The 3GPP this week agreed to complete the 5G non-standalone New Radio (NR) specification by December 2017 instead of March 2018, according to a report from Signals Research. Signals CEO Michael Thelander attended the 3GPP meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia, which is ending today.
The fast-tracking of the 5G non-standalone NR spec is significant because it means that vendors can go ahead and start designing silicon based upon the 5G NR standard and meet the deployment schedules for operators that have aggressive 5G deployment timelines.
According to Signals Research, even though the 5G non-standalone NR spec will be done by December 2017, the 3GPP still plans to complete the Release 15 specifications by June 2018. “What is relevant is that 3GPP agreed to the new schedule, which leaves the overarching Release 15 schedule unchanged and which benefits operators and vendors who want 5G NR sooner rather than later,” the analysis firm said in a research note.
Several operators and vendors announced last week at Mobile World Congress 2017 that they were advocating for the 3GPP to fast-track this specification. Among those were AT&T, which has long been a proponent for the early release of the 5G NR standard so that it could deploy standardized gear. Other operators in favor of the accelerated timeline included Sprint, Telstra, BT, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, Korea Telecom, LG Uplus, SK Telecom, and Vodafone. Vendors backing the proposal included Ericsson, Qualcomm, Huawei, Intel, and ZTE.
Noticeably absent from the list last week was Verizon, which has been pushing ahead with its 5G trials and recently said that if its friendly trials are successful, it could launch commercial fixed 5G service by year-end 2018. To meet that goal, Verizon released its own proposed 5G specs in June 2016, and its deployment will therefore not be 3GPP standards compliant.
Verizon Changes Stance
However, Verizon’s Vice President of Technology Planning Adam Koeppe, said in a statement to SDxCentral today that the operator believes the updated schedule from the 3GPP and the current framework supports the company’s objectives and is realistic. “Verizon supported adoption of a 3GPP agreement that aligns the industry standards direction to enable early 5G product development, core network evolution, and accelerates the realization of 5G,” he said.
Last week at Mobile World Congress, Koeppe explained why Verizon wasn’t bullish on the proposal from the other operators and vendors. He said that what Verizon wanted was 5G standalone NR and 5G non-standalone NR to move at the same pace so that operators can decide which technology they want to deploy.
According to Signals Research that may be exactly what happened, even though it wasn’t necessarily spelled out that way. In Signals’ report, the company said it believes that functionality needed for both non-standalone NR and standalone NR will need to be done by December to meet the Release 15 completion date of June 2018.