A contingent of mobile communications companies announced their collective support for the acceleration of the 5G New Radio (NR) standardization schedule to enable large-scale trials and deployments as early as 2019. AT&T, NTT DOCOMO, INC., SK Telecom, Vodafone, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., British Telecom, Telstra, Korea Telecom, Intel, LG Uplus, KDDI, LG Electronics, Telia Company, Swisscom, TIM, Etisalat Group, Huawei, Sprint, Vivo, ZTE and Deutsche Telekom will support a corresponding work plan proposal for the first phase of the 5G NR specification at the next 3GPP RAN Plenary Meeting on March 6-9 in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
The first 3GPP 5G NR specification will be part of Release 15 – the global 5G standard that will make use of both sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum bands. Based on the current 3GPP Release 15 timeline the earliest 5G NR deployments based on standard-compliant 5G NR infrastructure and devices will likely not be possible until 2020. Instead, the new proposal introduces an intermediate milestone to complete specification documents related to a configuration called Non-Standalone 5G NR to enable large-scale trials and deployments starting in 2019. Non-Standalone 5G NR will utilize the existing LTE radio and evolved packet core network as an anchor for mobility management and coverage while adding a new 5G radio access carrier to enable certain 5G use cases starting in 2019. The new proposal and the intermediate milestone also re-affirm and solidify the schedule for the complete standard, including Standalone 5G NR in Release 15.