First 5G ready by December, but what will be included and what left out?

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Balazs Bertenyi, Chairman, 3GPP TSG RAN

3GPP Release 14, in all practical terms, is complete – save for some essential corrections as it heads to commercial implementation. Release 15 is the first "proper" 5G release. After the decisions taken in March to accelerate certain features, there will now be two phases for this standards release. An early drop will be completed by December, featuring a non-standalone (NSA) mode that relies on LTE to deliver the control plane functionality, with 5G introduced as a capacity boost in a dual connectivity configuration.

The full release of Rel-15, due to be completed in June 2018, will incorporate the standalone (SA) system, including a new core network with functionality including network slicing, plus a full new 5G standalone radio, NodeB and control plane functionality, that allows 5G to work "irrespectively" of LTE.

There are of course some questions over the process. Whilst this looks like a very aggressive timescale, there is a very high commitment level across the industry. But even that may not be enough. "What I could see happening is, some of the content would get downscoped, so we would maybe lose some of the more fancy content in order to meet the timelines," says Balazs. "We are going to get NSA specifications ready by December in one or two spectrum band combinations. A specification that allows certain deployments is going be ready by December."

There are certain pre-standards solutions in some regions, aiming for limited service launch at big public events, such as the Olympics in Japan and Korea, and the US where Verizon has a specific use case where they have developed some of their own standards. Far from being counter to the 3GPP process, Balazs believes this is beneficial because it tests the underlying physical layer and the basic hardware development gets accelerated. "I believe it's useful as long as there a commitment from those players to migrate back towards the global standards track," he says, "and I believe that commitment is there."

Whereas Release 15 is more about eMBB and evolution, Release 16 will focus on more revolutionary functionality. 3GPP was supposed to have started study work on Release 16 by now, but because of the need to deliver Rel-15 it has postponed this work until at least September – the date of the next Plenary, when we should expect some discussions around potential downscaling of some functionality in order to meet the December Rel-15 deadline.

Filmed at: 5G World, London, 15 June 2017

Produced and Filmed by: Gitte Daniels  –  Edited by: Gino Isaac

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