3GPP leader weighs-in on 5G standard compatibility questions

Addressing concerns around interoperability and deployment timelines that have been trickling through the industry of late, the chairman of 3GPP’s TSG RAN Balazs Bertenyi published a blog post detailing the impact of a change in the delivery schedule for 5G specifications.

Bertenyi made clear: “This shift does not in any way impact the first 5G deployments. The compatibility of devices and networks used for the first deployments are not impacted.”

So why did this issue require clarification?

3GPP recently made a number of corrections–essentially fixing bugs–in the standalone 5G New radio specification that was frozen in September.

At a plenary meeting last week in Sorrento, Italy, 3GPP members agreed to put a freeze on additional migration architectures for 5G NR in June next year.

Bertenyi explained, “3GPP RAN has put extreme focus on ensuring the stability and compatibility of these specification that are to be used for the first 5G deployments. As a consequence, work on components for the ‘late drop’ that address additional architecture options to aid migration from LTE to 5G have been slightly delayed. Hence the freeze schedule for the Release 15 late drop was shifted by 3 months.”

AT&T plans to deliver a standards-based mobile 5G service in a dozen U.S. markets by the end of this year. Verizon is already in market with a fixed wireless access residential broadband service based on its Verizon Technical Forum specification, although that will be upgraded to 5G NR and the carrier will also activate mobile 5G early next year. Sprint and T-Mobile US both have independent plans for 5G, as well as a strategy for delivering next-generation cellular as a combined company pending regulatory approval of a merger.

Prakash Sagnam, founder and principal at Tantra Analyst LLC., provided helpful background on how the 3GPP standardization process works and called out why there was so much industry interest in this relatively minor matter.

“Thanks to all the attention,” Sagnam wrote in RCR Wireless News, “even these small steps make the 5G industry participants jittery, and their anxiety is understandable. It’s not often that you accelerate the standardization of a major technology transition by more than a year! I am sure many are still skeptics and dumbfounded looking at the breakneck pace at which 5G commercialization is progressing, and getting concerned even for smallest of reasons.”

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