3GPP Plans Early Mobile 5G Spec for December 2017

Initial mobile 5G services could get by with a little help from LTE.

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

September 8, 2016

2 Min Read
3GPP Plans Early Mobile 5G Spec for December 2017

LAS VEGAS -- CTIA Super Mobility Week 2016 -- An initial version of the 5G specification for mobile applications could be agreed upon on by the end of 2017 but that doesn't mean the over-arching spec is agreed upon yet.

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 's NSA-NR (Non-Standalone-New Radio) specification is now due to be baked in December 2017. "NSA-NR is intended for mobile devices," Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s SVP of engineering, Durga Malladi, told me on the show floor Wednesday evening.

The non-standalone part of NSA-NR refers to the fact that a 5G radio is twinned with LTE as the "anchor network" managing the connection. In other words, 5G is the fast radio super highway, while LTE functions as the stop and go lights controlling the traffic and making sure calls get on and off the highway. (See Is This the 5G You're Looking For?)

The NSA-NR specification is different from the initial fixed application that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) says it wants to use its 5G specification for; the NSA-NR would target mobile use cases as well. Deploying 5G for mobile will be more difficult than fixed, since the devices must be smaller and the network will need to support fast hand-overs as people move between cell sites. (See Verizon Updates 5G Spec, Could Launch Ahead of 3GPP.)

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If NSA-NR is baked in December that means that it is possible that initial mobile devices might start to arrive in late 2018 or early 2019. There is a significant milestone for the development of the 5G specification coming ahead of that in March 2017, notes Michael Murphy, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)'s head of technology for North America, in a meeting Thursday morning.

This is a checkpoint meeting by various working groups to ensure compatibility on the specification work so far. "Remember, there is no 3GPP standard yet, we'll have to wait and see," Murphy said.

"The question is, will they hit their targets?" Murphy asked rhetorically. "There's a fairly good chance it will happen."

Operators and vendors hope to create early 5G specifications that are software upgradeable as 5G firms up. The 3GPP expects to bake Phase I of the New Radio spec in June 2018 with 3GPP Release 15. Phase II of the NR spec is due in the fourth quarter of 2019.(See 3GPP Wants to Complete Initial 5G Radio Spec in June 2018.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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