Jun 14, 2018
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This week, the quarterly 3GPP RAN Plenary Meeting in San Diego, California, marks two important milestones that will take us another step closer to our vision for 5G — a unifying connectivity fabric that will expand the reach of mobile to new services, deployments, and spectrum types:
- The first milestone was the completion of the 5G NR specifications for standalone (SA) mode. It is the culmination of the joint efforts from the different 3GPP working groups (RAN — Radio Access Network, SA — System Aspects, and CT — Core network & Protocols) and is an addition to the 5G NR non-standalone (NSA) mode that was completed late last year, which leverages the LTE core network. This new set of specifications will allow 5G NR to be deployed with the 5G core network, enabling new end-to-end features, from network slicing to more granular QoS support. As always, details will be ironed out and bugs will be fixed; however, the timely completion of this milestone proves that 3GPP can deliver on schedule and confirms that both the SA and NSA mode are ready for commercial deployments next year.
- The second milestone was the approval of a package of new projects for the second phase of 5G, which will shape 3GPP Release 16 specifications. Some of the new projects are about incremental enhancements for mobile broadband, while many other projects will focus on the expansion of 5G to support new use cases, building upon Release 15’s flexible framework. The 5G expansion will be primarily based on 5G NR but will also include LTE components. Now, I’ll move on to provide a short overview of these new 5G projects.
5G NR enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) improvements
The foundational 5G NR technologies have been defined as part of Release 15, but as always, 3GPP continues to improve the core technologies to deliver better user experiences. In this vein, many Release 16 projects were approved to further enhance mobile broadband, and these include device power consumption optimization in connected mode, NR-NR dual connectivity, network interference management, MIMO and Multi-Transmission Point improvements (mostly for 5G NR and in a smaller measure, LTE), mobility enhancements (5G NR and LTE), and self-organizing networks (SON) for NR. These are in addition to the study on Non-Orthogonal Multiple Access (NOMA), which has been ongoing already for some time. Finally, an initial exploration of the usage of 5G NR in high frequency bands (above 52.5GHz) will commence.
5G NR private network and URLLC for the Industrial IoT (IIoT)
An important project approved this week, in conjunction with related projects in the 3GPP SA groups, marks the expansion of 5G NR to IIoT use cases that will power the wirelessly connected reconfigurable factory of the future. The combination of those projects will include an array of enhancements going from the lower layers, for example, using CoMP techniques to meet reliability requirements within a time-bounded latency target, to protocol aspects, for example, supporting wireless industrial ethernet over 5G NR and system architecture aspects. Our commitment to this space is not new. At MWC 2018 in Barcelona, we had an industry-first demonstration of wireless PROFINET industrial ethernet over 5G NR that supports ultra-low latency down to 1ms. To learn more, be sure to watch our webinar from a week ago.
Video 1: 5G NR delivers the latency and reliability required for the Industrial IoT.
5G NR Cellular-V2X for advanced use cases
The new project on 5G NR-based C-V2X will bring into Release 16 new capabilities to address advanced use cases, including enablers for autonomous driving. It will complement Release 14/15 C-V2X that is gaining significant industry momentum. The project will study the definition of a 5G NR-based direct communication interface between vehicles. At Qualcomm, we have been working on 5G NR C-V2X for some time now, and we demonstrated some of those concepts at MWC 2018 in Barcelona. If you are interested, you can check out this blog post and watch this recorded webinar.
Video 2: 5G NR C-V2X will enable safer, more autonomous driving.
5G NR in unlicensed spectrum
The study of 5G NR usage in unlicensed spectrum is already ongoing but it is worth a recap. 5G NR was envisioned to support all kinds of spectrum types — licensed, unlicensed, and shared. The project also covers “licensed-assisted” scenarios (akin to LTE LAA) as well as “standalone” scenarios (akin to MulteFire for LTE), and it will explore the usage of advanced spatial techniques for greenfield spectrum. Our demonstration of 5G NR Spectrum Sharing at MWC this year was very well received and sets the stage for what is possible. To learn more, read our recent blog post.
Video 3: 5G NR-SS will deliver better performance and high spectral efficiency.
5G massive IoT
We already know that 3GPP has a strong technology roadmap to support massive IoT, based on LTE IoT, including two complementary narrowband technologies — NB-IoT and eMTC. This roadmap will evolve into the 5G era, as these technologies continue to improve to meet the 5G massive IoT requirements. It is also worth remembering that it will be possible to deploy both NB-IoT and eMTC “in-band” within a 5G NR broadband carrier.
As part of Release 14, 3GPP has defined a compelling solution for the future of broadcasting, called LTE EnTV, which builds upon the original eMBMS concepts. For Release 16, LTE EnTV will be evaluated and possibly enhanced to meet the 5G broadcasting requirements, reconfirming the commitment of 3GPP to this industry segment.
5G integrated access and backhaul
This project has already been ongoing for some time and it is addressing how to also use 5G NR for the backhaul link. This is an enabler for network densification (due to the physical limitations of wired backhaul) and in turn, will play an important role in the expansion of 5G to higher frequency bands, especially mmWave.
5G NR already supports basic positioning techniques in Release 15, and this new study will look at how 5G NR access can be leveraged for new vertical use cases where more accurate positioning can provide additional values. For example, 5G positioning can bring benefits for indoor use cases.
5G NR for non-terrestrial deployments
This project will look at whether and how 5G NR technology can be leveraged for non-terrestrial radio deployments, such as low-orbit satellites.
All in all, this week has been very productive for the entire 3GPP community. I am sure this specific meeting will remain an important landmark on our journey to the envisioned 5G future. It is an exciting time to be working on cellular technologies, and at Qualcomm, we are proud of our contributions that will lead the world to the next generation of wireless. There is a lot more to do, so let’s get to it!