Coronavirus cuts into 5G standards work

The 3GPP – the global association developing the world's 5G technology standards – has canceled its face-to-face meetings in February and March due to concerns about the spreading coronavirus.

A spokesperson for the association said that, so far, Release 16 of the 5G standard remains on schedule to be finalized in June. However, subsequent releases could well be delayed by the situation.

"Where practical, the meetings [in the first quarter of 2020] are being replaced with electronic meetings," the 3GPP wrote on its website, adding that it is relocating the meetings it had scheduled in the second quarter in China "as a precautionary measure."

Prakash Sangam of Tantra Analyst, who routinely attends 3GPP meetings, said the group had planned to meet in Greece in February and in South Korea in March.

As reported by NBC News, the coronavirus has killed roughly 2,000 people so far as it spreads across China and elsewhere. The outbreak of the virus also pushed the global wireless trade association GSMA to cancel its annual MWC trade show in Barcelona. The event is the industry's biggest of the year, typically drawing roughly 100,000 attendees from all over the world.

Although the 3GPP said that Release 16 of the 5G standard remains on track, future standards efforts could be delayed. Balazs Bertenyi, a 3GPP chairman and a top Nokia executive, said the association will decide at its March meeting whether Release 17 will need to be delayed.

The 3GPP has been driving the development of interoperable cellular networks since the early days of the wireless industry, and it typically releases "packages" of new technologies every year or so.

The group's first batch of 5G technologies was approved in 2017 under "Release 15." The 3GPP is scheduled to release its second batch of 5G technologies – dubbed "Release 16" – in June. Release 17 is currently scheduled to be released sometime in 2021.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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