Verizon begins LTE trials on 3.5GHz band with Nokia, Ericsson

Verizon is working with Nokia, Ericsson, Google, and Qualcomm on system testing across the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band in the hopes of increasing capacity and speeds on its LTE network.

Verizon has announced that it is working with Nokia, Ericsson, Google, Qualcomm, Corning, and Federated Wireless to test LTE-Advanced technologies using Citizen Band Radio Spectrum (CBRS) frequencies.

The trials will be involve end-to-end system testing across 150MHz of the 3.5GHz band -- which is also being used globally for early 5G deployments -- and will be undertaken in Verizon's Irving, Texas, facility.

By combining the new spectrum with LTE-Advanced technologies in addition to carrier aggregation, Verizon said it would increase capacity and therefore throughput speeds on its mobile network.

For the trials, which Verizon said have been taking place since February, the carrier is utilising Ericsson's Radio 2208 outdoor micro base station, indoor B48 Radio Dot System unit 5216, and radio system comprising 4x4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (4x4 MIMO) and 4x 20MHz carrier aggregation including the CBRS spectrum; Nokia's FlexiZone Multiband Indoor BTS, FlexiZone Multiband Outdoor BTS, and FlexiZone Controller; and Corning's SpiderCloud Enterprise RAN, comprising a Services Node and SCRN-330 Radio Nodes.

Qualcomm is providing its Snapdragon LTE modem, which enables Verizon to access LTE on CBRS using mobile devices, while Google and Federated Wireless are providing their spectrum access system (SAS) traffic prioritisation algorithms.

Verizon said it has five main goals for the system trials: Testing interoperability between Nokia, Ericsson, and other infrastructure providers for handover between licensed and shared spectrum; evaluating LTE performance and data; testing data rates, customer experience, and modulations across the spectrum band; testing mobility handoffs; and verifying that Google and Federated Wireless' SAS algorithms provide "the best channel match from the SAS database".

Verizon and its partners are also trialling the use of private LTE sites for a possible enterprise business case.

"The promise of the CBRS band and enabling the use of wider swaths of spectrum will make a big impact on carrying wireless data in the future. These trials are critical to stress test the full system," Verizon VP of Technology Development and Planning Bill Stone said.

"There are many players in the CBRS ecosystem, and these successful trials ensure all the various parts perform together as an end-to-end system for our customers' benefit. We want to ensure devices efficiently use CBRS spectrum, and that the new components effectively interact with the rest of the network."

Once the trials are complete, Verizon said it would be submitting equipment for certification by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), after which it expects to begin deploying the network by the end of this year.

The 3.5GHz CBRS band has until now been used mainly for the United States government's radar systems, with the FCC authorising shared spectrum use with small cells in 2016.

However, ahead of more wide-scale network deployments, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray told ZDNet in February that the government needs to make more spectrum available, as it has "an enormous role" to play in freeing up more bands for 5G.

The US Department of Defence freed up around 100MHz of spectrum in February, Ray said, but it's still not enough and decisions are taking too long.

"I think as an industry, we all realise a lot more spectrum is needed for 5G to ultimately succeed in the US market, and that's across all bands," Ray told ZDNet, pointing to the millimetre wave (mmWave) and 3.5GHz CBRS bands.

"The US has consumed most of the commercial spectrum pretty rapidly over recent years, and for 5G we need a lot more.

"It seems to take an interminable amount of time in the US to bring any spectrum to market."

Verizon's CBRS tests follow the carrier's work on boosting its LTE network in Irvine, California, using Massive MIMO technology in partnership with Ericsson as a "stepping stone to 5G" back in October.

Prior to this, Ericsson had announced attaining speeds of 1.07Gbps across Verizon's commercial LTE network in August, using 3x 20MHz carriers of frequency-division duplex (FDD) spectrum, 12 simultaneous LTE streams, 4x4 MIMO, and 256 Quadrature Amplitude Moderation (256 QAM) per carrier.

In February, Verizon then boosted its Minneapolis-Saint Paul LTE network ahead of the Super Bowl by adding 24 new cell sites and more than 200 small cell sites to increase the density of its network, Verizon's VP of West Network Brian Mecum told ZDNet.

In terms of 5G, Verizon last year announced that it will be accelerating its 5G New Radio (NR) field trials using 28GHz and 39GHz mmWave spectrum, MIMO antenna technology, adaptive beam-forming and beam-tracking techniques, and Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G NR mobile modem chipset.

In June, Verizon told ZDNet that one of the "key" parts of 5G is interoperability, with the carrier working not only with Ericsson and Qualcomm but also with Cisco, Samsung, Intel, LG, and Nokia to roll out its pre-commercial 5G trial networks across the US.

Having completed an over-the-air 5G call using 3GPP standards in February, Verizon is planning to launch 5G in up to five cities this year, starting with Sacramento, California.

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