Cellular carriers would like to have their new 5G networks up by the end of 2018 or early 2019. One problem: they need a set of standards to create the new technology. Last weekend, tech representatives met and made significant first step for technology companies to start building out the necessary 5G chips and software.
In La Jolla, California, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) met for several days, hearing from various working groups. The group included representatives from Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei, chipmakers including Qualcomm and Intel, and device makers such as Apple and LG, domestic US carriers like AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile plus global carriers such as Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, China Unicom and China Mobile, according to Axios. In the end, they agreed to freeze the latest version, Release 15, allowing companies to begin work on actually testing and deploying 5G.
“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,” said Erik Guttman, chairman of 3GPP TSG SA in a statement. “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.”
Each generation of cellular technology (2G, 3G, 4G) has reflected the demands and needs of current technology and the consumers who will buy the devices based on the standards. 4G, for example, introduced LTE technology and allowed for simultaneously speaking on the phone while surfing the internet as well as streaming video. 5G promises even more multiplicity of functions and at faster speeds.
Hank Kafka, vice president, Access Architecture and Standards for AT&T told TVTechnology that “commercial 5G services are closer than ever with the completion of 3GPP Release 15. This milestone will allow for more advanced testing using standards-compliant equipment and paves the way for our commercial 5G launch in a dozen cities later this year. We are proud to have been part of the process as the industry participants in 3GPP came together to achieve the acceleration, and now completion, of the first phase of 5G specifications.”
The new standard will of course require new silicon transistors to re-route signals and reduce interference. These chips that switch lightning-fast will allow for 5G connectivity worldwide and facilitate the creation of advanced software capable of streaming multiple videos instantaneously and augmenting reality in real time. New features in 5G appeal beyond the traditional mobile phone needs.
Qualcomm’s Lorenzo Casaccia noted that where only cellular carriers and equipment makers had attended meetings in the past, now there is healthy interest in 5G within automotive, broadcasting, even city governments. “We have a general interest to expand 5G into new areas which means new business,” he told Axios. The increased interest also makes the work of setting standards more complicated.
Release 16, now under discussion, will start to build in specific-use cases such as the Internet of Things and broader applications like telemedicine and virtual reality.