5G Specifications (3GPP), 5G Radio Standard (IMT 2020) and Standard Essential Patents

by Yigang Cai, PhD

Introduction:

On July 3, 2020, 3GPP (the organization that generates all the specifications for cellular networks) announced that its Release 16 (R16) specification was frozen, and thereby declared the completion of the first evolution of “5G New Radio (NR).”  As 3GPP’s specs have “no official standing,” they must be transposed by SDOs, like ITU, ETSI, ATIS, TSDSI (India), etc.  The international standard for 5G Radio aspects is known as IMT 2020.specs, which includes the Radio Interface Technology (RIT) and Set of Radio Interface Technologies (SRIT) from various proponents, including 3GPP (IMT-2020/14, and /IMT-2020/13, respectively).

3GPP R16 is the first technical specification in the history of 3GPP that was reviewed and finalized through an e-meeting (due to the COVID-19 travel and meeting restrictions). The declared R16 completion was the result of collaboration and coordination amongst many global companies, government agencies and telecom regulators.

From the 3GPP website: “Rel-16 is now officially Frozen. Rel-15 and Rel-16 constitute the basis for 5G and this is a great achievement and recommended that delegates hold a personal celebration for this.”

The complete R16 spec not only enhances the functions of 5G, but also allows 5G to enter a new digital ecosystem. It takes into account factors such as cost and efficiency, so that the basic investment in wireless communications infrastructure can play a greater role and further help the digital transformation of the social economy.  Let’s examine 3GPP’s 5G NR in the context of R15 and R16:

  • “5G NR” in R15 was frozen in 2018. It strived to produce a “usable” specification for Physical (PHY) layer transmit/receive in 5G trials/pilots and early (pre-IMT 2020 standard) 5G networks.
  • In contrast, “5G NR” in R16 will achieve an “easy to use” and more robust 5G transmit/receive capability.
    3GPP R16 is a major release for the project as noted in an earlier IEEE Techblog post. It brings the specification organization’s ITU-R WP 5D submission “IMT-2020 Radio Interface Technology/Set of Radio Interface Technologies (RIT/SRIT)” to a more complete 5G system; what 3GPP calls “5G Phase 2.”

3GPP R16 is supposed to enhance Ultra-Reliable (UR) Low Latency Communications (URLLC), support V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-roadside unit) direct connection communications, and support 5GS Enhanced Vertical and LAN Services as reported in the earlier IEEE Techblog article.  Please refer to References below for further information. CLICK on image below to enlarge it.

URLLC is 1 of 3 use cases for 5G/IMT 2020. It is intended for mission critical, precise, accurate, always ON/never down, real time communications that require low latency in the 5G access and core networks.

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Editor’s Note: ONLY the 3GPP “5G Radio Aspects” are included in the forthcoming IMT 2020 RIT/SRIT standard, which is expected to be approved in late November 2020 by ITU-R SG D. All the non-radio aspects, such as 5G Core Network, network slicing, network management, privacy and security, etc. will NOT be part of IMT 2020. However, those declared R16 completed work items are likely to be transposed by ETSI into international standards.

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Perspective on 5G Standard Essential Patents (SEPs):

The announcement of the 3GPP R16 freeze also means the “War of SEPs (Standard Essential Patents [1.]),” i.e. those patents that are related to 5G NR standards/specifications might come to the end of a critical stage. However, it’s likely that a new SEP war will start soon. But that is a subject for another day.

Note 1.  A standard essential patent (SEP) is a patent that claims an invention that must be used to comply with a technical standard or specification to be standardized by an accredited standards development organization (SDO).

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During 5G NR specification development, industries and companies have competed in a 5G patent race and generated thousands of SEPs. A recent study, published in the IEEE Techblog, found that Huawei was the undisputed leader in 5G SEPs. Some companies tried to convince the world they are leading the SEP war. However, the news and hype about published SEPs has often misled the public.

From this author’s standards and patent experiences, there are some facts of 5G SEPs which have been neglected in the SEP war:

  • There is no one-to-one mapping between declared SEP and 5G standards feature. In fact, one standards contribution (e.g., WID, CR, WF or others in 3GPP) may be declared with one or multiple SEPs, or one SEP is declared in multiple contributions. SEP number declared does not match standards features.
  •  Many of SEP relevant standards contributions are not taken or baselined by standards bodies in standards specifications. Someone can do statistics what percentages (overall and/or per contributing company) of SEP relevant standards are agreed or approved in standards bodies.
  •  Some declared SEPs, including filed and published patents, may not be granted, or may even be rejected, after standards contributions are baselined.
  • One standards contribution may be co-authored/co-signed with multiple companies, it is very likely multiple companies filed multiple patents for the same standards contribution.

There is no doubt SEPs can accelerate 5G standards development and enhance standards feature quality. But, the war of SEPs also brings some confusions in 5G technology development, implementation, deployment and applications.

First of all, the patent war lead to industries creating numerous patents which actually may not be “essential.”  We all understand that a considerable percentage of those patents have no real value, i.e. they are not implementable or deployable and so not at all profitable.

Companies try to earn IPR revenues from SEPs and spend enormous efforts and finances focusing on creation of SEPs (for example, giving over the half of total IPR budget to SEP generation) because they probably believe licensing of granted SEPs can bring IPR revenue much quick. However, simple number of declared SEPs is much less important than innovation of critical 5G features and functions.

The 5G SEP war we have recently experienced concentrates on patent number; not patent quality. In fact, a feature critical invention can be much better and heavier than dozens of banal and non-essential SEPs which have been seen almost every aspect.

Conclusions:

Industry success relies on innovations, such as technique innovation, cultural innovation, and business innovation. There is no single high-tech company that has succeeded by starting numerous DEPs. Relying on licensing of granted patents cannot produce a great company. It does not mean patent productivities not important. Inventions in 5G should create more useful and reliable features, products, applications and capability to meet commerce and consumer needs (unfortunately, we have not seen many consumer-related 5G features so far).

5G and “5G Beyond” or “6G” (?) SEPs can strive for implementable and economic inventions, including investment and cost saving, energy saving and green communications. Innovations should drive ecosystem end-to-end solutions and use cases. Currently there are hundreds of 5G use cases that have been identified. Unfortunately, many of them (like the IoT use cases) can also be realized by existing 4G/LTE or enhanced WiFi.

Closing Note on URLLC (Ultra Reliable, ultra Low latency Communications):

URLLC is one of three use cases defined by ITU for the IMT 2020 standard and “5G” networks worldwide.  It is included for both the 5G RAN and 5G Core Network in 3GPP Release 16.  From a 3GPP report on URLLC:

“New 3GPP R16 URLCC use cases with higher requirements include: Factory automation Transport Industry, including the remote driving use case, and Electrical Power Distribution.  A 3GPP “Study on Physical layer enhancements for NR ultra-reliable and low latency communication (URLLC)” concludes that it is beneficial to support a set of enhancements to URLLC, and further establishes detailed recommendations as given in Section 9.2 in TR 38.824.”

However, URLLC 5G NR enhancements for the RAN is currently only 53% complete (as per the 3GPP website). That’s because no performance testing has been done yet to validate if the URLLC enhancement to 5G NR will meet 3GPP’s targeted performance requirements. We have been told by 3GPP marketing manager Kevin Flynn that such URLLC performance testing will be completed in three to six months, however there is no official 3GPP target completion date set at the time this article was published (July 10, 2020).

For URLLC to be successful, we first need standardized URLLC requirements (such as 1 millisecond synchronization accuracy, 0.5-to-1 millisecond air interface (in the RAN) latency, <5 milliseconds end-to-end latency (including the 5G Core Network), and six 9’s reliability) to be achieved on paper as clearly specified 5G NR enhancements.  Then the performance parameters must be verified/validated in duplicable performance tests (by independent testing agencies) and reliably implemented  in both 5G endpoint and network products.  Only then can new 5G system and use cases (e.g. mission critical and/or low latency applications. autonomous vehicles, etc) achieve economic benefits and gains.

