Despite the deluge of news and marketing around 5G and the ongoing lab and field trials being conducted worldwide, the fact is there’s still no agreed-upon standard for 5G New Radio. However, 3GPP, the international body that oversees the standardization process, has made such significant progress that, following a march plenary session in Dubrovnik, Croatia, there’s an accelerated timeline for one 5G NR variant.
I’ll let Lorenzo Casaccia, VP of Technical Standards at Qualcomm Technologies, shared his firsthand account: “At this plenary meeting, 3GPP agreed to a work plan proposal (RP-170741) for the first 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) specification that will be part of Release 15 – the global 5G standard. As part of this work plan, Qualcomm and fellow mobile industry leaders including AT&T, NTT DOCOMO, SK Telecom, Vodafone, Ericsson, and others, led a coalition of companies that committed to accelerate the 5G NR schedule by introducing an intermediate milestone for an early completion of a variant called Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G NR. This intermediate milestone will enable 3GPP-based large-scale trials and deployments as early as 2019.”
The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) works with member companies to study and create global standards for telecommunications networks. While the group’s work covers everything from codecs, security, quality of service, non-radio core access and Wi-Fi interworking, the three major technical areas of study are the radio access network, the core transport network and service capabilities.
The next specification from 3GPP will be Release 14, which includes features like LTE support for V2X, enhanced License Assisted Access, four-band carrier aggregation and inter-band carrier aggregation. At the same time, work related to Release 15, which includes technical specs for 5G New Radio or 5G NR, is ongoing.
While the accelerated schedule got lots of attention, there’s another important outcome of the meeting in Croatia. 3GPP members also agreed on a study item–the first step in the standardization process–which focuses on 5G NR operating in unlicensed spectrum. The study item considers both stand-alone unlicensed deployment, as well as license-assisted access. The study item considers both stand-alone unlicensed deployment, as well as license-assisted access.
In a recent webinar, Qualcomm Technologies Senior Director of Engineering Juan Montojo discussed new opportunities created by 5G NR in unlicensed spectrum, as well as the role of spectrum sharing across licensed and unlicensed bands in the emerging standard.
“The scope includes an NR-based LAA,” Montojo said. “It’s, in a way, using an LTE licensed anchor. There is also, for the first time, a standalone unlicensed component. Effectively now is in the scope NR operating standalone in unlicensed spectrum without any necessity for a licensed anchor. This is what we’re now calling the MulteFire evolution path toward 5G.”
He continued: “We talk about multiple types of spectrum.” Licensed spectrum, “This is actually the best spectrum to have. It’s very scarce. The nice thing about it is it keeps complete exclusive rights to access to the operating entity. On the opposite extreme, we have unlicensed spectrum. Wi-Fi is a little bit the jungle. There is no arbitration whatsoever governing access. What happens is the utilization of the medium is far from optimal.” Then, between the two extremes is spectrum sharing.
Montojo covered vertical, horizontal and combined sharing models. In vertical sharing, lower access tiers do not interfere with priority tiers. “Respecting a priority and there’s an incumbent that has to be protected and only the leftovers would be accessible,” is how he described vertical spectrum sharing.
He said horizontal sharing is “kind of the Wi-Fi way of sharing. Everybody is the same; no priorities,” although some quality of service considerations may be applied. “There’s the notion of listen-before-talk.” Combined sharing “is basically putting the two together,” he said.
For a deep dive into these topics, download the free webinar.