For the 5G ecosystem and infrastructure to be as ubiquitous and effective as the world would like it to be, it will need to have all platforms and technologies as tightly integrated as possible. That means that independently developed technologies, such as Wi-Fi, will have to be coupled into the main core of 5G. There are others, but Wi-Fi serves as a good example because it is pervasive, mainstream and well understood. And it can serve as a model for other emerging or even established platforms.
The rush to push 5G out has had a detrimental effect on a variety of elements. One casualty was the failed effort between the IEEE and the 3GPP to weave Wi-Fi into the core of 5G. Being the suspicious type, (and a senior/life member of the IEEE) I think the cellular industry had something to do with this.
Knowing the IEEE as well as I do, I know they do not have ulterior motives or hidden agendas when it comes to technology. The IEEE’s purpose is, simply, to make the technology the best it can be. It works very diligently to put the best standards out there and their bottom line is to advance technology.
That said I believe the cellular industry had put pressure on the 3GPP in their talks with the IEEE. Why? Because the cellular industry wants the unlicensed space for their own use. Cellular operators have never been fans of Wi-Fi, and only got on board because finally figured out there is money to be made in unlicensed – if not directly, indirectly, by tying free, unlicensed platforms to paid services they offer. (Examples exist, but discussion of that is too lengthy here. A web search can turn up a number of discussions about this).
While not related to Wi-Fi, a similar case existed with autonomous vehicles. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) had just about become the standard until the cellular industry got wind of the fact that there was money to be made in this arena (read my missive about this here.) They came out with C-V2X because they realized it is another opportunity to monetize cellular frequencies. There really is no good reason for C-V2X to exist, other than, perhaps, a backup system. However, the two are not compatible so that point is, somewhat, moot.
The Wi-Fi 3GPP game smells a lot like this to me. Wi-Fi has moved ahead of 3GPP in the commercial millimeter wave space, and it is host-neutral. The cellular players never liked the neutral host concept but were forced to accept it.
The main driver for the failed talks has to do with the fact that the cellular industry wants the unlicensed spectrum – pure and simple. There is an interesting, although a bit dated, discussion around the basic issues from Maravedis; however, the fundamental issues remain fairly consistent.
I get that the cellular industry has the primary infrastructure for the mobile segment of 5G. And there is no doubt that they will be the major player in the 5G ecosystem. However, independent platforms such as Wi-Fi are part of the 5G ecosystem and should not be treated as redheaded stepchildren.
The cellular operators have a history of breaking bad. They have been fined, repeatedly, for nefarious activities. And they do not seem to learn. However, 5G is much too important of a paradigm shift to let greed dictate policy.
The 3GPP players need to go back to the IEEE and listen to what they have to say about building core competencies, for all technologies, not just Wi-Fi, into this next wireless ecosystem.
Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology
His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, Lucent Technologies, , Qwest, City and County of Denver, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics. His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner. He is a senior/life member of the IEEE, the Press Liaison for the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society and a member of the IEEE Communications Society, IEEE MTT Society, IEEE Vehicular Technology Society and the IEEE 5G Community. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio. Ernest Worthman may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com
The 3GPP has approved the completion of the standalone (SA) Release 15, 5G specifications. After the release of the 5G NR specifications for non-standalone (NSA) operation in Dec. 2017, another essential step of standardization of 5G has been successfully completed.
Now, the whole industry is taking the final sprint towards 5G commercialization. The completion of SA specifications which complements the NSA specifications, not only gives 5G NR the ability of independent deployment, but also brings a brand new end-to-end network architecture, making 5G a facilitator and an accelerator during the intelligent information and communications technology improvement process of enterprise customers and vertical industries. New business models will be enabled and a new era where everything is interconnected will be opened up for both mobile operators and industrial partners.
More than 600 delegates from the world’s major telecom operators, network, terminals and chipset vendors, internet companies and other vertical industry companies have witnessed this historic moment for 5G.
Balázs Bertényi, Chairman of 3GPP TSG RAN, said: “The freeze of Standalone 5G NR radio specifications represents a major milestone in the quest of the wireless industry towards realizing the holistic 5G vision. 5G NR Standalone systems not only dramatically increase the mobile broadband speeds and capacity, but also open the door for new industries beyond telecommunications that are looking to revolutionize their ecosystem through 5G.”
Erik Guttman, Chairman of 3GPP TSG SA, said, “The agreed completion of the stage 3 freeze milestone for the 5G standalone system has great significance. The 5G System specification has now reached its official stage of completion, thanks to the intense efforts of hundreds of engineers over the past three years. A special acknowledgment is due to those who led this remarkable effort in diverse committees. 5G promises a broad expansion of telecommunications, as an ever more central component of our economies, societies and individual activities.
“The 5G System opens the way for commercialization of services based on the New Radio and 5G Core Network and their advanced extensible capabilities. The new system provides the foundation for ongoing specialization for support of new business sectors, for unlike 4G and past generations, 5G supports the very specific requirements and individual service characteristics of diverse communications. Already, 3GPP activities have begun to leverage the 5G system to realize opportunities in areas such as industrial automation. This activity will intensify in the months and years to come, in increasingly many sectors, all on the foundation of the work that has been achieved on this occasion,” Guttman said.