Along with the IEEE Techblog Editorial Team, I’ve been carefully researching and studying all aspects of URLLC in 3GPP Release 16 and hope to provide you with a co-authored article which will provide more clarity on that topic.  Stay tuned!

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About Yigang Cai:

                                                                 Yigang Cai celebrating life!

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Yigang Cai, PhD is an IEEE Fellow (2018) and former Senior Research Scientist at Bell Labs. As a long time IEEE volunteer, Yigang served as IEEE ComSoc director of North American Region (NAR) (2012-2013), ComSoc global coordinator of Distinguished Lecturer Tour (DLT) (2010-2011), and ComSoc Chicago chapter chairman (2003-2006).

Dr. Cai is one of most prolific telecommunications industry inventors.  He received the Bell Labs Inventor Award three times (2008, 2010 and 2011), and was honored with a first-ever lifetime Alcatel-Lucent “Distinguished Inventor Award” (2013) with his inventive accomplishments and patent contributions throughout his career with the company. Yigang has filed a total of 1000+ patents globally, of which 665 are granted patents (including 193 U.S. granted patents).

Many of his inventions in wireless networks have been built into products and systems of 2G/3G/4G and 5G, and deployed worldwide. He is one of the pioneers and leaders in developing the principles and components of Machine Type Communications (MTC).  Dr. Cai generated many 5G inventions, including 5G New Radio (NR), 5G end-to-end architectures and use cases (both Access Networks and Core Networks), Network Slicing, MEC, 5G Machine Type Communications (MTC), and Device-to-Device Communications.

Yigang worked with Verizon Wireless to incorporate his work on Core Network MTC architecture, into 3GPP specifications. He was the first inventor in the area of radio interface physical resource sharing [between LTE and eMTC (Category M, or CatM)]. Dr. Cai filed dozens of patents related to that subject matter.  Feature software with those pending patents were developed and delivered to Verizon (2016) and AT&T networks in 2017 (over 40,000 base stations), and twenty some other operators worldwide.

Together with ComSocSCV Chair Emeritus Alan J Weissberger, Yigang published an IEEE Global Communications Newsletter (GCN) article on Substantial Progress in ComSoc North American Region which appeared in the December 2013 issue of IEEE Communications magazine.

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Editor’s Addendum :  3GPP R16 5G work items related to IMT 2020.specs and 5G Non-Radio Aspects:

The two ATIS contributions from 3GPP on the latter’s IMT 2020 RIT/SRIT (based on 3GPP documents PCG45_07 and PCG45_08), were submitted to ITU-R WP5D on 21 May 2020. They were discussed and accepted at the 5D meeting which ended 9 July 2020.  There were no other 3GPP/ATIS contributions related to IMT 2020 at that 5D meeting, which was the deadline for submission of material for inclusion in ITU-R Rec. M.[IMT 2020.SPECS].

Therefore, we do not know what the disposition will be of any other 5G radio related work items in 3GPP R16 that were completed after 21 May 2020.  In particular, the state of 3GPP’s 5GNR enhancements for URLLC.

We understand that the 5G NON-RADIO aspects of R16, e.g. 5G architecture, 5G core, network slicing, network management, security, etc. will NOT be sent to ITU-T.  Rather, they will likely be transposed and standardized by ETSI.

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References:

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/03/25/3gpp-delays-release-16-and-17-by-3-months/
https://techblog.comsoc.org/2019/10/06/3gpp-release-16-update-5g-phase-2-including-urllc-to-be-completed-in-june-2020/
https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/03/24/5g-patent-war-are-nokias-3000-5g-patent-declarations-legit/
https://techblog.comsoc.org/2020/06/24/greyb-study-huawei-undisputed-leader-in-5g-standard-essential-patents-seps/
https://www.nokia.com/about-us/news/releases/2020/03/24/nokia-announces-over-3000-5g-patent-declarations/
https://telecoms.com/503274/5g-patent-chest-beating-is-an-unhelpful-distraction/
https://www.wsj.com/articles/qualcomm-5g-security-and-patent-wars-11576096074
https://www.statista.com/chart/20095/companies-with-most-5g-patent-families-and-patent-families-applications/
https://www.iplytics.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/5G-patent-study_TU-Berlin_IPlytics-2020.pdf
https://www.ericsson.com/en/blog/2019/10/5g-patent-leadership
https://www.kidonip.com/news/iplytics-patent-counting-fallacy/
https://www.epo.org/news-events/news/2020/20200312.html

Busting a Myth: 3GPP Roadmap to true 5G (IMT 2020) vs AT&T “standards-based 5G” in Austin, TX

Rakuten Mobile, Inc. and NEC to jointly develop the containerized standalone (SA) 5G core network + Dell’Oro report

Japanese upstart carrier Rakuten Mobile, Inc. and NEC Corporation today announced that they have reached an agreement to jointly develop the containerized standalone (SA) 5G core network (5GC) to be utilized in Rakuten Mobile’s fully virtualized cloud native 5G network.

Based on the agreement, Rakuten Mobile and NEC will jointly develop the containerized SA 5G mobile core to be made available on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), Rakuten Mobile’s fully virtualized and containerized cloud-native mobile network platform. The two companies will collaborate to build a Japan-made, highly reliable 5GC, based on the 5GC software source code developed by NEC. Subsequent to the launch of its non-standalone (NSA) 5G service in 2020, Rakuten Mobile aims to provide its SA 5G service in Japan in 2021.

The containerized 5GC will also play a key role in the global expansion of RCP, a platform aimed at offering solutions and services for the deployment of virtualized networks at speed and low cost by telecom companies and enterprises around the world, tailored for their unique needs. The 5GC will be offered as an application on the RCP Marketplace, allowing customers to quickly and easily “click, purchase and deploy” a fully virtualized SA 5G core network solution.

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Editor’s Note:  The two companies don’t state what spec they’re using for their container based SA 5G Core Network.   Please see Tareq Amin’s Comment below.

The only standards work we know of related to SA 5G Core Network is in 3GPP (5GCN), but it’s based on a NFV enabled network cloud and a service based architecturerather than containers.

We suggest that NEC contribute this spec to both 3GPP and ITU-T (for IMT 2020 non-radio aspects).  However, neither ITU-R or ITU-T has any serious ongoing work related to the 5G Core Network at this point in time.

The 3GPP specified 5G core network covers both wire-line and wireless access.  Key characteristics:

 Control plane is separated from the data plane and implemented in a virtualized environment
 Fully distributed network architecture with single level of hierarchy

 GW to GW interface to support seamless mobility between 5G-GW
 Traffic of the same flow can be delivered over multiple RITs

From the latest 3GPP Release 16 – TS.23501 5G Systems Architecture-V16.4.0 (2020-03):

The 5G System architecture is defined to support data connectivity and services enabling deployments to use techniques such as e.g. Network Function Virtualization and Software Defined Networking. The 5G System architecture shall leverage service-based interactions between Control Plane (CP) Network Functions where identified. Some key principles and concept are to:

– Separate the User Plane (UP) functions from the Control Plane (CP) functions, allowing independent scalability, evolution and flexible deployments e.g. centralized location or distributed (remote) location.

– Modularize the function design, e.g. to enable flexible and efficient network slicing.

– Wherever applicable, define procedures (i.e. the set of interactions between network functions) as services, so that their re-use is possible.

– Enable each Network Function and its Network Function Services to interact with other NF and its Network Function Services directly or indirectly via a Service Communication Proxy if required. The architecture does not preclude the use of another intermediate function to help route Control Plane messages (e.g. like a DRA).

– Minimize dependencies between the Access Network (AN) and the Core Network (CN). The architecture is defined with a converged core network with a common AN – CN interface which integrates different Access Types e.g. 3GPP access and non-3GPP access.

– Support a unified authentication framework.

– Support “stateless” NFs, where the “compute” resource is decoupled from the “storage” resource.

– Support capability exposure.

– Support concurrent access to local and centralized services. To support low latency services and access to local data networks, UP functions can be deployed close to the Access Network.

