Though many in the industry expected September to bring a functional freeze for 3GPP Release 12, this latest set of specifications for LTE Advanced is now not slated for finalization until December. And the freeze date may be pushed back by an additional quarter as 3GPP works out final kinks in what has become a complicated technology release, according to Said Tatesh, director, 3GPP standards leader, at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU).
Release 12 got its start in June 2012 at a 3GPP radio access network (RAN) workshop, where lots of ideas were laid out regarding the next steps in cellular technology's evolution. Actual work on Release 12 began in December 2012. According to a 4G Americas white paper (PDF), Release 12 addresses multiple topics in three broad categories: LTE HetNets, LTE multi-antennas and LTE procedures for supporting diverse traffic types.
"Release 12 turned out to be a very long release" compared to Releases 10 or 11, observed Tatesh. He noted that 3GPP worked on Release 11 for some 18 months and only spent about 12 months on Release 10.
Release 12 was supposed to be finished in September 2014. However, at 3GPP's March plenary meetings in Fukuoka, Japan, the Service and System Aspects (SA) group opted to follow the Radio Access Network (RAN) group's earlier decision and move by one quarter the Release 12 deadline to September 2014, thus shifting the full ASN.1 freeze to December 2014.
This delay was not widely publicized, and the December target date still may not give 3GPP members enough time to nail down everything. Tatesh told FierceWirelessTech that at the most recent set of plenary meetings, held during June in Sophia Antipolis, France, "we realized also that we would not be able to make December."
3GPP has not made an official decision to delay Release 12's functional freeze until the first quarter of 2015, "but I think it's almost guaranteed that we will shift the freeze of Release 12 to March 2015," Tatesh predicted.
According to 3GPP, once a release is frozen it can have no further additional functions added even though detailed protocol specifications may still be incomplete.
Tatesh said issues surrounding two particular features are impacting Release 12's final freeze date. Those features are HetNet dual connectivity, which implies that a device has simultaneous connections to both macro and low-power layers, and device-to-device (D2D) communications, which will enable mobile devices to discover the presence of other devices in their vicinity and to communicate with them directly in a peer-to-peer fashion.
The delay in wrapping up Release 12 does not mean that initial work on Release 13 will be delayed, however. Tatesh said many items related to Release 13 will be discussed during 3GPP's next plenary, scheduled to begin Sept. 9 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The functional freeze date for Release 13 is currently set for March 2016.
- see this 3GPP web page
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