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LTE and 5G Wireless Standards Continue to Evolve with Each New 3GPP Release

3GPP standards enrich LTE and 5G ecosystem with new radio access technologies and network architecture enhancements

Despite the impact of COVID-19, momentum for enhancements to LTE and 5G standards continue with additional releases from the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). 5G Americas, the wireless industry trade association and voice of 5G and LTE for the Americas, announced the publication of a white paper 3GPP Releases 16, 17 & Beyond, providing an update on the newest 3GPP releases launching the next chapter of 5G standardization and beyond.

For decades, 3GPP has maintained detailed mechanisms through standards which have enabled billions of worldwide users to access mobile communications. Comprised of seven different international telecommunications standard development organizations, 3GPP coordinates the establishment of technologies, radio access networks, core network and service capabilities, as well as non-radio access and interworking protocols for non-3GPP networks. 5G Americas is a Market Representation Partner (MRP) for 3GPP.

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Chris Pearson, President of 5G Americas said, “Overseen by 3GPP, standardization of cellular communication technical specifications has played a pivotal role in defining and enabling future innovation. Despite all the global challenges during this historic year dealing with COVID-19, 3GPP finalized Release 16 and initiated the work on Release 17.”

In Release 16, 3GPP has continued enriching the 5G system with new features like ultra-reliable low latency architecture support, 5G LAN services, Time Sensitive Networking for Industrial IoT, Non-Public Networks and much more. With Release 17, many new features will be introduced like extending the operation of NR to spectrum above 52.6 GHz to 71 GHZ, introducing Reduced Capability NR devices that enable additional services beyond conventional high-quality Enhanced Mobile Broadband Services and low-complexity services enabled by LTE-MTC (“Machine Type Communications”) and NB-IoT (“Narrow Band IoT”), as well as Enhanced Dynamic Spectrum Sharing.

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Said Pearson, “Additional enhancements for 5G NR (“New Radio”) and physical layer specifications are now set to boost rapid momentum for global adoption.” With recent estimates nearing 285 million 5G global subscriptions by the end of 2020, the rapid adoption of 5G will be further strengthened by the numerous current and future enhancements in Releases 16 and 17 that are “ready to unleash a variety of new use cases that will provide a foundation for innovation in our wireless ecosystem.”

The white paper, developed and written by a 5G Americas technical work group, provides an easy to read and understand reference document, and includes these topics:

  • Update and details on 3GPP timeline with new refined changes and additions due to COVID-19
  • ITU-R and the 3GPP IMT-2020 submission
  • Background on LTE and evolution of LTE in Releases 16 and 17
  • Background on New Radio (NR) and evolution of NR in Releases 16 and 17
  • Detail on system architecture and network-related features
  • Visions and considerations on next generation wireless networks

Erik Dahlman, Senior Radio Expert, Ericsson Research, and co-leader of the working group that developed the white paper said, “Future wireless networks will need to be able to address entirely new use cases and support a wide range of existing and future spectrum bands. Furthermore, artificial intelligence will become increasingly more important as an integrated part of the network. Tremendous progress has been made with Release 16 and 17.”

Rapeepat Ratasuk, Department Head, Radio Interface Group, Nokia Bell Labs, also a co-leader of the work group that wrote the white paper, commented, “3GPP releases 15 and 16 introduced a number of significant technical milestones within cellular communication. Release 17 expands the ecosystem of 5G wireless connectivity to additional new areas involving multi-cast and broadcast capabilities, non-terrestrial networks, as well as support for reduced capability and multi-SIM devices. It provides the framework for future innovation and growth for the wireless industry to address new use cases.”

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