ITU-T SG13 is working on IMT 2020 non-radio aspects, but are heavily dependent on 3GPP documents to be liased inorder to drive their future standards work in that area.

Please see Comment in box underneath this article for GSMA Feb 2020 document on SA 5G Core option 2 guidelines for implementation.

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“We are very excited to collaborate with NEC on the development of our standalone 5G core network,” commented Tareq Amin, Representative Director, Executive Vice President and CTO of Rakuten Mobile. “Our partnership with NEC represents a joint collaboration to build an open, secure and highly scalable 4G and 5G cloud native converged core, that will also become a key feature of the highly competitive services we will offer to global customers through the Rakuten Communications Platform.”

“NEC is proud to be the 5GC development partner for Rakuten Mobile’s advanced, fully virtualized, cloud-native network. Following the BSS/OSS for the 4G network and 5G radio equipment that we have already begun offering, we look forward to providing a high-quality, highly reliable 5GC and contributing to Rakuten Mobile’s 5G services,” said Atsuo Kawamura, Executive Vice President and President of the Network Services Business Unit, NEC.

Through the joint development of the SA 5GC, Rakuten Mobile and NEC aim to drive innovation in global mobile technology and provide high quality 5G network technology to customers both in Japan and around the world.

Rakuten Mobile CTO Tareq Amin clarification comments; via edited email to this author:

NEC/Rakuten 5GC is 3GPP standardized software for network service and a de facto standard container basis infrastructure (infrastructure agnostic).  It is a forward looking approach, but not proprietary.

1.  3GPP standardized software for network service:

NEC/Rakuten 5GC openness are realized by implementation of Open Interface defined in 3GPP specifications  (TS 23.501, 502, 503 and related stage 3 specifications).

2.   Containerization/Cloud native:

3GPP 5GC specification requires cloud native architecture as the general concept.  It should be distributed, stateless, and scalable.  However, an explicit reference model is out of scope for the 3GPP specification. Therefore NEC 5GC cloud native architecture is based on above mentioned 3GPP concept as well as ETSI NFV treats container and cloud native, which NEC is also actively investigating to apply its product.

3.  Reference To Open RAN in the press release:

This has no relationship to 5G Core, but only an indication that our Radio Access Network (RAN) architecture is O-RAN Compliant.

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Press Release:

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200602005999/en/Rakuten-Mobile-NEC-Agree-Jointly-Develop-Containerized

About Rakuten Mobile

Rakuten Mobile, Inc. is a Rakuten Group company responsible for mobile communications, including mobile network operator (MNO) and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) businesses, as well as ICT and energy. Through continuous innovation and the deployment of advanced technology, Rakuten Mobile aims to redefine expectations in the mobile communications industry in order to provide appealing and convenient services that respond to diverse customer needs.

About NEC Corporation

NEC Corporation has established itself as a leader in the integration of IT and network technologies while promoting the brand statement of “Orchestrating a brighter world.” NEC enables businesses and communities to adapt to rapid changes taking place in both society and the market as it provides for the social values of safety, security, fairness and efficiency to promote a more sustainable world where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential. For more information, visit NEC at http://www.nec.com.

Contacts:

Rakuten, Inc.
Corporate Communications Department
global-pr@mail.rakuten.com

NEC Corporation
Corporate Communications Division
press@news.jp.nec.com

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Addendum from Dell’Oro Group:

Mobile Core Network Growth to Accelerate with 5G Core Deployments

The Mobile Core Network market grew 10 percent year-over-year to nearly $8 Billion for the trailing four quarters ending in 1Q20. Growth is expected to accelerate over the next four quarters due to 5G Core deployments.

“There are other factors influencing the uptake. The COVID-19 pandemic is now seen mostly as a positive for the wireless infrastructure sector with more demand for voice and data. Plus the T-Mobile/Sprint merger has completed, and the new T-Mobile is moving ahead with an aggressive 5G build,” Bolan continued.

Additional highlights from the Mobile Core Network 1Q20 report:

  • Revenue market share for Huawei and Ericsson combined for over half of the market, while Nokia, ZTE, and Cisco totaled over 25 percent, for the trailing four quarters ending in 1Q2020.
  • We forecast the Network Function Virtualization penetration (vs Containers) will approach 70 percent in 1Q2021 due to the revenue growth in 5G Core deployments.

About the Report

The Dell’Oro Group Mobile Core Network Quarterly Report offers complete, in-depth coverage of the market with tables covering manufacturers’ revenue, shipments, and average selling prices for Evolved Packet Core, 5G Core, IMS Core, Policy, Subscriber Management, licenses by Non-NFV and NFV, and by geographic regions.  To purchase this report, please contact us at dgsales@delloro.com.

About Dell’Oro Group

Dell’Oro Group is a market research firm that specializes in strategic competitive analysis in the telecommunications, networks, and data center IT markets.  Our firm provides in-depth quantitative data and qualitative analysis to facilitate critical, fact-based business decisions.  For more information, contact Dell’Oro Group at +1.650.622.9400 or visit www.delloro.com.

3GPP delays Release 16 and 17 Freeze by 3 months; IMT 2020 impact unclear

3GPP stated on its website that the timeline for the completion of two of their upcoming releases that include 5G specifications will be delayed.

A shift of the Release 16 timeline was approved at the 3GPP March 20th  TSG#87 plenary e-meetings.

  • Rel-16 Stage 3 freeze now June 2020 (shifted by 3 months)
  • Rel-16 ASN.1 and OpenAPI specification freeze will also be complete in June 2020 (stays as planned)

Freezing stage 3 of a 3GPP release essentially means no further functions can be added to the spec. ASN.1 refers to abstract syntax notation object identifiers maintained by ETSI.

3GPP SA Plenary Chairman Georg Mayer wrote in an email to this author:

“Whilst 3GPP shifted the R16 stage 3 freeze by three months, we kept the code freeze in June.

It is from my perspective incorrect to say that we shifted R16 by three months. Just the stage 3 freeze and the code freeze are now coinciding. This was also clearly stated in the approved discussion papers in all groups. Those are the source of information people should go to when they look for guidance.”

3GPP RAN Chairman Belasz Bertenyi wrote in an email to this author:

 “The Release-16 ASN.1 and OpenAPI code freeze timeline is kept unchanged, and is still targeting June 2020.”

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New 3GPP Release Timeline:

The “Release 16 Description: Summary of Rel-16 Work Items” (TR21.916) is now in production, with the Work Plan manager adding summary notes about each of the Features that it will bring, to the 3GPP system. As the Release approaches its Freeze date and completion (June 2020) – TR21.916 will start to expand and fill with useful detail about the main purpose and state of each feature.

The schedule for Release 17 is to be shifted by three months, such that the freezing of stage 3 will take place in September 2021.  [Release 17 is to include further 5G system enhancements such as 5G wearables and faster network performance.]  The specification freeze for Release 17 ASN.1 and OpenAPI is now scheduled for December 2021.

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The move had been expected after 3GPP announced it would cancel its face-to-face meetings in February and March due to concerns about the spreading coronavirus.

While 3GPP’s face-to-face meetings have been canceled through May, the organization has scheduled online meetings to continue its work despite the pandemic and will hopefully be able to keep their specifications on schedule going forward.

However, the impact of 3GPP’s Release 16 delay will surely push back the roll-out of true 5G deployments.   It remains to be seen if the much touted but not yet completed Enhancement of Ultra-Reliable (UR) Low Latency Communications (URLLC) in 3GPP Release 16 will be submitted to ITU-R WP5D at their June 2020 meeting for inclusion in the IMT 2020 RIT/SRIT standard.

This author suspects ITU-R WP 5D leaders are looking at how to adjust their meeting plans in light of the global pandemic.  Their next meeting is scheduled for June 23 to July 1, 2020 in Geneva.

Balasz says that “whatever the IMT 2020 schedule, 3GPP is continuously committed to make sure its IMT 2020 submissions will arrive in time and with high specification quality.”

