Current Status of 5G in 3GPP and ‘Real’ Timelines

We are very close to calling LTE a legacy technology as the 3GPP ‘circus’ is not only moving from town to town but also full steam ahead on the new radio access (“New Radio”) and core network (“Next Generation Core Network”) specification process. Many players are publishing whitepapers these days about New Radio and the content has started to align in many technical details so the picture of how the new air interface will look like is becoming clearer. There are claims in the press that first operators will start deploying pre-standard 5G networks in the 2018/19 timeframe, but is that really realistic?

Good examples of this alignment of how the 5G air interface will look like are this Qualcomm presentation and the chapter on 5G radio concepts in “4G, LTE-Advanced Pro and The Road to 5G” by Dahlman, Parkvall and Skold who are working for Ericsson. But alignment doesn’t mean ready specifications. When you look at the meeting minutes of recent 3GPP RAN1-3 meetings it’s clear that things are still in the concept phase and 3GPP is still working on Technical Report (TR) documents and not Technical Specification (TS) documents. For the current status have a look at 3GPP’s 38-series and download the latest documents from here. For meeting documents and reports (meeting minutes) have a look here. While many details are now being minuted as being agreed on, the ‘conclusion’ sections in the TRs are not yet there so we are still quite a bit away from work starting on the specification documents that companies can put into hardware and software.

Stepping back from the details as I close this post I can recommend Dean Bubley’s recent post on “A realistic 5G view: Timelines, Standards & Politics”,