As expected, the 3GPP completed the specification for the non-standalone 5G New Radio (NR) earlier today at the RAN Plenary meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. The 5G NR specification is the first part of the global 5G standard. Balazs Bertenyi, chairperson of the 3GPP RAN working group, announced the news via Twitter earlier today, calling it “an impressive achievement in a remarkably short time.”
The release of this 5G NR standard means that chipset vendors can go ahead and design silicon based upon this standard. According to a report from Signals Research, the non-standalone architecture leverages the LTE and the NR air interfaces as well as the existing LTE core network. This configuration will likely be used for early 2019 deployments.
There is a standalone version of 5G NR that the 3GPP is still working on. Standalone 5G NR will have full user and control plane capability and will use the next-gen core network architecture. This specification is expected to be finished in June 2018 as part of the 3GPP Release 15.
The release of the non-standalone 5G NR spec was originally scheduled for March 2018, but that timeframe was accelerated after the 3GPP received pressure from many operators including AT&T, Sprint, Telstra, and Vodafone.
Qualcomm was also very involved in the early release of the non-standalone 5G NR spec. In a blog post, Lorenzo Casaccia, VP of technical standards at Qualcomm, said that this was an important milestone in 5G development. “For those of us that have been involved from the beginning — performing early R&D, developing prototypes, and delivering fundamental contributions to 3GPP — we understand that this milestone is no baby-step on our journey to making 5G a reality.”