5G Americas announced the publication of "Wireless Technology Evolution: Transition from 4G to 5G," which details the extensive standards work by the global organization 3GPP in the development of 5G wireless technology.
3GPP’s robust past of standardizing the technologies that drive the largest mobile wireless ecosystems from GSM to LTE and now to 5G creates the backbone for this unique whitepaper by 5G Americas. LTE and its advanced evolutions, currently deployed on 613 commercial networks worldwide, is expected to be the dominant mobile wireless technology well into the next decade. Now, Release 15 begins the first phase of 5G of wireless technologies.
While 3GPP Release 14, which was frozen by mid-2017, produced LTE-Advanced Pro features, it also focused on the study items towards 5G mobile wireless technology and architecture including Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X) communications. However, in Release 15, the first phase of normative specifications for 5G provided specifications for a wider range of spectrum bands, from below 6 GHz to mmWave bands up to 100 GHz enabled by a New Radio (NR) access technology.
“5G Americas expects that the four U.S. national carriers will have launched 5G networks based on the 3GPP standards in the next nine months, building on their global leadership in LTE technology,” commented Vicki Livingston, head of Communications, 5G Americas and a contributing author to the report. “If appropriate regulatory policies, at the local, state and federal levels, are in place and adequate spectrum resources are allocated in low, mid and high bands, the U.S. could be well-positioned to continue in a leadership role.”
The progress on Release 15 has been significant; responding to requests by numerous leading companies, 3GPP escalated their timeline for Rel-15 Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G NR specifications which were completed in December 2017. The 5G NSA specifications have an LTE anchor for the control plane communications with a 5G NR cell to boost user data. The Rel-15 Standalone 5G NR specification will work without any reliance on LTE and those specifications were completed in June 2018 along with specifications of the new core network. The new core network specified in Rel-15 will provide interaction with the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) 4G system with orchestration, virtualization, a clearly separate control and user plane, and signaling architecture. Network slicing and Service Level Agreement (SLA) for groups of devices of new vertical industries and services will be provided for by the 5G core specification.
To meet the timeline and full compliance with ITU IMT-2020 requirements, the standardization in Release 16 continues to progress. Definition of work study items was completed in July 2018, on schedule, with the option of adding additional study and work items in the future, as needed. Release 16, or phase 2 of 5G, will primarily address any outstanding issues in Rel-15, expansion of 5G NR based on C-V2X capabilities, Industrial IoT, enhancements to Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC) and 5G in operation in unlicensed spectrum and above 52.6 GHz. 5G efficiency improvements in Rel-16 will include enhancements to 5G Self-Organizing Networks (SON) and Big Data capabilities, MIMO enhancements, improved power consumption, support for device capabilities exchange and a study of support for non-orthogonal multiple-access (NOMA). The Release 16 standards will be completed before the end of 2019 to target the ITU IMT-2020 submission.
Michael Recchione, Principle Engineer, Mobility CTO Group, Cisco and leader of the 5G Americas working group, explained, “We are looking upon a newly defined era in mobile technology. 3GPP Release 15 marks the start of that new 5G era, the new horizon technology enablers for the IoT, autonomous vehicles and URLLC that will enable connectivity previously unimaginable.”