Verizon rejects AT&T-led effort to speed up release of parts of 5G standard

A Verizon-led group of companies rejected a proposal by AT&T and other companies to finalize parts of the 5G standard earlier than initially scheduled.

Specifically, AT&T and its supporters proposed during a recent 3GPP meeting that select parts of the 3GPP’s Release 15 standard, including the “non-standalone” version of 5G, be completed in December 2017 – roughly six months earlier than the 3GPP had initially scheduled. However, Verizon and other opponents to the proposal managed to reject it, thus keeping the June 2018 completion date intact.

“Verizon, along with several other companies, countered the proposal to complete SA [stand-alone] and NSA [non stand-alone] options simultaneously – noting that in order to effectively define a non-standalone option which can then migrate to a standalone, a complete study standalone would be required to derisk the migration,” Verizon said in a statement to FierceWireless. “It is also noteworthy that the agreement reached by 3GPP in June was important to ensure that both non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) be completed in a timeline that would avoid two phases of Release 14. There were no significant changes between June and September that justified revisiting the agreed June schedule.”

Added Verizon: “After discussion, the proposal to accelerate only the NSA option was dropped and 3GPP agreed to keep to the schedule previously agreed upon during the June meeting.”

An AT&T representative did not respond to questions from FierceWireless on the proposal.

The 3GPP’s 5G standard is currently being developed in two flavors: SA and NSA. The NSA option would essentially lean on an existing LTE network, using it as a control plane anchor. The SA version would require the 5G NR (new radio) to assume full control plane capability.

“From what I recall about the meeting, VZ’s view about needing a new study item to do NSA first didn’t come up during the debate. Instead, the disagreement from them, Samsung, ZTE and others (Deutsche Telecom, France Telecom, TIM, etc.) centered on the concern that 3GPP would be perceived as deprioritizing the SA option or that the SA option wouldn’t get the attention it deserves so the work wouldn’t get done by June,” wrote Michael Thelander, president and founder of research firm Signals Research Group, in an email to FierceWireless

Thelander attended the 3GPP’s RAN #73 Plenary meeting in New Orleans in September, where the debate between Verizon and AT&T took place. “Additionally, VZ and others argued that completing the proposed NSA option in December 2017 suggests that the Physical Layer would need to be done in September and this would be too fast.”

Added Thelander: “In any event, VZ is right that it is important to ensure we have smooth migrations from LTE to 5G / NR and within all of the architecture options that exist.”

Verizon’s position on the topic is noteworthy considering the company has stated that it wants to be the first U.S. company to roll out 5G services. Verizon has already conducted a number of 5G technology tests, and has said that it plans to launch a commercial fixed 5G service sometime next year. “We're going to lead on 5G and we're probably going to lead on 6G whenever that comes,” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said earlier this year.

Carriers across the globe are keen to upgrade to 5G network technology, which generally is expected to run in higher spectrum bands to provide super-fast speeds and low latency.

Article updated Oct. 24 to clarify Thelander's comments.