with 3GPP," Asha Keddy, Intel VP of Client and Internet of Things Businesses and Systems Architecture, and GM for Next Generation and Standards, told media.

"So this will be ready when the 3GPP standard is ready, and essentially this is a vehicle where we work with our infrastructure partners, for example Ericsson or Nokia, and we can do interoperability [tests] with them."

At launch, the 5G platform will support 3GPP NR early interoperability; the 600-900MHz, 3.3-4.2GHz, 4.4-4.9GHz, 5.1-5.9GHz, 28GHz, and 39GHz spectrum bands; and a mobile interoperability solution for end-to-end 5G field testing.

"The main advantage of this is the flexibility of this platform; it not only uses high speeds up to 10Gbps, but we also can use this platform to develop algorithms to figure out what works, what doesn't work for use cases like fixed-wireless or automotive [and] industrial," Keddy said.

The platform can therefore be used across different use cases and with different mobile trial platform prototypes to test alongside 3GPP standards.

"As Intel, we look at 5G from an end-to-end point of view, so for Intel, 5G is just as much about the network and the network transformation as it is about the client," she explained.

The platform will test network-device NR interoperability while standards are being modified by the industry body, with the information it gains from such trials to be used in technology development.

In reverse, Intel will also be providing its own test results back to the standards body in order to achieve the final specifications sooner.

Operators are also able to conduct NR trials faster in preparation for commercial deployments, while Intel can put the learnings back into its own technology in order to speed up time to market for its interoperable silicon solutions for 5G.

According to Keddy, because there are different requirements for 5G across the globe, especially in regards to millimetre-wave (mmWave) and other spectrum bands being considered, the platform will also be constantly co-developed with partners using the data it gathers from real-world scenarios.

"It allows us to get the data from different countries, different usage conditions, and develop a stronger standard," she said.

"Right now, we are moving the testing into a much more real-world environment like people's homes."

Intel announced its first 5G trial platform in February last year, supporting sub-6GHz and mmWave spectrum, with a second-generation platform integrating 4x4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (4x4 MIMO) then launched a year ago.

Keddy said that Intel has been "pleasantly surprised" with mmWave performance during its 5G trials, saying it works better than expected in both mobility and fixed-wireless areas.

Intel also announced its 5G modem at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, calling it a "milestone for the industry".

According to Intel, the modem was the first to enable 5G trials anywhere in the world because its single chip supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz spectrum bands, incorporating Massive MIMO, beam-forming technology, and advanced channel coding.

The modem integrates with Intel's 28GHz 5G Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit (RFIC), as well as its 4G XMM 7360 LTE modem for 4G/5G interworking.

Intel also used its CES announcement to launch its 5G-ready GO platform, which is intended to help autonomous vehicles connect using cloud computing, with two GO development kits for its Atom and Xeon processors unveiled at the time.

Intel first laid out its 5G roadmap during Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016, saying it would be working with Nokia, Ericsson, LG, Verizon, and others on 5G network development, testing, and deployment.

"5G represents a significant shift for these networks, and we think it's essential to get ready ahead of the curve," Aicha Evans, corporate vice president and general manager of the Intel communication and services group, said at the time.

"We need to make sure we partner with everybody in the ecosystem, all of the trendsetters and the leaders, so there's an ecosystem we can roam and have a single worldwide view."

Intel partnered with Ericsson, SK Telecom, NTT DoCoMo, AT&T, and Vodafone in February to introduce an intermediate 5G milestone called Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G NR, enabling larger-scale trials and deployments by 2019, with the NSA specifications set for September next year.

Intel is also working with US carriers AT&T and Verizon on 5G trials: AT&T is using Intel's 5G mobile trial platform in its Indiana, Texas, and Michigan trials, while Verizon relies on Intel for its 11 pre-commercial 5G trial networks across the nation.

Intel and Verizon additionally trialled 5G during the Indianapolis 500 motor race in May, using technologies such as beam forming and beam tracking to attain speeds in excess of 6Gbps.

The networking giant is also planning to use the Olympic Games to showcase its 5G platforms.

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