First 5G NR call in France: the connection’s live!

After successfully completing the first major step last June which was standardisation, 5G has recently made major advances in R&D. The first interoperable data call in France conforming to 5G NR specifications is a seminal milestone.

In June 2018, the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) approved and published the 5G New Radio (NR) specifications as part of Release 15, the culmination of two years of work. The announcement, which marks a milestone in standardisation, was closely monitored and lauded by the ecosystem of players involved in forging new-generation standards for mobile telephony. Over the following months, many of them worked hard on demonstrations and experiments that are only partially compatible with 5G NR specifications.

Committed to 5G on all fronts for many years, whether through R&D, innovation or strategic partnerships with key players in the ecosystem, Orange has proven that it is a cornerstone in the ramp-up of 5G infrastructure and capability as part of its 5G partnership with Ericsson. In making the first ever interoperable data call in France using the 5G NR protocol, with its partners Ericsson and Intel, Orange stands out more than ever as the leader in tomorrow’s mobile networks. Oliver Simon, Wireless Technologies Evolution Director at Orange, reflects on the importance of this event.

What does this 5G NR data-call demonstration mean for Orange?

It’s the result of many years’ effort and R&D, and is the launch pad for the success of 5G. In fact, it’s the latest phase in an adventure that picked up steam on 7 February at the Orange 5G event when an experimental 5G network for Lille and Douai was announced. Our lab-based call uses the core of this experimental network. But what makes it exceptional and explains its value is the fact that it demonstrates that it works between two independent equipment – A test mobile supplied by Intel (called Mobile Test Platform) and a 5G network provided by Ericsson – in accordance with 3GPP specifications. Interoperability between a mobile and any manufacturer’s network is the key to the success of 2G/3G/4G systems. Technically, this is a major technical challenge as both manufacturers have to implement 3GPP specifications very precisely for them to be able to communicate. This is therefore a much more difficult challenge to overcome than calls from isolated manufacturers touted as ”proprietary”.

How does this demonstration work in practical terms?

In brief, as stated earlier, it involves setting up, in the lab, an interoperable data call on the 3400-3800 MHz band between a mobile terminal and a base station. It consists of an Ericsson 5G active antenna and a virtualised core network. Data communication, which consists of sending packets to a server (connected to the Lille-Douai experimental network), is then set up to using standardised protocols.

Where does this demonstration figure in Orange’s 5G technical roadmap?

Now that we have established this connection and demonstrated interoperability in a laboratory environment, we have together with Ericsson to tackle the same challenge in the field, in the Lille and Douai experimental environment. And at the same time we have to roll out the technical sites and logistics functions we need to grow coverage and to achieve expected 5G performance levels. Orange is now, more than ever before, in pole position in the 5G revolution and is the leading developer of tomorrow’s networks in France.

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