In what could herald an even more intense marketing land-grab, the first official 'early drop' non-standalone 5G NR specifications are approved at the 3GPP's RAN 78 meeting in Lisbon.

December 21, 2017

3 Min Read
5G Is Official: First 3GPP Specs Approved

The mobile sector's key industry body, the 3GPP, has approved the initial 5G New Radio (NR) specifications at a meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, heralding the start of the standards-based 5G era and a new battle amongst the mobile sector's leading players to claim industry firsts.

The so-called "early drop" phase 1 specification, part of the 3GPP's Release 15, defines a non-standalone version of 5G, as expected. (See 3GPP to Unveil First 5G Spec.)

News of the approval was shared from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) RAN 78 meeting in Lisbon late Wednesday:

The news was quickly followed by a group announcement from multiple Tier 1 network operators and vendors stating that the "completion of the first 5G NR standard has set the stage for the global mobile industry to start full-scale development of 5G NR for large-scale trials and commercial deployments as early as in 2019." Many of the operators and vendors added individual messages about the importance of the initial agreement and the need to move quickly to define standalone 5G specifications. (See 3GPP Completes Initial 5G NR Specification.)

The agreement is a "pivotal moment," Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown recently noted, as it means standards-based chipsets can be developed, which in turn enables the development of end-user devices and commercial services.

Further details are scant: With the proceedings in Lisbon still underway, the 3GPP says it will make an official announcement following the end of the meeting on Friday.

Not that anyone's actually waiting for that, though. Within hours of the agreement, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies had issued a statement saying that, in collaboration with AT&T, NTT Docomo, Orange, SK Telecom, Sprint, Telstra, T-Mobile US, Verizon and Vodafone, they had achieved "an important technology milestone based on the newly-approved NSA 5G NR standard" with the showcase of a "3GPP-compliant 5G NR multi-vendor interoperability during live demonstrations held in both the Ericsson Lab in Kista, Sweden and the Qualcomm Research lab in New Jersey, USA." (See Mobile Big Guns Boast Multi-Band 5G NR Interop.)

Ericsson and friends noted that the interop tests complied with "the following key characteristics of the 3GPP 5G NR specifications," namely:

  • Waveform: flexible OFDM, Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing, waveform numerologies supporting low-band, as well as mid-band and high-band spectrum allocations for wideband operation and low latency services.

  • Dynamic, slot-based frame structure: enables future-proof and ultra-lean design as well as self-contained subframe structure that allows for data transmissions that efficiently support diverse use cases with requirements that include low latency, high peak-rate, and high reliability.

  • Massive MIMO: control and data channel support for Massive MIMO features based on beam-centric design that improve spectral efficiency and achieve higher data rates, boosting performance for consumers.

  • Mobile mmWave: control and data channel support for adaptive beamforming and beam-tracking techniques to enable use of high-band mmWave spectrum that deliver extreme data rates and capacity in a mobile environment.

  • Channel codecs: channel coding schemes based on latest technology in advanced low-density parity-check (LDPC) codes to support large data blocks and extreme peak rates, and Polar codes for reliable control channels.

The new 5G arms race has begun: Mobile World Congress 2018 could redefine the word "frenzy."

— Ray Le Maistre, International Group Editor, Light Reading

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