5G New Radio trials gain momentum as more operators join

Several telecom operators announced support for trials and deployments of 5G New Radio (NR) as early as 2019.

AT&T, NTT Docomo, SK Telecom, Vodafone, British Telecom, Telstra, Korea Telecom, LG Uplus, KDDI, Telia Company, Swisscom, TIM, Etisalat, Sprint and Deutsche Telekom will support a work proposal for the first phase of the 5G NR specification at the next 3GPP RAN Plenary Meeting on March 6-9 in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Technology majors Ericsson, Qualcomm, Intel, LG Electronics, Huawei, Vivo and ZTE are part of the group that supports the 5G New Radio (NR) deployment. Finland-based Nokia, the major rival of Ericsson, is not part of the announcement.

“The faster we commercialize 5G based on 3GPP specifications, the faster we will realize its benefits for the entire industry,” said Arun Bansal, head of Business Unit Network Products.

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The first 3GPP 5G NR specification will be part of Release 15 – the global 5G standard that will make use of both sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum bands. Based on the current 3GPP Release 15 timeline the earliest 5G NR deployments based on standard-compliant 5G NR infrastructure and devices will likely not be possible until 2020.

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 new proposal and the intermediate milestone also re-affirm and solidify the schedule for the complete standard, including Standalone 5G NR in Release 15.

The supporting companies are committed to make 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 enable 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.

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.

Tom Keathley, senior vice president- wireless network architecture and design, AT&T

Our focus is on prioritizing important specifications in the standards to bring 5G to market as quickly as possible. In the process of defining any standard, it is normal to make some decisions earlier than others. 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.

Seizo Onoe, executive vice president and chief technology officer, NTT Docomo

5G is the key enabler to create new business opportunities across industries. DOCOMO plans a commercial launch with Non-Standalone 5G NR by 2020. Acceleration of the standardization schedule will facilitate early implementation of the standard-compliant 5G NR.

Park Jin-hyo, head of Network Technology R&D Center, SK Telecom

As the demand for 5G commercialization is rapidly increasing, it is crucial to complete 5G standardization in time. 3GPP NR is the global 5G standard and we are making continuous efforts to accelerate 3GPP NR standardization with partners.

Luke Ibbetson, head of research and development and strategy, Vodafone Group

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.

Howard Watson, CEO BT TSO

By accelerating the creation of the new radio interface we will be able to enable the 5G experience for customers sooner driving our purpose of using communications to make a better world.

Mike Wright, Telstra’s Group Managing Director Networks

Telstra is committed to the benefits of industry standardization and the development of this intermediate milestone for 5G NR would allow the benefits of early launch of 5G in the 2019 timeline following extensive pre-5G testing planned by Telstra during 2018.

YongGyoo Lee, senior vice president – Network Strategy, Korea Telecom

KT views that Non-Standalone and Standalone modes are equally important for the sake of completeness of the Standard Specification. However, we believe that early introduction of 5G network, compensated by already-prevailing LTE coverage, is a reasonable approach for the operators when taking the ROI factors into the consideration, and it justifies the slight preference for NSA mode in terms of priority

Yoshiaki Uchida, managing executive officer, Technology Sector, KDDI Corporation

KDDI is targeting to start 5G services in 2020, which mandates early completion of NR specification.

Mauro Costa, director, Network Architecture & Strategy, Telia Company

A global standard is a fundamental pre-requisite to make 5G a success and open up for innovation and new business opportunities. Considering the large and increasing 5G interest from our customers, we see a strong need to have the standard to progress fast and complete on time. The acceleration of the 3GPP NR standard is an essential step in this direction.

Daniel Staub, head of Joint Mobile Group, Swisscom and in charge of the 5G implementation

Swisscom wants to get 5G early. Swisscom is committed to standards. A proprietary or close-to-standard implementation is not of interest to Swisscom. Swisscom is supporting 5G NR acceleration to always provide the best experience on the best network to our customers.

Hatam Bamatraf, chief technology officer, Etisalat Group

A standard will have a positive impact on efficiency and the quality of the services we can deliver to our customers. Being part of this collective effort from the industry to take forward 5G NR, reflects Etisalat Group’s open approach to partnership and our focus on innovation.

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CTO of Deutsche Telekom

The early availability of standards will enable smooth evolution paths towards the next generation of communications, provide the basis for extensive pre-testing activities and generate confidence in the benefits and potential of the new technology for the entire industry.

Note: The infographics is from Viavi Solutions