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Qualcomm : 5G mmWave network advantage – How to measure it right

5G mmWave is a revolutionary mobile technology that provides access to enormous bandwidth and capacity available in frequency bands above 24 GHz.

Once considered impossible by skeptics, 5G mmWave is now embraced by the wireless ecosystem and continues to gain traction worldwide. In the US, for example, all major operators offer 5G mmWave service, as well as extensive lineups of the latest best-selling 5G flagship phones using mmWave. In Europe, nearly half of the countries in the European Union and the UK have or plan to allocate mmWave spectrum for 5G.

5G mmWave also has implications for Asia. In Japan, all mobile network operators now offer commercial 5G mmWave. In China, Qualcomm Technologies is working closely with ecosystem players to prepare for upcoming 5G mmWave trials. Commercial networks have been launched in Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan. In addition, networks supporting mmWave have been launched on the island continent of Australia.

And it’s not just the operators on board with 5G mmWave; OEMs and device makers are also participating. At the time of writing, 130+ 5G mmWave devices have been announced from ~50 vendors, including Phones, Hotspots, CPEs, Modules, PCs (GSA, Nov ’21); Pretty much all powered by Snapdragonmobile platforms.

Outdated wireless performance measurement methods do not apply to 5G mmWave

The revolutionary nature of 5G mmWave poses a challenge to the mobile industry: what is the best way to measure the performance and impact of 5G mmWave? Legacy stats used with 3G and 4G are not insightful at all, as 5G mmWave is a completely new technology. For example, consider the traditional metrics used for 3G and 4G performance:

Area Coverage – not very relevant as high bandwidth and shorter propagation (versus sub6) make 5G mmWave suitable for localized capacity to complement sub6 (eg transit stations, downtown/high streets, shopping malls, airports, locations).

Population Coverage – also irrelevant as most 5G mmWave base stations will be located in high demand places where people “pass through” rather than where they live (see the places listed in brackets in Area Coverage).

Percentage Connected or Active Time – a misleading statistic because a burst of 5G mmWave traffic can be about 10-20x faster than sub6 and is only used with applications that require high throughput; therefore, this metric is expected (and should) be low, as mmWave can transfer the required data faster. A more accurate, more relevant way to measure 5G mmWave impact

More than coverage or connected time, the best way to measure the impact of 5G mmWave is by the amount of traffic transferred to 5G mmWave – similar to other capacity-oriented cellular technologies – such as small cells, LAA and CBRS, which are designed to deliver significant to provide relief on mobile networks.

A recent analysis from Qualcomm Technologies Engineering Services Group (ESG), which advises and assists top global operators with complex mobile network deployments, demonstrates the benefits of 5G mmWave by measuring traffic in areas where the technology is deeply deployed.

One of those deeply developed areas is downtown Chicago. Using Verizon1 traffic data, the team’s calculations show that 46 percent of the data traffic generated by 5G-enabled devices is sent over mmWave bands (Figure 1) — an impressive figure when you consider that 20 percent of user device consists of 5G smartphones2 and mmWave. coverage in this area is focused on outlying areas such as streets and parks (Figure 2). In fact, street-by-street level measurements (Figure 3) in an area of ​​~3.6 km2 showed that mmWave coverage was available in 85-100 percent of the test area, depending on the minimum power threshold4.

Field measurement data (Figure 4) shows that when mmWave capacity is available, transferring traffic to the larger capacity helps to achieve dramatically higher burst rates and average data rates with 5G mmWave, compared to 5G sub-6 GHz and LTE. For example, in the video streaming dataset, 95 percent of the data bursts were observed to be carried across the mmWave spectrum, resulting in 10.5x the burst rate with mmWave, compared to sub-6.

The analysis confirms 5G mmWave’s critical role for its intended purpose: to deliver massive increases in localized capacity to address the ever-growing demand for data in key areas. In the areas covered by ESG’s analysis, 5G mmWave is already offloading significant portions of data traffic. That figure will only increase as the penetration of 5G mmWave-enabled devices increases. Using traffic metrics instead of coverage or connected/active time is the key performance measure demonstrating the importance of mmWave in the evolution of 5G.

Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

1. Based on the average daily data volume for a mmW equipped urban cluster with an estimated 20% 5G mmWave device penetration. 2. Verizon earnings call, July ’21. 3. Measured with commercial 5G mmWave RF signal measurement equipment. 4. Above -115 dBm receive power observed in 85% of the test area. Receive power above -125 dBm observed in 100% of the test area.

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