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Reference:

https://www.3gpp.org/specifications/releases

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15 April 2020 Update:

VERY IMPORTANT to note that unless it’s delayed till 2021, ITU-R IMT 2020 standard will NOT specify ultra low latency/ultra high reliability cause those capabilities are in 3GPP Rel 16 which won’t be frozen till July 3rd when their next meeting ends. ITU-R WP5D meeting ends July 1st.  Hence, it will not be possible for 3GPP to submit 5G portions of Rel 16 till after WP5D’s July 1st meeting which will be too late to be included in the 1st version of IMT 2020 scheduled for late November 2020.  The alternative is for WP 5D to delay their IMT 2020 completion schedule at their June-July 2020 meeting so we’ll watch that 5D meeting very closely to keep readers informed.

Background on Release 16:

Details of the features and work items under each 3GPP Release are kept in the corresponding, on-line, list of features and study items.

Strategy Analytics: Huawei 1st among top 5 contributors to 3GPP 5G specs

Even though there are more than 600 member companies participating in 3GPP, their 5G specification process is actually led by only a few leading telecom companies. New research from Strategy Analytics analyzes the contributions to 3GPP 5G  specifications (Release 15 and Release 16) and finds that 13 companies contributed more than 78% 5G related papers and led 77% of the 5G related Work Items and Study Items.

The Strategy Analytics report “Who Are the Leading Players in 5G Standardization? An Assessment for 3GPP 5G Activities” is available to clients and registered guests here . The report assesses the 13 leading companies’ contributions to 3GPP 5G standards for the period of Releases 15 and 16 so far, based on the following criteria:

  • Volume of 5G related papers, including submitted papers, approved/agreed papers and the ratio of approved/agreed papers to total submissions in all Technical Specification Groups (TSGs) and Working Groups (WGs)
  • Chairmanship positions, i.e. Chairman and Vice Chairmen for all TSGs and WGs
  • Rapporteurs of 5G related Work Items (WIs) / Study Items (SIs) in all TSGs and WGs

The results indicate that the top 5 companies in 3GPP 5G specification activities are Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and China Mobile.

Guang Yang , Director at Strategy Analytics, noted, “3GPP plays the central role in the ecosystem of global 5G standardization.  By analyzing the contributions of industry players to 3GPP 5G standards, we can get an idea of different companies’ positions in 5G innovation as well as their influence in the global mobile industry. So we looked at 3GPP organization and work procedures to assess each company’s influence from multiple aspects.”

Sue Rudd , Director Networks and Service Platforms service, added, “According to our assessment, leading infrastructure vendors – Huawei , Ericsson and Nokia – made more significant contributions to 5G standards than other studied companies. Huawei leads in terms of overall contributions to the end-to-end 5G standards, while Ericsson leads in TSG/WG chairmanship and Nokia in approved/agreed ratio of 5G contribution papers .”

Phil Kendall , Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “It is important to remember that the true nature of the standardization process is actually one of industry collaboration rather than competition. 3GPP standardization continues to be a dynamic process. It is expected that emerging players and new market requirements will increasingly impact priorities for 3GPP Release 17 standards.”

3GPP Timeline:

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Mike Dano of Lightreading says “Huawei being the biggest contributor to the 3GPP’s 5G specs will undoubtedly worry U.S. lawmakers and regulators, who for years have argued the company poses a security threat to the nation. Huawei denies those allegations.”

“We must have a vocal presence at the standards bodies that are defining the rules for 5G. We have been woefully absent and need to make participation a priority,” wrote Mike Rogers in a recent opinion column. Rogers is a former US representative who co-authored the 2012 US government report initially outlining the security threats posed by Chinese equipment vendors like Huawei and ZTE.

“We need to work with our allies to staunch the spread of Huawei and other Chinese companies owned by the state. We need to better communicate what Chinese dominance of 5G means. This is something we have not successfully done, as shown by Britain deciding to allow Huawei into certain elements of the 5G network,” Rogers added.

Rogers now chairs the “5G Action Now” 501(c)4 advocacy organization, which has been working with the now-disbanded C-Band Alliance to speed up the C-Band spectrum auction in the US for 5G.

Indeed, legislation introduced early this year would require the Trump administration to develop a strategy to “promote United States leadership at international standards-setting bodies for equipment, systems, software, and virtually-defined networks relevant to 5th and future generation mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure, taking into account the different processes followed by the various international standard-setting bodies.”  That legislation passed the House and is now headed to the Senate.

Companies’ 3GPP contributions to the 5G specs [1.] don’t necessarily translate into revenues. For that, companies must patent their inventions.

Note 1.  3GPP specs vs 5G standards:

3GPP 5G specs in Release 15 and 16 have and will continue to be input to ITU-R WP 5D, but only some of those contributions will be in IMT 2020 which is currently restricted to the Radio Interface Technologies (RITs) or sets of RITs (SRITs).  Other essential 5G specs like signaling, 5G packet core, 5G network management, etc will be standardized by SDOs (like ETSI) but the real work is done in 3GPP.  Also note that IMT 2020 will have several NON 3GPP RITs from ETSI/DECT Forum and India (TSDSI).

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According to one study, Huawei leads in that respect also. IPlytics recently reported that the Chinese firm has far and away the most “declared 5G families” of patents, and the most filed since 2012.

However, it’s worth noting that UK law firm Bird & Bird argues that the reliance on such patent calculations isn’t very insightful, and that different methodologies yield different results.

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References:

https://news.strategyanalytics.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2020/Strategy-Analytics-Infrastructure-Giants-Lead-5G-Standardization/default.aspx

https://www.lightreading.com/5g/study-huawei-was-the-biggest-contributor-to-5g-standards/d/d-id/758279?

 

Gartner: Market Guide for 3GPP “5G New Radio (NR)” Infrastructure

Editor’s Note:

Most mobile 5G deployments to date are based on 3GPP Release 15 “5G NR” or “NR”in the data plane and Non Stand Alone (NSA), with LTE for everything else (i.e. control plane/signalling, mobile packet core, network management, etc).  3GPP Release 16 will hopefully add ultra low latency, ultra high reliability to the 5G NR data plane.  Equally important will be the 5G systems architecture-phase 2 that will be specified in Release 16. That spec includes a 5G mobile packet core (5GC) which is a forklift upgrade from the 4G-LTE Evolved Packet Core (EPC).  It remains to be seen which ITU study group will standardized 5GC when 3GPP Release 16 is completed in late June 2020.

From the paper titled Narrowband Internet of Things 5G Performance published in 2019 IEEE 90th Vehicular Technology Conference (VTC2019-Fall):

5G NR supports new frequency bands ranging all the way up to 52.6 GHz. These new frequency bands make large system bandwidths available that are needed to improve the mobile broadband data rates beyond what LTE can offer.

NR also supports a reduced latency by means of reduced transmission time intervals and shortened device processing times compared to LTE. To provide high reliability, NR supports low code rates and a high level of redundancy.

In the initial phase of the transition from 4G to 5G, NR is expected to be a complement to both LTE and NB-IoT, providing enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) and critical IoT services. The past industrial practice suggests that the mobile network operators will stepwise re-farm parts of its LTE spectrum for enabling NR. Since NR supports a new range of frequency bands, an attractive alternative approach is to deploy NR in a set of new rather than existing bands. 3GPP Release 15 allows NR to connect to the EPC to support a seamless transition from LTE to NR.

The NR traffic volumes will eventually motivate a full refarming of the LTE MBB spectrum to NR. The longevity of NB-IoT devices is however expected to make NB-IoT a natural component within the 5G echo-system. For this reason, NR supports reservation of radio resources to enable LTE operation including NB-IoT, within an NR carrier. This allows NB-IoT to add NR in-band operation to its list of supported deployment options. Since both NR and NB-IoT employ an OFDM based modulation with support for 15-kHz subcarrier numerology, in the downlink (DL) true interference-free orthogonality can be achieved without configuration of guard-bands between the two systems.

