Huawei, Vodafone Complete First NSA 5G Phone Call Ever – MWC 2018

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Huawei and Vodafone successfully conducted history’s first phone call based on the non-standalone 5G New Radio standard completed by the 3GPP as part of the Release 15 specification late last year. The trial was conducted last week in Spain, ahead of Mobile World Congress where the duo is also showcasing the same solution as part of live demonstrations until tomorrow. Vodafone disclosed the phone call was made using the sub-6GHz spectrum and involved simultaneous data exchanges over 4G and 5G networks. While the initial connection was established over 4G, the call ended up transitioning to a 5G network while still maintaining both. The same setup was then used for making an HD video call.

The successful completion of the trial indicates Huawei and Vodafone already have the technology to enable voice calls supported by 4.5G networks and similar transitional solutions. The ability to do so should prove to be highly valuable in the coming years while the telecom industry is in the process of upgrading its equipment to support the next generation of connectivity, especially since global 5G buildouts are widely expected to be the most prolonged infrastructural deployment efforts in history due to a number of reasons such as high network densification demands and regulatory hurdles. In the context of 5G phone calls as a whole, the Huawei-Vodafone partnership isn’t the first one to complete a next-generation voice transmission, with Verizon, Nokia, and Qualcomm managing to do the same earlier this month. Huawei and Vodafone are still convinced of the historic value of their scientific contribution that demonstrates how people may be able to make phone calls in the near future and not just years from now when 5G coverage becomes ubiquitous.

The experimental setup leveraged an end-to-end test network and 3.7GHz spectrum, with the former consisting of Huawei-made equipment and relying on network slicing. The trial has been in the making since December, with the work on the project starting immediately after the publication of the 3GPP’s Release 15 standard. Large-scale 5G deployment is expected to start in North America, Australia, and the Far East early next year, whereas Europe should follow suit in 2020.