We continue to move closer to a global standard for 5G New Radio (NR), and it may actually be closer than you think. 5G NR is the ongoing 3GPP study item that defines a new OFDM-based wireless radio standard, which will become the foundation for the next generation of mobile networks. 5G NR and the possible acceleration of the standard were key topics at the 3GPP RAN Plenary Meeting held last week in New Orleans, Louisiana.
A proposal (RP-161915) was endorsed at the meeting stating “The existence of strong industry interest to accelerate 5G NR Non-Standalone (LTE-anchored) to December 2017 or March 2018,” from the currently planned specification-completion date of June 2018. 5G NR Non-Standalone operation will utilize an LTE anchor (LTE EPC) for mobility management, bringing new levels of capability and efficiency with the 5G NR air interface, while leveraging the existing LTE core network. The proposal also emphasized interest in not delaying finalization of the 5G NR Standalone and the new 5G NextGen core network specifications beyond the currently planned date of June 2018.
The eventual acceleration of the 5G NR Non-Standalone specification will help accelerate both trials and deployments of the 3GPP-based 5G NR global standard. Lab integration will begin in late 2017 leading to over-the-air trials in early 2018 with the intent to drive the mobile ecosystem toward rapid commercialization of 5G NR technologies at scale starting 2019. This acceleration of 5G NR will bring new capabilities to mobile networks to enhance mobile broadband with multi-gigabit-per-second data rates, significantly lower latencies, and lower cost-per-bit. New 5G NR technologies will be critical to meeting the increasing connectivity requirements for emerging consumer experiences such as streaming 360-degree video in virtual reality, augmented reality, higher FPS video communication and always-on cloud services. Addressing these requirements while tracking the 3GPP specification is important because it ensures adherence and validation with the first 3GPP 5G NR specification that will be part of 3GPP Release 15. It will also ensure forward compatibility to future 3GPP 5G NR releases.
Figure 1: Estimated timeline for 5G
Of course, accelerating the path to 5G NR is by no means a trivial task. 5G NR will need to adapt and scale to an extreme variation of services, devices and deployment types. It will also need to get the most out of every bit of spectrum across a wide array of available spectrum regulatory paradigms and bands – from low bands below 1 GHz, to mid bands from 1 GHz to 6 GHz, to high bands known as millimeter-wave. And 5G NR devices will ultimately need to be able to work on licensed and shared spectrum concurrently.
Figure 2: 5G NR is designed for diverse spectrum, services, and deployments
Building upon our years of wireless experience and a solid foundation in today’s 3G, 4G LTE and Wi-Fi technologies, Qualcomm is at the forefront of making this acceleration of 5G NR a reality. We are driving the technology innovations to mobilize spectrum bands in high frequencies such as 28 GHz, known as mmWave, capable of delivering multi-Gbps data rates with very large bandwidths. In parallel, we are also bringing new levels of performance to spectrum bands below 6 GHz, which are critical to achieving 5G NR requirements and ensuring there is good, ubiquitous coverage and capacity to address 5G use cases. Our 5G NR design will deliver optimized OFDM-based waveforms and multiple access with a flexible framework that can scale from low spectrum bands to mmWave, from macro deployments to local hotspots, and will support licensed, unlicensed, and shared spectrum from the beginning. We are also designing 5G NR to efficiently multiplex the envisioned (and unknown) 5G services with various levels of data rate, mobility, latency and reliability. An innovative feature of 5G NR is that it is being designed in a future-proof manner so we can meet the extreme network requirements for the next decade and beyond.
This all starts with technology and research leadership. Qualcomm Technologies started design work on the new 5G wireless air interface well before 3GPP 5G NR standard efforts kicked off. In fact, we have been designing 5G technologies for years, building upon our 3G and 4G leadership. This work is the foundation to our inventive and impactful 5G designs that are now being contributed to 3GPP to drive 5G NR standardization.
These innovative 5G designs would only be concepts on a piece of paper without the proper hardware, software, and firmware to advance them. This requires end-to-end 5G NR prototypes (think smartphone to base station) to test, demonstrate and trial. The Qualcomm Research 5G NR sub-6 GHz and 5G NR mmWave prototype systems are not only being utilized as a testbed for our 5G designs, they are also trial platforms that will track 3GPP standardization progress closely to enable timely 5G NR trials with leading mobile network operators, infrastructure vendors, and other industry players. This will also help drive timely commercial network launches, as these advanced prototype systems are critical to early interoperability testing and will contribute heavily to development of standards-compliant device chipsets and network infrastructure for commercialization.
These activities, along with continued progress in 3GPP standardization like last week’s Plenary Meeting, will help accelerate the path toward 5G NR commercialization. Want to learn more about 5G NR technology innovations and progress? Download our latest presentation and whitepaper, plus watch our on-demand webinar.