 

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From Gartner report published Dec 16, 2019:

By Peter LiuSylvain FabreKosei Takiishi

Introduction:

As communications service providers move forward with 5G commercialization, New Radio infrastructure investment is prioritized and crucial for 5G rollout success. We analyze the market direction and the product strategies of equipment vendors to help guide product managers in CSPs.

By 2021, investments in 5G NR network infrastructure will account for 19% of the total wireless infrastructure revenue of communications service providers (CSPs), elevated from 6% in 2019.

5G NR is a new  Radio Access Technology (RAT) developed by 3GPP. There are two key components that are included physically — Next Generation Node B (gNB) and antennas. The Next Generation Node B (gNB) can be further split into two main functional modules — the centralized unit (CU), the distributed unit (DU) which can be deployed in multiple combinations.
There are several key features related to 5G New Radio, which include, but are not limited to:
  • Support for new subcarrier spacing
  • Massive multiple input/multiple output (MIMO)/beamforming
  • Enhanced scheduling by hybrid automatic repeat request (HARQ)
  • Cyclic-prefix orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (CP-OFDM) and discrete fourier transform spread orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (DFTS-OFDM)
  • Bandwidth part (BWP) and carrier aggregation (CA)
The form of 5G NR infrastructure can be microcell, small cell (indoor/outdoor) and macrocell.
Gartner defines 5G using the 3GPP standard body definition. 5G New Radio (NR) is a new Radio Access Technology (RAT) developed by 3GPP for the  fifth generation (5G) mobile network. It was designed to be the global standard for the air interface of 5G networks. 5G New Radio infrastructure in this Market Guide refers to the 3GPP 5G RAN architecture — specified in Release 15 and known as NG-RAN. There are two key components included physically — 5G radio base station (gNBs) and antennas. The 5G radio base stations (gNBs) can be further split into three main functional modules — the centralized unit (CU), the distributed unit (DU) and the radio unit (RU) — which can be deployed in multiple combinations.
There are several key features related to 5G New Radio, which include but are not limited to:
  • New Radio spectrum
  • Optimized orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM)
  • Adaptive beamforming
  • Massive MIMO
  • Spectrum sharing
  • Unified design across frequencies
The form of 5G NR infrastructure can be microcell, small cell (indoor/ outdoor) and macrocell.

Key Findings:

  • The deployment of 5G New Radio (NR) products will accelerate in 2020, through high total cost of ownership (TCO), absence of “killer application,” unmatured millimeter wave ecosystem and inexpensive device availability that prevent rapid growth in capital investment.
  • Most of current commercial 5G sub-6 gigahertz (GHz) communications service providers (CSPs) also start building their multiband strategy which is in line with their business strategy; for example, sub-1GHz for coverage enhancement and millimeter wave for capacity.
  • Initial 5G deployment was based on non-stand-alone (NSA) architecture which couples the Long Term Evolution (LTE) with 5G NR radio layers to accelerate time to market and reduce cost. This coexistence will last for many years, though specific CSPs may move toward stand-alone (SA) deployment as early as 2020.
  • Open radio access network (RAN) and virtualized RAN (vRAN) have seen an increase in attention after Rakuten Mobile announced its commercial adoption in LTE. However, fragmented standards, incumbent vendor support, technology immaturity and poor fiber availability continue to hamper its success.

Market Description

Global 5G infrastructure market is expected to witness significant growth over the coming years. 5G technology has the potential to support capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation and the Internet of Things (IoT), apart from the high-speed network performance. Thus, with growing internet penetration and rapidly increasing mobile users, healthy growth would be seen in the years to come in the global 5G infrastructure market.
However, although the pace of 5G is significantly more accelerated than 4G, we all acknowledge it will be a marathon. CSPs are still very cautious and fast adoption today does not necessarily equal fast deployment in scale. While CSPs are still seeking killer applications and are under increasing financial pressures due to the expensive spectrum, they also recognize that 5G deployment is more challenging than before. Higher frequencies, combining LTE and 5G together, as well as NSA and SA cores, is proving to be a complex undertaking.
Despite some uncertainty brought about by geopolitical challenges, overall, current NSA setup largely benefits the existing dominant LTE vendors such as Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE — since it is the most cost-effective way to deliver 5G on board. Other key criteria important to CSPs include:
  • Baseband unit capacity
  • Portfolio broadness
  • Deployment feasibility
  • Technology evolution
This provides less opportunities for niche vendors promoting their open RAN concept in the short term. The situation will be improved when SA and small cell have been deployed. From a spectrum perspective, for the higher bands (particularly mmWave), the main issue is the ability to acquire large numbers of suitable sites and deliver the coverage people expect. For midband (sub-6Ghz) deployments, this issue is not as significant due to the ability to reuse sites, for the most part. For frequency division duplex (FDD) bands, complete reuse is, of course, possible.
5G is already available in many major cities, with more coverage expected in 2020. Given the momentum for 5G, Gartner forecast calls for growth in carrier infrastructure spending in 2019 and faster growth in 2020. Considering majority deployment will be based on non-stand-alone architecture, 5G NR infrastructure will represent the biggest portion of the 5G investment.
Despite the hype around 5G, CSPs are looking for a practical 5G implementation strategy that allows them to quickly launch Phase 1 5G services (enhanced mobile broadband [eMBB], fixed wireless access [FWA]) in a cost-efficient way. Decisions on where, when and which vendors to work with are driven by commercial considerations and are also related to spectrum availability, deployment feasibility as well as ecosystem maturity.
5G Application Has Different Time Scales

Recommendations for 5G Communications Service Providers (CSPs):

To better enable infrastructure delivery strategies, product managers should:
  • Build a step-wise 5G NR implementation strategy by initially focusing on best use of existing infrastructure investment, then simplifying the deployment in order to reduce the time to market and minimize risk.
  • Develop spectrum strategies based on business focus, frequencies available as well as ecosystem maturity. Choose the vendors that have preferred radio spectrum support with combinations of spectrum reframing and sharing.
  • Select the 5G NR solution by accessing a vendor’s capabilities of interworking with existing 4G/LTE networks and its ability to provide a high degree of continuity and seamless experience for users. In addition, explore a seamless software upgrade path to enable 5G SA evolution.
  • Build an end-to-end understanding of the Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) impact on network, operations, performance and procurement by conducting a proof of concept (POC)/pilot.

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Acronym Key and Glossary Terms

2G
second generation
3G
third generation
3GPP
Third Generation Partnership Project
4G
fourth generation
5G
fifth generation
AAU
Active Antenna Unit
AI
artificial intelligence
AR
augmented reality
ASIC
application-specific integrated circuit
BBU
baseband unit
BWP
bandwidth part
C-RAN
cloud radio access network
CA
carrier aggregation
capex
capital expenditure
CBRS
Citizens Broadband Radio Service
CoMP
coordinated multipoint
CP-OFDM
cyclic-prefix orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing
CPE
customer premises equipment
CSP
communications service provider
CU
centralized unit
DAFE
Digital/Analog Front End
DFTS-OFDM
discrete fourier transform spread orthogonal frequency-division multiple access
DIS
digital indoor system
DL
downlink
DU
distributed unit
eCPRI
enhanced Common Public Radio Interface
eMBB
enhanced mobile broadband
EPC
Evolved Packet Core
FDD
frequency division duplex
FH
fronthaul
FWA
fixed wireless access
Gbps
gigabits per second
GHz
gigahertz
gNB
Next Generation Node B
HARQ
hybrid automatic repeat request
I&O
infrastructure and operations
IBW
instantaneous bandwidth (ZTE)
IC
integrated circuit
ICT
information and communication technology
IMT-2020
International Mobile Telecommunications-2020
IoT
Internet of Things
ITU-R
International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector
LAA
Licensed Assisted Access
LTE
Long Term Evolution
LTE-V
LTE Vehicle
MAA
Multiple Input/Multiple Output Adaptive Antenna
MHz
megahertz
ML
machine learning
MIMO
multiple input/multiple output
mMTC
Massive Machine Type Communications
mmWave
millimeter wave (frequencies above 24GHz)
MOCN
multioperator core network
MORAN
multicarrier radio access network
MOS
Multi-Operator Servers (Mavenir)
NFV
network function virtualization
NR
New Radio
NSA
non-stand-alone
O-RAN
Open Radio Access Network
OBW
occupied bandwidth
OEM
original equipment manufacturer
OFDM
orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing
opex
operating expenditure
POC
proof of concept
PRB
physical resource blocks
QAM
quadrature amplitude modulation
R&D
research and development
RAN
radio access network
RAT
Radio Access Technology
RIC
RAN Intelligent Controller (Nokia)
RF
radio frequency
RFIC
Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit
RRU
remote radio unit
RU
radio unit
SA
stand-alone
SDN
software-defined network
SDR
software-defined radio
SON
self-organizing network
Sub-1GHz
Low-band frequencies are those at 600MHz, 800MHz, and 900MHz.
Sub-6GHz
Frequencies under 6GHz but above the low-band frequencies (2.5GHz, 3.5GHz, and 3.7GHz to 4.2GHz).
SUL
Supplementary Uplink
TCO
total cost of ownership
TD-LTE
Time Division-Long Term Evolution
TDD
time division duplex
TRX
Transceiver/Receiver
UBR
Ultra Broadband RRU (ZTE)
UL
uplink
URLLC
ultrareliable and low-latency communications
VR
virtual reality
vRAN
virtualized radio access network
WG2
Work Group 2
WG3
Work Group 3
Evidence has been collected from:
  • Gartner surveys
  • CSP and vendor briefings, plus discussions
  • Associated Gartner research
  • Gartner market forecasts
  • Gartner client discussions

