Leading mobile operators and equipment vendors have announced plans to accelerate the roll-out of 5G, proposing an intermediary standard to allow large-scale deployments already in 2019. A work plan will be unveiled at a meeting in early March.
Under the current schedule, the 5G New Radio specifications from 3GPP are not expected to be ready until late 2019, under Release 15. This means standards-based network deployments could not happen until 2020 (pre-standards networks will launch already later this year).
The new proposal introduces an intermediate milestone to complete specifications for a configuration called Non-Standalone 5G NR to enable large-scale trials and deployments starting in 2019. Non-Standalone 5G NR will use the existing LTE radio and evolved packet core network as an anchor for mobility management and coverage while adding a new 5G radio access carrier to enable certain 5G use cases starting in 2019. The complete standard, including Standalone 5G NR, would still be part of the Release 15 schedule.
The proposal is supported by a wide range of market players, including AT&T, NTT Docomo, SK Telecom, Vodafone, Ericsson, Qualcomm, BT, Telstra, Korea Telecom, Intel, LG Uplus, KDDI, LG Electronics, Telia, Swisscom, TIM, Etisalat, Huawei, Sprint, Vivo, ZTE and Deutsche Telekom. They will propose a corresponding work plan for the first phase of the 5G NR specification at the next 3GPP RAN Plenary Meeting on 6-9 March in Croatia. The supporting companies said their proposal will make forward compatibility a key design principle for the standardization of the first release of 5G NR.