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Chip-makers embark on pre-MWC 5G virtue-signalling frenzy

5G phone IoT cloud

Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung have issued a flood of announcements all apparently designed to show how incredibly 5G-ready they are.

Having regularly dropped the ball on mobile over the past decade Intel is especially desperate to be seen as a viable 5G player and is bombarding tech hacks with relatively open messaging intended to convince us of just that.

“Intel is accelerating the 5G future,” wrote Aicha Evans, GM of the Communication and Devices Group at Intel. The lady doth protest too much, methinks. After some of the usual, utopian stuff about how 5G will change the world, etc, Evans claimed “Intel’s portfolio brings a unique advantage to the acceleration of 5G.”

Among the evidence Evans cited to substantiate her lofty claim was the launch of what was positioned as the first 5G modem earlier this year, and the MWC launches of a new mobile trial platform, a new LTE-A modem and a mobile edge computing portfolio. Also cited were the numerous 5G partnerships everyone with even half an interest in the ICT sector seems to have felt compelled to dive into, with Intel recently adding ones with both Ericsson and Nokia.

You can see a summary of Intel’s current 5G messaging below. There’s no doubt Intel will be a significant player in 5G but this is more likely to stem from on its dominant position in the datacentre and cloud than anything else. All this banging on about modems and partnerships comes over as overcompensation for its historical mobile failings.

Intel MWC 2017 slide

Qualcomm is also having a pre-MWC 5G spasm. Among its PR spam is a release modelstly entitled ‘Qualcomm Showcases 5G Leadership with its First 3GPP-based 5G New Radio Connection’. It involves a prototype using the 3.3 GHz to 5.0 GHz band, which apparently demonstrated all the high bandwidth/low latency goodness expected of 5G New Radio.

We usually don’t bother to reproduce Qualcomm canned quotes as they continually raise the bar for generic, self-serving pointlessness, but sometimes it’s worth reminding ourselves why. “In addition to serving as a significant milestone in 5G development, this first 5G NR connection is a powerful testament to Qualcomm Technologies’ continued leadership in developing next generation wireless technologies that drive and track 3GPP standardization,” said Matt Grob, CTO of Qualcomm Technologies. “As we did with 3G, 4G and Gigabit LTE, Qualcomm is collaborating with leading network operators such as China Mobile Communications Corporation to ensure timely commercial network launches of 5G NR.”

The China Mobile thing is a bunch of 5G NR field trials that also involve ZTE. “We have finished our phase I trial on 5G key technologies and started the phase II trial on 5G system,” said Wang Xiaoyun, GM of the technology division of China Mobile. “The collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies and ZTE will push the devices and base station to be matured and ensure their time to market. We encourage more partners to work together, facilitate the completion of the global unified 5G standard, drive the industrialization and build a harmonized ecosystem through the trial, test and cross industry innovation.”

While still generic, China Mobile at least put in a better effort than Qualcomm on the canned quote. ZTE, sadly, didn’t. “ZTE is delighted to cooperate with Qualcomm Technologies to work on this IoDT and Trial for China Mobile,” said Xu Huijun, CTO of ZTE. “As a global leader in telecommunications and information technology, ZTE sees the significant importance of 3GPP standard beneficial to whole industrial chain and keeps contributing actively to global standards. ZTE will work together with partners to push forward 5G test and trial steadily, to promote the 5G commercialization world widely.”

Lastly Samsung, perhaps partly to distract attention from its handset troubles, is trying to focus attention on its components efforts at the show. The most recent announcement concerns a trail conducted in partnership with Japanese operator KDDI in Tokyo to demonstrate 5G multi-cell handover using the 28 GHz band.

Specifically the test took two forms. One involved a car travelling at 60 kmph between two base-stations on a highway. The second involved driving in the center of the city to demonstrate viability of the 28 GHz band in that environment. A peak rate of 3.7 Gbps was still achieved, we’re told.

“We are pleased to have proven the feasibility of 5G mobility service in Tokyo, one of the densest cities in the world,” said WooJune Kim, Head of Next Generation Strategy at Samsung Electronics. “Through today’s demonstration, we have proven that challenges that are likely to occur at highly dense metropolitan areas can be successfully overcome when the right technologies are implemented. Together with KDDI, we look forward to taking steps toward the realization of 5G-driven services.”

There was a bunch of other 5G spam along the lines of the above US chippies but at least the KDDI announcement was specific and substantial. Since it’s inevitable that everyone is going to bang on about 5G for the foreseeable future the onus is now on substance. Of course companies like Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung are desperate to be at the forefront of this era but they will need more than flowery, aspirational marketing language to make that dream come true.

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