In early September, I attended the 3GPP RAN #73 plenary meeting in New Orleans. Even though we were in New Orleans, this was no party. Members submitted 528 documents for review, and over 250 participants from 135 different entities attended with a commitment to evolve our wireless standards to address the growing demands of the market.
Here are some key takeaways.
- Release 14 (also known as LTE Advanced Pro) is on track with impactful updates for NB IoT and eMTC. Even though not technically 5G, Release 14’s coverage of NB IoT and eMTC have enhanced LTE’s ability to create a network of “things”.
- LAA has given way to eLAA and this type of coexistence with WiFi and unlicensed bands continues to be an interesting and viable extension for bandwidth improvement using existing infrastructure.
- Release 15 – the much anticipated “5G” release – generated a lot of discussion. Not surprisingly, the 3GPP has agreed to focus on the Enhanced Mobile Broadband (EMBB) use case for release 15, and the ultralow latency, ultra-reliable and massive MTC use cases will be deferred to March 2017. There will be some investigative work continuing on these use cases but the extent and scope of this work is still to be determined.
- “New Radio”, as the new Physical Layer is called in the 3GPP, will have a distinct focus on the EMBB use case as a priority. This aligns with the 3GPP System Architecture (SA) groups’ request from this past June. Of particular note, the RAN groups will focus on the “non standalone” case where New Radio takes advantage of the existing EPC core network rather than relying on a completely new architecture. New Radio investigation will also focus on spectrum below 40 GHz, with higher frequency work also deferred until next March.
My time in New Orleans shows that 5G continues to progress and the narrowing of the scope coupled with the important additions to Release 14 for NB IoT and eLAA provide pragmatic evolutions to expedite next generation wireless capabilities. The 3GPP will collectively choose the official Release 15 work items in March of 2017, which will give us a good picture of the initial 5G spec.