3GPP declares first 5G NR spec complete

As expected, members of the 3GPP ratified the Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G New Radio (NR) specification for what will form the basis of commercial 5G products, capping off months of meetings and work to get consensus.

The industry agreed earlier this year to accelerate the timeline so that at least part of the 5G standards work would be complete by the end of this year rather than having it all come due next summer. While some folks were skeptical about getting all the work done by now, many industry leaders were confident it would get done since most of the nitty-gritty details were worked out in working group meetings before the plenary this week. The ratification took place at a RAN plenary meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, with the first reports surfacing on Twitter.

3GPP will publish the specifications this week, and those specifications are what vendors will build off of, according to Matt Branda, director of technical marketing at Qualcomm. “This is really the step that enables vendors to start building equipment off of,” he told FierceWirelessTech.

The specifications reportedly cover support for low-, mid- and high-band spectrum, from below 1 GHz, like 600 and 700 MHz, all the way up to around 50 GHz, and include the 3.5 GHz band.

The Standalone (SA) version is due for completion in June 2018, defining the full user and control plane capability for 5G NR using the new 5G core network architecture also being done in 3GPP. Both the NSA and SA versions share physical radio air interface aspects. 

RELATED: Controversial plan to accelerate 5G NR timeline gets OK in 3GPP

AT&T was among those who were pushing for the accelerated standards work earlier this year.

“It was extremely aggressive and people put in an awful lot of extra time and effort and it looks like we’ve made it,” Dave Wolter, AVP of Radio Technology and Strategy at AT&T Labs, told FierceWirelessTech earlier this week. “We believe we’re at a point where silicon manufacturers can begin their designs and start developing silicon.”

At a plenary meeting in Japan in September, the decision was made to put some study items on hold in order to meet the December deadline, but those items are due to be dealt with in the first half of 2018, so it doesn’t sound like they’re going to get too much of a break after the holidays. Some of the items left on the drawing table are nonorthogonal multiple access, unlicensed spectrum for NR, nonterrestrial network (channel modeling), eV2X evaluation methodology, and integrated access and backhaul.