The official introduction of 5G is set for 2020, but a number of global mobile industry giants today declared their support for the acceleration of 5G New Radio (5G NR) standardization to enable large scale trials and the deployment of the technology in 2019.
This comes just a day before the opening of Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, Spain; and they chose the venue of the conference to make the declaration.
The mobile operators and their technology partners in this noble course include Vodafone, Huawei, Ericsson, AT&T, NTT DOCOMO INC., SK Telecom, Qualcomm Technologies Inc., British Telecom, Telstra, Korea Telecom, Intel, LG Uplus, KDDI, LG Electronics, Telia Company, Swisscom, TIM, Etisalat Group, Sprint, Vivo, ZTE and Deutsche Telekom.
The contingent will support a corresponding work plan proposal for the first phase of the 5G NR specification at the next 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project) RAN Plenary Meeting, slated for March 6-9 in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Based on the current 3GPP timelines, the earliest 5G NR deployments based on standard-compliant 5G NR infrastructure and devices will likely not be possible until 2020.
But the new proposal introduces an intermediate milestone to complete specification documents related to a configuration called Non-Standalone 5G NR to enable large-scale trials and deployments starting in 2019.
"Non-Standalone 5G NR will utilize 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 group said in a statement.
The supporting companies are further committed to making forward compatibility a key design principle for the standardization of the first release of 5G NR. This will enable in-band introduction of new capabilities and features in subsequent releases critical to enabling yet to be identified industries and use cases and achieving the 5G vision to connect everything to everything.
The proposal is consistent with 3GPP's commitment to enabling a flexible evolution and inter-working of the radio access network towards 5G NR and the evolution of the core network towards the 5G System.
As proven by the broad industry support, this proposal delivers the ability to address the increasing global demand for enhanced mobile broadband services with 5G NR in 2019, while continuing to address the broader vision for 5G NR in 2020 and beyond.
Head of Research and Development and Strategy at Vodafone Group, Luke Ibbetson said: "Standardisation of the New Radio interface will be critical to the successful development of 5G over the coming years. As the industry starts to design and test a new generation of services and applications, a common global standard for the underlying mobile technology will allow innovation to flourish and help us achieve economies of scale."
"5G will usher in an era of deep convergence between telecom and vertical industries, meaning 5G standards will apply to multiple scenarios and enable the digital transformation of multiple industries," Yang Chaobin, President of Huawei 5G said:
He added that "We need to define a Future-Proof 5G architecture which combining innovative achievements from various industries, to meet the requirements of numerous applications step by step and then to ensure the strategic vision and leading capabilities of 5G."
Senior Vice President and Head of Business Unit Network Products at Ericsson, Arun Bansal also said "The faster we commercialize 5G based on 3GPP specifications, the faster we will realize its benefits for the entire industry. We are thrilled to participate in this initiative to accelerate the 5G ecosystem and commercial deployment."
Senior Vice President of for a Wireless Network Architecture at AT&T, Tom Keathley, "Our focus is on prioritizing important specifications in the standards to bring 5G to market as quickly as possible…These accelerated decisions on key components of 5G New Radio standards will allow an earlier start on the development of the infrastructure and devices of tomorrow's 5G deployments."
Executive Vice President of Qualcomm Technologies Cristiano Amon said "5G NR technologies will be critical to meet the ever-increasing connectivity requirements for emerging mobile broadband experiences such as virtual reality, augmented reality and connected cloud computing, and we are already seeing the need to bring these technologies to devices globally sooner rather than later. There is great value in accelerating the timeline to commercialization while maintaining the global scale through the proper standardization process in 3GPP."
The other partners expressed similar sentiments to buttress their support for the acceleration of standards to expedite the introduction of 5G on a large scale and year ahead of schedule.