5G standards work continues as 3GPP Plenary meets in India

Qualcomm booth
5G was a big topic at Qualcomm's booth at Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona. (Monica Alleven/FierceWireless)

Sure, the industry can revel in the work that went into completing the first global 5G standard last December. But that doesn’t mean it’s resting on its laurels.

A 3GPP Plenary meeting is being held in Chennai, India, this week, where Lorenzo Casaccia, vice president of Technical Standards at Qualcomm Technologies, reminds us that even though December 2017 marked a huge milestone, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

December saw the ratification of the Release 15 5G New Radio (NR) Non-Standalone (NSA) standard; the Standalone (SA) part of the standard is due for completion in June. In addition, in order to meet the December deadline, the 3GPP left some issues outstanding that are to be addressed in the first half of this year.

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RELATED: 3GPP declares first 5G NR spec complete

“The primary focus for the completed 3GPP Release 15 5G NR NSA standard is enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) services, as well as establishing the foundation for the 5G NR design to support the future evolution,” Casaccia blogged. “But the work in 3GPP continues to make the specifications ready for implementation of commercial products and services. As such, there are ongoing efforts in 3GPP to stabilize the Release 15 specifications and essentially take care of bug fixes, or ‘Change Requests’ in 3GPP lingo.”

Industry observers say these change requests are always to be expected in the standards process, so that’s not a surprise.

RELATED: 3GPP puts some items on hold to meet December deadline on 5G NR

Release 15 will include both the NSA and SA variants of 5G NR. NSA and SA share common 5G NR physical layer specifications for the air interface, and these common aspects were completed as part of the December 2017 milestone, according to Casaccia. “Therefore, the main focus for the SA standardization is on the upper layers with full user and control plane capability and on the next-gen core network architecture including, for example, network slicing, a more granular QoS model, and a more advanced security architecture,” he wrote.

He also points out that while making 5G NR eMBB a commercial reality is a huge step for the industry, it just scratches the surface of what is possible with 5G technology. 3GPP has begun preparing for work in 3GPP Release 16 and beyond. 5G NR will continue to evolve and expand just like LTE has evolved with new features and use cases since its first introduction in 3GPP Release 8, he said.

The road map of 5G NR technologies coming in Release 16 and beyond spans from ultrareliable low-latency communications, to the use of unlicensed and new spectrum sharing paradigms, to vehicle communications for autonomous driving use cases to the continued evolution of the 3GPP low-power wide-area technologies and a lot more, according to Casaccia. Various study and work items have already been approved in 3GPP to define the next phase, and others will be approved in the coming months.

The 3GPP RAN Plenary #80 meeting is June 11 to 14 in La Jolla, California, but there are plenty of other 3GPP meetings going on between now and then.