Georg Mayer, Chairman of 3GPP TSG CT, said: “Two years ago, 5G was seen as a vision or even just a hype – with the closing of Rel-15 3GPP has made 5G a reality within a very short time. The outcome is an amazing set of standards that will not only provide higher data rates and bandwidth to end customers but which is open and flexible enough to satisfy the communication needs of different industries — 5G will be the integration platform for heterogeneous businesses. All this could only be achieved thanks to the willingness of the stakeholders to work together on a common goal and due to the effectiveness of 3GPPs structure and processes. Rel-15 only marks the first step of the 5G story and 3GPP will further develop it into the future, aligning it to the needs of customers and industries.”
It is firmly believed by the whole industry that, after 34 months of hard and efficient work, the carefully crafted and elaborately designed 5G specifications, a fruit of close collaborations and collective wisdom, will surely meet the high expectations.
A couple of issues ago I had discussed some of the hype and reality of 5G. One of the topics was pulling up the new radio (NR) specifications release date. I want to drill down a bit more on that. If you were at the Mobile World Congress, the hype made you think that 5G was the panacea for everything, and the perfect solution for the future. OK, I get that. There is a lot riding on that. If one believes some of the hype, it will be the most revolutionary technological leap in modern history. Nevertheless, so far, as I have said more than once, it is still blue sky in all but test and lab scenarios.
What we are talking about is something called the non-standalone specification. Let’s talk about that for a minute. The term that is getting thrown around a lot, and somewhat sneakily trying to masquerade as a 5G standard, is called the non-standard new radio (NS-NR for this conversation) specification. But the reality is that this NS-NR is really based on knowledge of 4G use cases, extrapolating them to 5G.
It is not THE 5G standard, which implies full user and control plane capabilities for 5G NR. The NS-NR specification is simply a platform that will run over existing LTE frequencies as an enhanced Mobile Broad Band (eMBB) overlay. In NS mode, the connection is anchored in LTE using 5G NR carriers to boost data-rates and reduce latency. Essentially, NS-NR is a bit of a beta Platform.
The final specification isn’t expected until late 2018, but that assumes everything goes as planned with the NS-NR specification as well as a number of other elements. With all the pressure to hit the deadlines, my concern is that the specification may end up missing, or compromising some KPIs.
Qualcomm is one of the most vocal proponents of NS-NR. They have a lot riding on it. In fact, they are one of the first out the gate with a “5G” product. However, what exactly is the difference between the non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) technologies? Well, here is how Qualcomm spins it.
Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G NR technology will utilize the existing LTE radio and core network as an anchor for mobility management and coverage while adding a new 5G carrier. This is the configuration that will be the target of early 2019 deployments (in 3GPP terminology, this is NSA 5G NR deployment scenario Option 3).
Standalone (SA) 5G NR technology implies full user and control plane capability for 5G NR, utilizing the new 5G core network architecture also being done in 3GPP.
So, it is difficult to find out what, exactly, the technical specs of NSA are but they are supposed to utilize eMBB, which is defined as a key part of 3GPP 5G SMARTER (Services and Markets Technology Enablers). eMBB is a broad platform that forms the underpinnings of 5G. Things like:
· Bandwidth (100 megahertz bandwidth below 6 GHz; 800 MHz to 2 GHz bandwidth above 6 GHz)
· mmWave frequencies (candidate bands: ~28 GHz, ~39 GHz, ~70 GHz) for high data rate applications, edge computing and small networks of various types
· Highly directional beamforming antennas and MIMO
· New signal waveforms (Scalable OFDM)
· Latency (1millisecond down to a nanosecond eventually)
· And more
So bits and pieces eMMB are showing up in NS-NR. I guess it can be used as a platform to see if and how devices can meet the eMBB bounds; that is a good thing.
But please, we all know there is a lot at stake. 5G will be a composition of many different platforms. In the past, this industry has not always played nice amongst themselves.
We are no strangers to the mobile industry’s habit of developing a new radio standard, with vendors and carriers jockeying for position, pushing the new-standard hype machine into overdrive. This has happened every time in the cellular ecosystem as cellular standards went from 2G to 4G. Today, we are witnessing it in LTE, mmWave, unlicensed and more.
First, the 40+ companies that are part of the NS-NR group give cause for hope. But there are also some important players missing who should be on board; notably Nokia and Orange, and, to a lesser degree, Apple and Google. There are others, as well. That is a bit of a red flag.
Second, there are many ways to describe the current state of the state, but the best one I have yet heard is what a contemporaty of mine penned, “the companies who support the NS-NR are calling the tune before the band is assembled” – aptly put!
I still think this has a ways to go. It looks good on paper, but as I said earlier, what exists is not real world and is very sparse. Lots of deals being made for trials but not much of that has started yet.
I believe 5G should start small, make sure it works and let it mature smartly. There is plenty of business to go around. After all, making what promises to be the biggest global technological leap isn’t something that should be rushed into.
Ernest Worthman is the Executive Editor of Applied Wireless Technology magazine. A Life Member of the IEEE, his 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, and others.
The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) global wireless standards body has approved specifications that will enable the development of devices and infrastructure in Band 70, which combines DISH’s current AWS-4 spectrum as downlink (2000-2020 MHz), DISH’s H block downlink spectrum (1995-2000 MHz), and unpaired AWS-3 uplink spectrum (1695-1710 MHz).
“Band 70 packages what would otherwise be underutilized spectrum, paving the way for an ecosystem to better serve consumer demands for downlink,” said Tom Cullen, DISH executive vice president of Corporate Development.
DISH and the entities in which it has invested have on average almost 80 MHz of spectrum nationwide, covering over 23 billion MHz-POPs.