Telstra makes 5G phone call across commercial network with Ericsson and Intel

Telstra has made a 5G data call in a 'real-world mobile network environment' using 3.5GHz spectrum, Intel's 5G mobile trial platform, and Ericsson's commercial 5G NR equipment.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telstra, Intel, and Ericsson have announced successfully making a 5G data call across a commercial mobile network.

The call, completed using the 5G non-standalone (NSA) network at Telstra's 5G Innovation Centre in the Gold Coast, made use of Telstra's 3.5GHz spectrum holdings and SIM card; Ericsson's commercial 5G NR radio 6488, baseband, and packet core; and Intel's 5G Mobile Trial Platform.

Using an Ericsson virtualised 5G packet core running on its NFVi, the 5G slice was connected into Telstra's existing mobile network.

"Demonstrating this 5G data call end-to-end using my own personal SIM card on Telstra's mobile network is the closest any provider has come to making a 'true' 5G call in the real-world environment, and marks another 5G first for Telstra," outgoing MD of Networks for Telstra Mike Wright said.

"We continue to work with global technology companies Ericsson and Intel as well as global standards bodies to advance the deployment of commercial 5G capability in Australia."

The three companies had earlier this month completed a data call in a lab environment in Stockholm, Sweden, with the Gold Coast trial moving the call into a live environment.

Intel Next Generation and Standards vice president and general manager Asha Keddy said the tech giant would continue working on 5G use cases and trials ahead of the launch of Telstra's 5G network in 2019.

Telstra's 5G network in the Gold Coast utilises Ericsson's Baseband 6630, AIR 6488, and 4G/5G system software; Telstra's 3.5GHz and 2100MHz spectrum; and Intel's 5G platform.

Read also: MWC 2018: Telstra's 5G rollout plan for 2019

Back in November, Telstra had similar announced completing the world's first 5G data call using 26GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum on its production core network.

That announcement had come while launching its 5G testing centre to continue trialling new networking technologies in partnership with Ericsson.

In March, Telstra also announced switching on the world's first 5G-enabled Wi-Fi hotspots in the Gold Coast, with the idea to bring 5G out of the lab to test in the real world while working around the lack of compatible devices.

"We all know that devices for 5G won't become available until next year at best, and we were saying, 'well, how can we do something that effectively works around the limitations of no 5G devices'," Wright told ZDNet earlier this year.

"So we came up with the idea of saying, 'well why not use all the existing devices, they've all got Wi-Fi on them, and what we've done effectively is put multiple Wi-Fi hotspots into a 5G modem. So it's not about the individual hotspots getting 5G speeds; it's about a lot of users connected to those hotpsots generating lots of traffic that's going through one 5G device.

"It's like a super hotspot we've built out of 5G."

Telstra's announcements followed CEO Andy Penn telling ZDNet during Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February that the global race to deploy and launch a 5G network is about offering an entire solution more so than simply laying claim to the title of being first.

"Our objective will be to lead the development in 5G, and be the leader in the rollout of Australia, but it's not just about being first -- it's about making sure you have a fully integrated and extensive 5G set of offerings. It's not just about putting a flag in the ground, it's about delivering an extensive 5G capability," Penn told ZDNet.

"We're always a leader, and we have the best network. We've always been a leader in technology and will continue to be so, and as I said it's one thing to just sort of put a flag in the ground, but what's more important is we have an integrated set of 5G solutions for customers, and also we will continue to invest in and develop the capability of 4G as well.

"Because ultimately, whilst 5G might be available commercially in 2019, realistically not everybody is going to suddenly switch to 5G; there will still be many customers on 4G as there are indeed on 3G today."

Penn in January told ZDNet in an interview during CES 2018 that with only five companies involved in 5G networking technology -- Samsung, ZTE, Nokia, Ericsson, and Huawei -- the telco is in discussions with all of them in relation to its 5G deployment.

Ericsson announced the completion of its 5G commercial software across radio and core networks in February, with Intel currently working with Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft on bringing 5G connectivity to Windows PCs.

Intel also announced a "multi-year collaboration" with Spreadtrum to produce a 5G phone platform by the second half of 2019.

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