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References- related Gartner posts:

Gartner: Telecom at the Edge + Distributed Cloud in 3 Stages

Gartner Group Innovation & Insight: Cutting Through the 5G Hype

AT&T and Verizon to use Integrated Access and Backhaul for 2021 5G networks

AT&T sketched out its plans to start testing Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB) technology during 2020, saying it can prove a reliable backhaul alternative to fiber in certain cases, such as expanding millimeter-wave locations to reach more isolated areas. Verizon also confirmed, without adding any details, that it plans to use IAB, which is an architecture for the 5G cellular networks in which the same infrastructure and spectral resources will be used for both access and backhaul.   IAB will be described in 3GPP Release 16 (see 3GPP section below for more details).

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“Fiber is still required in close proximity to serve the capacity coming from the nodes, so if it can be extended to each of the nodes, it will be the first choice,” said Gordon Mansfield, VP of Converged Access and Device Technology at AT&T. in an statement emailed to FierceWireless.

“From there, IAB can be used to extend to hard to reach and temporary locations that are in close proximity. As far as timing, we will do some testing in 2020 but 2021 is when we expect it to be used more widely,” he said.

Verizon also told Fierce that it has plans to incorporate IAB as a tool. It doesn’t have any details to share at this time, but “it’s certainly on the roadmap,” an unknown Verizon representative said.

Earlier this year, Mike Dano of Lightreading reported:

Verizon’s Glenn Wellbrock said he expects to add “Integrated Access Backhaul” technology to the operator’s network-deployment toolkit next year, which would allow Verizon to deploy 5G more easily and cheaply into locations where it can’t get fiber.

“It’s a really powerful tool,” Glenn Wellbrock, director of architecture, design and planning for Verizon’s optical transport network, explained during a keynote presentation here Thursday at Light Reading’s 5G Transport & the Edge event.

Wellbrock said IAB will be part of the 3GPP’s “Release 16” set of 5G specifications, which is expected to be completed by July 2020. However, Wellbrock said it will likely take equipment vendors some time to implement the technology in actual, physical products. That means 2020 would be the earliest that Verizon could begin deploying the technology, he added.

Wellbrock said IAB would allow Verizon to install 5G antennas into locations where routing a fiber cable could be difficult or expensive, such as across a set of train tracks.

However, Wellbrock said that IAB will be but one tool in Verizon’s network-deployment toolbox, and that Verizon will continue to use fiber for the bulk of its backhaul needs. Indeed, he pointed out that Verizon is now deploying roughly 1,400 miles of new fiber lines per month in dozens of cities around the country.

He said Verizon could ultimately use IAB in up to 10-20% of its 5G sites, once the technology is widely available. He said that would represent an increase from Verizon’s current use of wireless backhaul technologies running in the E-band; he said less than 10% of the operator’s sites currently use wireless backhaul. He said IAB is better than current wireless backhaul technologies like those that use the E-band because it won’t require a separate antenna for the backhaul link. As indicated by the “integrated” portion of the “integrated access backhaul” moniker, IAB supports wireless connections both for regular 5G users and for backhaul links using the same antenna.

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According to 5G Americas, the larger bandwidths associated with 5G New Radio (NR), such as those found in mmWave spectrum, as well as the native support of massive MIMO and multi-beams, are expected to facilitate and/or optimize the design and performance of IAB.

5G Americas maintains that the primary goals of IAB are to:

  • Improve capacity by supporting networks with a higher density of access points in areas with only sparse fiber availability.
  • Improve coverage by extending the range of the wireless network, and by providing coverage for isolated coverage gaps. For example, if the user equipment (UE) is behind a building, an access point can provide coverage to that UE with the access point being connected wirelessly to the donor cell.
  • Provide indoor coverage, such as with an IAB access point on top of a building that serves users within the building.

5G Americas also said that in practice, IAB is more relevant for mmWave because lower frequency spectrum may be seen as too valuable (and also too slow) to use for backhaul. The backhaul link, where both endpoints of the link are stationary, is especially suitable for the massive beam-forming possible at the higher frequencies.

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3GPP Release 16 status of work items related to IAB:

(Note: Study is 100% complete, but others are 0% or 50% complete):

750047 FS_NR_IAB … Study onNR_IAB 100%
820170 NR_IAB-Core … Core part: NR_IAB 0%
820270 NR_IAB-Performance 850002 … CT aspects of NR_IAB 0%
830021 FS_NR_IAB_Sec … Study on Security for NR_IAB 50%
850020 … Security for NR_IAB 0%
850002 … CT aspects of NR_IAB 0%

References:

https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/at-t-expects-to-test-iab-2020-use-it-more-widely-2021

https://www.lightreading.com/mobile/5g/verizon-to-use-integrated-access-backhaul-for-fiber-less-5g/d/d-id/754752

ITU-R Schedule for completion of IMT-2020.SPECS; Workshop Results

Schedule for Detailed specifications of the terrestrial radio interfaces of International Mobile Telecommunications-2020 (IMT-2020) – IMT-2020.SPECS:

Meeting No. 33 (Dec. 2019, Geneva)

  1. Develop a detailed work plan
  2. Develop a working document towards PDNR M.[IMT-2020.SPECS]

Meeting No. 34 (Feb. 2020, Geneva)

  1. Review the work plan, if necessary
  2. Continue developing the working document towards PDNR M.[IMT-2020.SPECS]
  3. Receive and take note of “Form A”, in order to determine the structure of the Recommendation
  4. Provide and send liaisons to RIT/SRIT Proponents and GCS Proponents

Meeting No. 35 (Jun. 2020, [China])

  1. Receive and review information, including the texts for its RIT/SRIT overview sections, List of Global Core Specifications and Certification B by GCS Proponents1
  2. Reach its conclusion on the acceptability of the proposed materials for inclusion in the working document towards PDNR M.[IMT-2020.SPECS]
  3. Finalizes the working document including specific technologies (not necessarily including the detailed transposition references) and provisionally agree for promoting the document to preliminary draft new Recommendation
  4. Provide and send liaison of the provisionally agreed Preliminary Draft New Recommendation ITU-R M.[IMT-2020.SPECS] to the relevant GCS Proponents and Transposing Organizations for their use in developing their inputs of the detailed references

Meeting No. 36 (Oct. 2020, [India])

  1. Update PDNR if there are modifications proposed by GCS Proponent
  2. Perform a quality and completion check of the provisionally agreed final draft new Recommendation ITU-R M.[IMT-2020.SPECS] without the hyperlinks
  3. Have follow-up communications initiated with GCS Proponents and/or Transposing Organizations, if necessary

Meeting No. 36bis (Nov. 2020, Geneva)

  1. Receive Transposition references and Certification C from each Transposing Organization
  2. Perform the final quality and completeness check (with detailed transposition references) of the preliminary draft new Recommendation and promotes it to draft new Recommendation
  3. Send the draft new Recommendation ITU-R M.[IMT-2020.SPECS] to Study Group 5 for consideration

1____________________ If the GCS Proponentrnal (potential GCS Proponent) decides to use DIS style, it doesn’t need to submit List of Global Core Specifications but needs to submit full materials for describing its RIT/SRIT in the Recommendation and Form B.

