Qualcomm worked with Ericsson to reach what was described as a critical milestone on the path to 5G handset availability in the first half of 2019.

The pair completed a 3GPP Release 15-compliant 5G NR call on a “smartphone form factor mobile test device”, using mmWave spectrum in a non-standalone (NSA) mode. The test used a Qualcomm X50 5G modem and RF subsystem, along with Ericsson’s commercial 5G NR radio AIR 5331 and baseband products.

Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm, said: “Mobilising mmWave for the smartphone has been seen by many as an impossible challenge, but this demonstration validates that we are on track to bring groundbreaking 5G mmWave experiences to consumers.”

Fredrik Jejdling, EVP and head of the Networks business area at Ericsson, said it is “making headway on commercial 5G by performing interoperability tests on new mmWave bands, giving our customers wider deployment options and the consumers faster speeds”.

While operators are pressing ahead with early 5G deployments, device availability is a sticking point. Many telcos are looking to fixed wireless access services as an initial 5G use case, which means the lack of mobile phone-sized hardware is less of an issue, with other operators looking at portable broadband devices as an alternative.

But availability of 5G devices has also been identified as a way of reinvigorating the lacklustre smartphone market.