January 18, 2019

World’s first 5G phone call made in China

By Lucy Ingham

Telecommunications giant ZTE has announced what it claims is the world’s first 5G phone call, ahead of the technology’s rollout over the next few years.

The call in question was made in a field trial using the company’s 5G prototype smartphone in Shenzen, China, a city often described as the hardware capital of the world.

The test also included a voice call over Chinese messaging service Wechat, a stream of an online video and web browsing.

It made use of a commercial 5G test field located in Shenzen operated by China Unicom, which is one of a handful across the country.

These fields are designed to assess the various aspects of the 5G network equipment for bugs and flaws, in order to support a more established rollout of the technology over the next few years.

First 5G phone call one of a number of 5G firsts

ZTE’s test is the latest in a line of 5G ‘firsts’ that are not only designed to prime the technology for mass use, but also promote the presence of specific companies within the 5G space.

“ZTE’s 5G solution has passed the end-to-end test in the three months after the release of the 3GPP Rel-15. It showcases ZTE’s strong competency in 5G R&D and commercialization, demonstrating ZTE’s role as a reliable partner to global 5G operators and a key player in the 5G industry,” said ZTE of the news.

One such other first is the 5G smartphone, the first of which will be released by Verizon and Samsung later this year.

However, in the majority of cases, these technologies don’t represent the final form of 5G, but merely the first version that will be possible. And this is also the case with ZTE’s first 5G phone call announcement.

The call was made using a non-standalone network (NSA), which relies on connections to 5G frequencies to improve the transmission of data, but which makes use of some features of 4G for core operations. Over time it is expected that the technology will move to standalone (SA) networks, which will see improved efficiency and lower costs.

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