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Workshop on IMT-2020 terrestrial radio interfaces evaluation (10 to 11 December 2019, Geneva, Switzerland):

ITU-R Working Party (WP) 5D started the evaluation process for Independent Evaluation Groups (IEGs) as of its 31st meeting in Oct. 2018, in conjunction with the ongoing IMT-2020 development under Step 3 and Step 4 of the IMT-2020 process.​

Working Party 5D has received, at its July 2019 meeting, several candidate technology submissions for IMT-2020 from six proponents, under Step 3 of the IMT-2020 developing process. ​

WP 5D held a workshop on IMT-2020, focusing on the evaluation of the candidate terrestrial radio interfaces at its 33rd meeting taking place December 2019 in Geneva, at which interim evaluation reports are expected. This will help the IEGs understand the details of the proposed candidate technologies, and interact amongst themselves as well as other WP 5D participants. This workshop is a continuation of the previous one on IMT-2020 held in 2017, Munich, which addressed the process, requirements, and evaluation criteria for IMT-2020 as well as views from proponents on the developments of IMT-2020 radio interfaces and activities of the IEGs.

https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-R/study-groups/rsg5/rwp5d/Pages/ws-20191210.aspx

December 12, 2019 UPDATE:

See Comment in box below this article for disposition of TSDSI, ETSI/DECT Forum, and Nufront IMT 2020 RIT self evaluations.  They have not “satisfactorily fulfilled Section 4.3 for the self-evaluation,” which means that the respective IMT 2020 RIT submissions will not be progressed at this time by WP 5D.

SK Telecom Selects Ericsson 5G Packet Core (3GPP Release 16- 5GC)

SK Telecom has selected Ericsson to deliver a Cloud Packet Core for its 5G network. Ericsson says its Cloud Packet Core (part of the company’s Cloud Core portfolio) helps service providers to smoothly migrate to 5G Core (5GC) stand-alone architecture.

Author’s Note:

Please see below for more information on 3GPP 5GC which is part of Release 16 and as yet has not been submitted to either ITU-R or ITU-T for IMT 2020 mobile packet core.  There seems to be no independent work on a 5G mobile packet core within ITU, which is evidently waiting anxiously for 3GPP Release 16 to be completed and forwarded to various ITU-R WPs and ITU-T Study Groups.

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Ericsson’s Cloud Packet Core is at the business end of mobile broadband and IoT networks. It creates value, visibility and control of traffic and applications by determining the optimal quality of a service, then enforcing it through appropriate policy.

Jung Chang-kwan, Vice President and Head of Infra Engineering Group, SK Telecom, says: “By utilizing Ericsson’s Cloud Packet Core network solution, which realizes simplified network operations, we will unleash the full potential of new 5G-enabled use cases with greater efficiency.”

Jan Karlsson, Senior Vice President and Head of Digital Services, Ericsson, says: “This deal, and the opportunity to work with SK Telecom’s Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI), has put us in the ideal position to further strengthen their 5G network. Delivering our Cloud Packet Core solution will positively impact SK Telecom’s network operations and will reinforce Ericsson’s position as a leader in 5G core.”

SK Telecom switched on its commercial 5G network in December 2018 after selecting Ericsson as one of its primary 5G vendors. Previously, Ericsson provided radio access network (RAN) products, including mid-band Massive MIMO.

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3GPP 5GC (the only specification for a 5G mobile packet core):

The 5GC (5G packet Core), specified in 3GPP TS 23.501: System architecture for the 5G System (5GS); Stage 2, will be part of 3GPP Release 16, which won’t be completed till June 2020 at the earliest.

3GPP’s 5G System architecture is defined to support data connectivity and services enabling deployments to use techniques such as e.g. Network Function Virtualization and Software Defined Networking. The 5G System architecture shall leverage service-based interactions between Control Plane (CP) Network Functions where identified. Some key principles and concept are to:

–     Separate the User Plane (UP) functions from the Control Plane (CP) functions, allowing independent scalability, evolution and flexible deployments e.g. centralized location or distributed (remote) location.

–     Modularize the function design, e.g. to enable flexible and efficient network slicing.

–     Wherever applicable, define procedures (i.e. the set of interactions between network functions) as services, so that their re-use is possible.

–     Enable each Network Function and its Network Function Services to interact with other NF and its Network Function Services directly or indirectly via a Service Communication Proxy if required. The architecture does not preclude the use of another intermediate function to help route Control Plane messages (e.g. like a DRA).

–     Minimize dependencies between the Access Network (AN) and the Core Network (CN). The architecture is defined with a converged core network with a common AN – CN interface which integrates different Access Types e.g. 3GPP access and non-3GPP access.

–     Support a unified authentication framework.

–     Support “stateless” NFs, where the “compute” resource is decoupled from the “storage” resource.

–     Support capability exposure.

–     Support concurrent access to local and centralized services. To support low latency services and access to local data networks, UP functions can be deployed close to the Access Network.

–     Support roaming with both Home routed traffic as well as Local breakout traffic in the visited PLMN.

The 5G architecture is defined as service-based and the interaction between network functions is represented in the following two ways:

–     A service-based representation, where network functions (e.g. AMF) within the Control Plane enables other authorized network functions to access their services. This representation also includes point-to-point reference points where necessary.

–     A reference point representation, shows the interaction exist between the NF services in the network functions described by point-to-point reference point (e.g. N11) between any two network functions (e.g. AMF and SMF).

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GSMA’s Position on 5GC:

The network evolution from 4G-LTE mobile packet core (EPC) to 5G Core (5GC) plays a central role in creating a powerful network platform that is capable of being exposed and automated for service providers.

5GC has been designed from its inception to be “cloud native,” inheriting many of the technology solutions used in cloud computing and with virtualization at its core.  Virtualization of network functions enables  5GC to be redesigned and become open and flexible enough to meet the diversity of service and business requirement in 5G era.

5GC will also offer superior network slicing and QoS features. Another important characteristic is the separation of the control plane and user plane that besides adding flexibility in connecting the users also allows an easier way to support a multitude of access technologies, better support for network slicing and edge computing.

5GC proposes a service based architecture  (SBA), which provides unprecedented efficiency and flexibility for the network.  SBA is an architectural for building system based on fine-grained, interaction of loosely coupled and autonomous components called services. This architecture model is chosen to take full advantage of the latest virtualization and software technologies.

Service-based architectures have been in use in the software industry to improve the modularity of products. A software product can be broken down into communicating services. With this approach, the developers can mix and match services from different vendors into a single product.

Compared to the previous generation reference point architecture as EPC, the elements of service based architecture are defined to be the NF (network functions), which interconnect with the rest network functions across a single API calling interface and provide the authorized services to them. Network repository functions (NRF) allows every network function to discover the services offered by other network functions. A service is an atomized capability in a 5G network, with the characteristics of high-cohesion, loose-coupling, and independent management from other services. This allows individual services to be updated independently with minimal impact to other services and deployed on demand. A service is managed based on the service framework including service registration, service authorization, and service discovery. It provides a comprehensive and highly automated management mechanism implemented by NRF, which greatly reduces the complexity of network maintenance. A service will interact with other services in a light-weight manner, e.g. API invocation.

Virtualization and cloud computing have resulted in lowering the cost of computing by pooling resources in shared data centers.

