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The next version of 5G delayed until 2022

The 3GPP – the standards group developing 5G technologies – said it doesn't expect to complete work on its next big package of specifications until 2022.

The 3GPP said that its new timeline for "Release 17" will include a stage 2 "functional freeze" in June 2021, a stage 3 "protocol freeze" in March 2022 and a final "protocol coding freeze" in June 2022.

The 3GPP this week voted on a new release timeline. Click here for a larger version of this image. (Source: 3GPP)
The 3GPP this week voted on a new release timeline. Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: 3GPP)

Release 17 is scheduled to include a wide range of new technologies ranging from Sidelink to 5G Light to more advanced device power saving technologies.

As with previous delays, the group cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the culprit.

"With this revised timeline, the broader 5G industry can rely on an informed and well-considered schedule that takes into account the peculiar situation created by life during a pandemic," the 3GPP wrote in a release. "This guidance takes into account the fact that in the busiest groups the stream of contributions can peak at over 1,000 emails a day."

The 3GPP in March said it would shift the stage 3 freeze on Release 17 by three months, to September 2021. And that sparked widespread worries that Release 17 would ultimately be delayed until 2022 – which is exactly what the 3GPP voted to do this week.

Brian Daly, AVP of standards and industry alliances for AT&T, said in October that much of the work that happens at technology standards conferences occurs in hallways and during dinners. "When you're in a virtual meeting, you lose that," he explained. "It's created an email flood."

Daly added: "We've had to rethink and re-engineer the entire process."

The 3GPP this week said it would decide in March 2021 whether it would resume physical meetings in the second half of 2021.

The 3GPP issued Release 15, its first batch of 5G specifications, in three sections, with the final section coming out in the middle of last year. The group earlier this year issued its "Release 16" batch of 5G technologies. The 3GPP late last year finalized the technologies that would be collected in "Release 17." The technologies that will be included in "Release 18" will be selected by the end of 2021.

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

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