3GPP, the mobile industry standards body responsible for creating the 5G standard, says it will have the first 5G radio spec available in June 2018. That date is significant because it’s the first time the standards group has provided a concrete timeline for the 5G specification, also known as Release 15.
The group is under pressure from wireless operators to develop a timeline for standards as some are concerned about non-standard 5G deployments occurring before 2018.
Verizon, for example, has said it will have a fixed wireless 5G pilot available in 2017. However, the company has also cautioned that while some manufacturers will have 5G gear available as early as 2017, it’s unclear at this point whether operators will be deploying 5G in the 28 GHz spectrum or the 39 GHz spectrum. And until there are some standards set around spectrum, it’s uncertain when 5G will be commercially available.
The group, which met last week in Busan, Korea, also decided that the 5G radio must work in both standalone and non-standalone configurations. According to the group’s documentation, standalone means that the radio must have full control plane capability while non-standalone means that the radio will use LTE as a control plane anchor.
The non-standalone version using LTE as a control plane anchor isn’t surprising as many industry watchers initially thought that the 5G standard would not include a new radio access technology but instead be a progression of the existing LTE standard. In fact, some operators describe 5G as an “overlay” to LTE.
The 3GPP also provided these key dates for 5G:
- Complete the technical report on new radio requirements – September 2016
- Start working on next-generation architecture – December 2016
- Begin working on the Radio Access Network (RAN) Working Group’s specification of the 5G new radio access network – March 2017
- “Freeze” or finalize the 5G RAN specification – June 2018.
The 3GPP also provided some insight into how the new radio interface will potentially operate in spectrum both above and below the 6 GHz range. Examples of how the 5G RAN will be used include both low latency and high reliability scenarios.