  • 5G core networks can be shrunk in size by using virtualization. Varies components of the core network can be run as communicating virtual machines.
  • Moving the control plane of the 5G core network to a cloud provider lowers the deployment cost.

The 5G core is a mesh of interconnected services as shown in the figure below:

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Ericsson Addendum:

According to Ericsson’s latest Mobility Reportpublished earlier this week, global 5G subscriptions will exceed 2.6bn within the next six years and by that time Ericsson predicts that 5G will cover 65 percent of the world. It also believes that total mobile subscriptions, including to previous generation networks, will reach 8.9bn from 8bn over the next six years. More than quarter of the global subscriptions will be 5G by 2025 and will account for around 45 percent of worldwide mobile data traffic.

Additionally, Ericsson has also announced its partnership with NVIDIA in order to develop technologies that will enable communication service providers to build virtualized 5G radio access networks, which will boost the introduction of new AI and IoT-based services. The ultimate focus will be to commercialize virtualized RAN technologies to offer radio networks with flexibility and ability to enter the market in a shorter time for new services like VR, AR and gaming.

References:

https://www.ericsson.com/en/press-releases/2019/11/ericssons-cloud-packet-core-to-strengthen-sk-telecoms-5g-network2

https://www.gsma.com/futurenetworks/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Road-to-5G-Introduction-and-Migration_FINAL.pdf

https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-t/opb/tut/T-TUT-HOME-2018-2-PDF-E.pdf

https://www.3gpp.org/ftp/Specs/archive/23_series/23.501/

https://www.ericsson.com/en/portfolio/digital-services/cloud-core/cloud-packet-core

https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/ericsson-and-verizon-claim-worlds-first-cloud-native-tech-on-live-core/2019/07/

https://medium.com/5g-nr/5g-service-based-architecture-sba-47900b0ded0a

 

3GPP Release 16 Update: 5G Phase 2 (including URLLC) to be completed in June 2020; Mission Critical apps extended

NOTE This article is intended as a reference, which is especially important to debunk claims made about current pre-standard 5G deployments which are almost all based on 3GPP Release 15 “5G New Radio (NR)” for the data plane with LTE signaling and LTE mobile packet core (EPC) for Non Stand Alone (NSA) operation.  5G pundits continue to site 3GPP as the standards organization responsible for 5G which is doubly wrong because it’s not a standards body and submits its 5G/IMT 2020 proposals to ITU-R WP 5D via the latter organizations member entities.  As we’ve stated many times before, ITU-R is responsible for the radio standards for IMT 2020, while ITU-T is working on the non-radio aspects of IMT 2020.

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Summary:

3GPP Release 16 is a major release for the project, because it will bring the specification organization’s IMT-2020 RIT/SRIT submission (to ITU-R WP 5D) for an initial full 3GPP 5G system to its completion.  Release 16 will be put in a “frozen” state in March 2020 with a targeted  completion date of June 2020.

3GPP work has started on approximately 25 Release 16 studies, which cover a variety of topics: Multimedia Priority Service, Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) application layer services, 5G satellite access, Local Area Network support in 5G, wireless and wireline convergence for 5G, terminal positioning and location, communications in vertical domains and network automation and novel radio techniques. Further items being studied include security, codecs and streaming services, Local Area Network interworking, network slicing and the IoT.

Here are the new features planned for 3GPP Release 16:

Details of the features and work items under each 3GPP Release are kept in the corresponding, on-line, list of features and study items.

  • Enhancement of Ultra-Reliable (UR) Low Latency Communications (URLLC)
  • 5GS Enhanced support of Vertical and LAN Services
  • Cellular IoT support and evolution
  • Advanced V2X support
  • 5G Location and Positioning Services
  • UE radio capability signalling optimization
  • Satellite Access in 5G
  • Enablers for Network Automation Architecture for 5G
  • Wireless and Wireline Convergence Enhancement
  • Mission Critical, Public Warning, Railways and Maritime
  • Streaming and TV
  • User Identities, Authentication, multi-device
  • (Network) Slicing
  • Other cross-TSG Release 16 Features
  • NR-related Release 16 Features
  • Release 16 Features impacting both LTE and NR
  • LTE-related Release 16 Features

R16

From 3GPP’s July 18, 2019 Webinar:

webinar ran84 slide7

“For the (industry) verticals, there are three distinct pillars that we are focused on: Automotive, Industrial IoT and Operation in unlicensed bands. For 5G based V2X, which builds on the two iterations of the LTE-V2X, we are now adding advanced features – primarily in the area of low latency use cases.

The second focus is industrial IoT and URLLC enhancements. Factory automation, in particular, is a strong pillar for 5G going forward. We are trying to ensure that the radio side covers all of the functions that all the verticals need for factory automation. What this means in practice is that we are trying to make sure 5G NR can fully replace a wired ethernet – currently used – by adding time sensitive networking and high reliability capabilities.

The third pillar is operation in unlicensed bands. We have seen different schemes for generic 5G licensing strategies in Europe and in other parts of the World. We have seen in some countries that certain licensed bands have been allocated for vertical use cases, though that is not the case for a majority of countries. The use of unlicensed bands provides a great opportunity – where licensed spectrum is not an option. We are now focused on not only what we have with LTE, which is the licensed assisted access scheme, but also on standalone unlicensed operation – to be completed in Release 16.

Release 16 also delivers generic system improvements & enhancements, which target Mobile Broadband, but can also be used in vertical deployments – Particularly; positioning, MIMO enhancements and Power consumption improvements.”

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Technical Reports (the result of the study phase) are also being developed on broadening the applicability of 3GPP technology to non-terrestrial radio access (initially satellites, but airborne base stations are also to be considered) and to maritime aspects (intra-ship, ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship). Work also progresses on new PMR functionality for LTE, enhancing the railway-oriented services originally developed using GSM radio technology that is now nearing end of life.

As part of Release 16, Mission Critical (MC) services will be extended to address a wider business sector than the initial rather narrow public security and civil defense services for which they had originally been developed. If the same or similar standards can be used for commercial applications (from taxi dispatching to railway traffic management, and other vertical sector scenarios currently being investigated), this would bring enhanced reliability to those MC services through wider deployment, and reduced deployment costs due to economies of scale – to the benefit of all users.

In December 2018, an adjustment was agreed at TSGs#82 – to allow a 3 month shift in the Functional freeze (of features) and the ASN.1 completion for both Release 15 and Release 16:
2019 NR schedule late drop pic3

IMT-2020 – Final submission

Release 16 will be “5G phase 2” and will be completed in June 2020 (TSGs#88) – See adjustment noted above.
Original schedule:
 imt timeplan1
This Release will meet the ITU IMT-2020 submission requirements and the time-plan as outlined in RP-172101:
Details of the work plan – to meet agreed IMT-2020 submission time plan:
Step 1: From Sep 2017 to Dec 2017, discussions in RAN ITU-R Ad-Hoc
  • Calibration for self evaluation
  • Prepare and finalize initial description template information that is to be submitted to ITU-R WP 5D#29.

Step 2: From early 2018 to Sep 2018, targeting “update & self eval” submission in Sep 2018

  • Performance evaluation against eMBB, mMTC and URLLC requirements and test environments for NR and LTE features.
  • Update description template and prepare compliance template according to self evaluation results.
  • Provide description template, compliance template, and self evaluation results based on Rel-15 in Sep 2018.

Step 3: From Sep 2018 to June 2019, targeting “Final” submission in June 2019

  • Performance evaluation update by taking into account Rel-16 updates in addition to Rel-15
  • Update description template and compliance template to take into account Rel-16 updates in addition to Rel-15
  • Provide description template, compliance template, and self evaluation results based on Rel-15 and Rel-16 in June 2019.

Some Background on Release 16

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References:

https://www.3gpp.org/release-16

https://www.3gpp.org/news-events/2058-ran-rel-16-progress-and-rel-17-potential-work-areas

 

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Addendum (December 14, 2020):

RAN R17 schedule

https://www.3gpp.org/news-events/2098-5g-in-release-17-%E2%80%93-strong-radio-evolution

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