When it comes to 5G networks of the future, everyone wants a say.
Unlike their 3G and 4G predecessors, 5G networks are being developed around their potential use cases with a focus on how wireless operators can work with other industry verticals to meet both their needs. With 5G, the wireless operators are leading the charge, rather than following the lead of their vendor partners looking to cash in on the evolution -- or revolution, depending on the point of view. (See Why 5G Matters – Now! and 5G: What Is It & Why Does It Matter?)
As such, the number of groups working towards 5G has grown considerably over the past year or two, some working together, some ultimately competing and all trying to influence the standards process for 5G. (See 5G Use Cases, Pre-Standards Groups Proliferate .)
Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown said back at Mobile World Congress that the proliferation of 5G groups will ultimately be a good thing this early in the process. He points out that a lot of the groups have overlapping companies or individuals in them, but all have big brains on board that will ultimately move the market forward and build out the 5G ecosystem. (See Heavy Reading Q&A: Getting to the Heart of 5G .)
To help you keep track of all the standards, research and other related groups emerging, Light Reading is starting a list of what they are, who is involved and their unique take on 5G. Here, in no particular order, are 12 groups that are working towards a 5G future, although we expect more to spring up as 5G gets more concrete going forward.
3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)
Background: The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is made up of the seven standards organizations that will ultimately be responsible for developing 5G's standards. Through four Technical Specification Groups -- Radio Access Networks, Service & Systems Aspects, Core Network & Terminals and GSM EDGE Radio Access Networks -- it lays out the specs for everything from what the core network will look like to its service capabilities to how it will interact with WiFi. Its goal is to make any new network both forwards and backwards compatible, which will be especially important for 5G networks, since 4G, 3G and even some 2G will still be around for years to come. (See Ready or Not, Here Comes LTE-Advanced, 5G: So Where's the US? and LTE Reaches Half a Billion Users Worldwide.)
Members: The 3GPP's members include more than 400 global telecom service providers and vendors.
5G Point of View: The 3GPP approved its work plan for 5G in March and plans to really get to work on standards for the next-generation network at its RAN workshop in September of this year. The group will submit the final specs for 5G for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 's IMT-2020, or International Mobile Telecommunication system, process in February 2020, which means it will have them solidified -- or "frozen" -- by December 2019. Its goal, with the help of its partners working on 5G use cases, is to determine the key RAN requirements, spectrum to be used and scope of the work to qualify a network 5G.
- 3GPP system standards heading into the 5G era
- Tentative 3GPP Timeline for 5G
- ETSI Summit on Future Mobile and Standards for 5G
International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
Background: The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technologies. While the 3GPP proposes network standards, the ITU is the group that must approve them and allocate the global radio spectrum to support them. It is made up of three sectors: radiocommunication, telecommunications standards and telecommunication development. This year, ITU-R, the radiocommunication sector, plans to finalize its vision of a 5G mobile broadband connected society. (See Spectrum Muddle at the 5G Huddle, 5G Hype: An Early Inflation and Samsung: Inching Toward 5G?)
Members: The ITU counts 193 Member States, ICT regulators, 92 leading academic institutions and 700 private companies in its membership.
5G Point of View: One of the ITU's biggest priorities is figuring what spectrum will be used for 5G networks, a topic it will explore at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in 2018 or 2019. There is currently a global debate on whether sub-6Ghz low-band spectrum or above 6Ghz high-band spectrum, which Korean operators are pursuing, is the best suited for 5G. There is much more spectrum available in the high bands, as well as higher data rights, but propagation is poorer. The low bands tend to support mobility better and is easier to implement, but it will be sharing space with LTE-Advanced. The ITU will play an important role in figuring out the spectrum potential and constraints for 5G and how it will vary across the globe. (See Ofcom Releases Its 5G mmW Band Play List.)
- ITU towards "IMT for 2020 and beyond"
- IMT Vision towards 2020 and Beyond
- Challenges to 5G Standardization
Mobile and wireless communications Enablers for the 2020 Information Society (METIS)
Background: The METIS 2020 Project is funded by the European Commission, coordinated by Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and with a task force led by test and measurement vendor Anite plc . It was formed in June 2014 as a 30-week project to develop channel models for 5G through lab tests to predict how wireless device will work in real-world conditions. In April, it wrapped up its work with a series of mathematical models for operators to evaluate spectrum and for handset manufacturers and chip makers to evaluate the performance of their prototype 5G devices. These models cover features like system performance evaluation, system optimization, radio interface simulation and prototyping, R&D testing and final product approval. (See Anite Puts Forth 5G Radio Channel Models .)
Members: During its duration, METIS had 80 full-time people dedicated to the group. In addition to Ericsson and Anite, METIS' 29 partners include Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Nokia Networks , Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), Orange (NYSE: FTE), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Telecom Italia (TIM) , Telefónica , manufacturers, academic institutions, representatives from the automotive industry and a research center.
5G Point of View: The METIS group isn't set up to tell operators which spectrum to deploy 5G in, but rather to help them do so in the bands they choose. It has been studying the above-6Ghz millimeter wave frequencies, which are lesser known than the sub-6Ghz bands. It says its goal is "to provide an important platform for a European-led early global consensus on fundamental questions connected to the development of the future mobile and wireless communications system, and pave the way for future standardization."
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