3GPP sets new timeline for next 5G specification, Release 17

3GPP, the global telecommunications standards body, agreed to a new extended timeline for the next 5G specification.

Known as Release 17, the schedule now anticipates completion in 2022, with a freeze in March 2022, followed by coding protocols frozen and stable in June 2022.

The new timeline was created working under the assumption that 3GPP can go back to meeting in-person in the second half of 2021, after having moved this year to virtual or e-meetings amid the global pandemic.

Release 17 completion dates were initially expected in 2021, but this past fall after being hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic 3GPP said it would make a firm decision with details on a tweaked timeline this month. The industry’s specifications body had already warned in July that Release 17 dates were at high risk of being delayed because of the switch to e-meetings.

RELATED: 3GPP Release 17 delayed; details set for December

The new dates, proposed by chairs of 3GPP’s Technical Specification Groups (TSG), were approved at last week’s meetings.

3GPP said that “delegates participating in both the actual e-meetings and discussions in-between meetings need more time to be able to comfortably and accurately consolidate the results of their work.”

They noted that the flow of specification contributions to the busiest groups can peak at more than 1,000 emails a day.

“With this revised timeline, the broader 5G industry can rely on an informed and well-considered schedule that takes into account the peculiar situation created by life during a pandemic,” wrote 3GPP in a Monday update.

3GPP also said that it allows groups to switch priorities to exciting features of the next 5G NR spec.

RELATED: 3GPP completes latest 5G NR spec with Release 16

Some key features for Release 17 include ultra reliable low latency communications (URLLC) for industrial IoT, integrated access and backhaul (IAB), radio access network slicing for NR, NR sidelink, and support for multi-SIM devices for LTE/NR.

The standards process is already a complicated one exacerbated by the pandemic, and 3GPP had to tweak those after it canceled face-to-face meetings starting in the first quarter of 2020.  

Release 16 was completed this past summer, after also having been delayed because of the new working environment.

At its March 2021 meetings, 3GPP members will consider whether they can go back to in-person meetings as soon as possible in the second half of the year.