3GPP gets cracking to finish 5G standards (no, they’re not done yet)

3GPP Busan
START YOUR ENGINES!: Younsun Kim, principal engineer of the Standards Research Team at Samsung Research, welcomes attendees at the 3GPP 5G Conference Working Group (RAN1) meeting in Busan on May 21, 2018. Image credit: Samsung

ITEM: The wait for the full suite of 5G standards is almost over, as the 3GPP has officially begun work in Busan, South Korea to complete Phase 1 of its 5G standards – specifically, the standalone (SA) version of 5G that can operate independent of LTE networks.

In December of last year, the 3GPP approved the 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) standard – which relies on existing 4G LTE as an anchor – after being pressured by the mobile sector to complete its 5G standards work faster. The 3GPP agreed to finish and release the NSA version first, and complete the SA version by June this year – three months ahead of its original timetable.

Once the SA standard is completed in Busan, the 5G phase-1 standard will be officially approved at the 3GPP plenary next month in the US, according to Samsung, who is hosting the Busan meeting.

At this week’s meeting – which wraps up May 25 – all 3GPP RAN working groups will confirm the final technologies for 5G commercialization, including wireless access technology and the conformance testing method for 5G terminals, Samsung said in a statement.

Samsung noted that the RAN4 working group (which it chairs) will decide the radio performance requirements for 5G terminals and base stations including the 3.5-GHz and 28-GHz bands, which will give clarity to regulators looking to allocate those bands for 5G use, particularly in Korea, the US and Japan.

Completion of the 5G Phase 1 standards is also expected to kick the vendor sector into high-gear with 5G solutions, although many have already done so with the NSA version – this year’s MWC event was saturated with commercial 5G announcements, and operators have been racing to be the first on the block to tout their 5G readiness.

South Korean operators showcased 5G at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics (although reviews were mixed), and KT aims to be the first to launch 5G services in the country in March 2019.

In Australia, Telstra and Optus have launched duelling 5G showcases in Gold Coast, each claiming to be the first to “offer” 5G – Optus via a demo showroom and Telstra via Wi-Fi hotspots using 5G as a backhaul link. (This week Vodafone Hutchison Australia launched “4.9G” – which here means massive MIMO on the 1800-MHz band – in Parramatta.)

Not to be outdone, Etisalat, Ooredoo and SBC all launched commercial 5G networks in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, respectively, despite the complete absence of 5G-compatible devices on the market. (The first devices are expected to arrive sometime next year.)

And in the US, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have been racing to launch 5G at the end of the year – albeit as a fixed-wireless service – while the US government is reportedly fretting that they’re not rolling it out fast enough to launch services ahead of China, whose operators are also gearing up for 5G.

All this before the 3GPP’s work is even finished, and before a single 5G handset or device is commercially available.

While the 3GPP gets on with it, here’s some other 5G news from the past few days:

ITEM: A consortium of twenty industry-leading companies announced the successful completion of 5G-Crosshaul, an EU project to develop a 5G integrated backhaul and fronthaul transport network. After nearly three years, the project is now the de-facto concept for 5G integrated fronthaul/backhaul transport networks, according to NEC, which contributed to the project.

ITEM: Qualcomm said it has introduced what it claims is the industry’s first 5G NR solution targeted for small cells and remote radio head deployments. The new FSM100xx small cell solution will support 5G NR in both mmWave and sub-6 GHz spectrum, and is expected to begin sampling in 2019.

ITEM: The Australian Communications and Media Authority has released draft spectrum licensing instruments in the 3.6-GHz band, which it intends to auction later this year. The ACMA is consulting on the details of the spectrum licences, the draft rules of the auction and the technical framework that will underpin the new licenses. The ACMA is also seeking comment on the introduction of planning arrangements to support frequency coordination and licensing of point-to-multipoint systems in the 5.6-GHz band.

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