In short: Qualcomm partnered with Ericsson on a new 5G smartphone prototype and used it as the basis of another feat of wireless pioneering, having conducted the first known call using the millimeter-wave spectrum and a client device in the form of a conventional handset.
Background: The prototype in question used Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50, the firm's first mobile modem compliant with the 5G New Radio standard. The call itself relied on the 3GPP's Release 15 specification finalized last December, specifically the part of the configuration regulating the use of the 39GHz band in non-standalone mode, meaning Qualcomm and Ericsson's solution still relied on 4G LTE equipment, though their infrastructure was heavily modified. Ericsson contributed to the project with its AIR 5331 system and other new wireless products that it already advertises as being ready for commercialization, having conducted the test in its own lab in Kista, Sweden. Qualcomm's successor to the Snapdragon 845 will offer Snapdragon X50 as an optional attachment, with the Snapdragon 865 or however its 2020 chip is going to be called being expected to come with native, unavoidable 5G support.
The impact: Having infrastructure and modem manufacturers conduct public 5G tests is important for all wireless carriers and device makers looking to ensure their products are compatible with the next generation of connectivity as such experiments essentially serve as roadmaps for their own trials, increasing their chances of success and allowing the rest of the industry to quickly iterate on any hardware and software advancements. 5G interoperability tests that both Ericsson and Qualcomm have been pursuing for some time now are significant for much the same reasons. All that R&D activity should pave the way for commercial 5G deployment that the two technology giants are still planning to start early next year. The development also serves as further testament of Qualcomm's commitment to the next generation of wireless technologies that the company has been positioning as the backbone of its long-term sustainability, especially following the NXP fiasco.