Accelerating 5G NR, the race to a new air interface


Phew, that’s Mobile World Congress over for another year…a manic week - 108,000 attendees from 208 countries, 2,300 companies exhibiting and over 3,500 members of the press, spread over 9 halls and more outside - it was no surprise that I covered over 60,000 steps from Monday to Thursday!

But while MWC17 was in full flow in Barcelona, there were renewed calls for the 3GPP standards organisations to accelerate the decisions over 5G New Radio, to enable chip designers, infrastructure makers and operators get to market in 2020.

The original schedule would see 5G NR formally released by September 2018 (rel 15), not leaving a lot of time for development and deployment before the Tokyo Olympic games in 2020. 3GPP have been reluctant to shorten the specification process for fear that what is deployed falls short of expectation, but with so many companies promoting their 5G products last week, there is also concern 5G might become fragmented before it’s rolled out.

With all eyes on Dubrovnik, where the RAN#75 plenary session was in full flow, the question was ‘would they’ or ‘wouldn’t they’…on Friday 10th March, outgoing RAN Chairman of the 3GPP, Qualcomm’s Dino Flore announced ‘A major decision was taken this week in RAN [radio access networks] on the 5G new radio (NR) workplan. In particular, the group agreed to have an intermediate milestone for the early completion of the non-standalone (NSA) 5G NR mode”.  So, what has really changed for 5G NR? NSA 5G NR will enable large-scale trials and deployments starting in 2019.

What do "Non-Standalone" and "Standalone" really mean? That’s a whole new blog in that subject!

Nokia’s Balázs Bertényi, takes over from Dino Flore as the new RAN Chairman, ironically as Nokia were one of the few companies who did not push for the NR acceleration plan.

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