Telecom majors plan 5G NR acceleration

A grouping of mobile communications companies has announced collective support for the acceleration of the 5G New Radio (NR) standardisation schedule to enable large-scale trials and deployments as early as 2019.

Making the announcement on the eve of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, AT&T, NTT DOCOMO, SK Telecom, Vodafone, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies, BT, Telstra, Korea Telecom, Intel, LG Uplus, KDDI, LG Electronics, Telia Company, Swisscom, TIM, Etisalat Group, Huawei, Sprint, Vivo, ZTE and Deutsche Telekom will support a corresponding work plan proposal for the first phase of the 5G NR specification at the next 3GPP RAN Plenary Meeting on March 6-9 in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

The first 3GPP 5G NR specification will be part of Release 15 – the global 5G standard that will make use of both sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum bands. Based on the current 3GPP Release 15 timeline the earliest 5G NR deployments based on standard-compliant 5G NR infrastructure and devices will likely not be possible until 2020. Instead, the new proposal introduces an intermediate milestone to complete specification documents related to a configuration called Non-Standalone 5G NR to enable large-scale trials and deployments starting in 2019. Non-Standalone 5G NR will utilise the existing LTE radio and evolved packet core network as an anchor for mobility management and coverage while adding a new 5G radio access carrier to enable certain 5G use cases starting in 2019. The new proposal and the intermediate milestone also re-affirm and solidify the schedule for the complete standard, including Standalone 5G NR in Release 15.

The supporting companies are further committed to make forward compatibility a key design principle for the standardisation of the first release of 5G NR. This will enable in-band introduction of new capabilities and features in subsequent releases critical to enabling yet to be identified industries and use cases and achieving the 5G vision to connect everything to everything.

The proposal is consistent with 3GPP’s commitment to enable a flexible evolution and inter-working of the radio access network towards 5G NR and the evolution of the core network towards the 5G System.

As proven by the broad Industry support, this proposal delivers the ability to address the increasing global demand for enhanced mobile broadband services with 5G NR in 2019, while continuing to address the broader vision for 5G NR in 2020 and beyond.

“We support both the Standalone and Non-Standalone configurations of 5G New Radio,” said Tom Keathley, senior vice president- wireless network architecture and design, AT&T. “Our focus is on prioritising important specifications in the standards to bring 5G to market as quickly as possible. In the process of defining any standard, it is normal to make some decisions earlier than others. These accelerated decisions on key components of 5G New Radio standards will allow an earlier start on the development of the infrastructure and devices of tomorrow’s 5G deployments.”

Howard Watson, chief executive officer, BT TSO, noted, “By accelerating the creation of the new radio interface we will be able to enable the 5G experience for customers sooner driving our purpose of using communications to make a better world.”

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