Today the 3GPP TSG RAN Plenary Meeting in Lisbon completed the first implementable 5G NR specification, and baseband chips are now on their own accelerated path to hit the market before July.
AT&T, BT, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Huawei, Intel, KT Corporation, LG Electronics, LG Uplus, MediaTek Inc., NEC Corporation, Nokia, NTT DOCOMO, Orange, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., Samsung Electronics, SK Telecom, Sony Mobile Communications Inc., Sprint, TIM, Telefonica, Telia Company, T-Mobile USA, Verizon, Vodafone, and ZTE have all made a statement that the completion of the first 5G NR standard has set the stage for the global mobile industry to start full-scale development of 5G NR for large-scale trials and commercial deployments as early as in 2019.
This standard completion is an essential milestone to enable cost-effective and full-scale development of 5G NR, which will enhance the capabilities of 3GPP systems, as well as facilitate the creation of vertical market opportunities. 3GPP plans to continue to develop Release 15, including the addition of support for Standalone 5G NR operation also agreed upon by 3GPP in Dubrovnik. The 5G NR lower layer specifications have been designed so that they can support Standalone and Non-Standalone 5G NR operation in a unified way, to ensure that 3GPP benefits the global industry with a large-scale single 5G NR ecosystem.
Qualcomm and Ericsson announced today they already have tested the final spec in their labs running on handsets and base stations using FPGAs.
The current 3GPP spec enables 5G connections over today's LTE core networks that carriers are expected to offer as commercial services in 2019. The 3GPP aims to deliver next fall a spec for 5G core networks enabling so-called standalone 5G links.
In separate announcements, Intel and Qualcomm have discussed their plans for their competing 5G baseband chips for smartphones.
Qualcomm ships about half of the client-side LTE basebands today, followed by Samsung and Mediatek. Intel has been leaping up from far behind in the rankings thanks to its design wins in the latest Apple iPhones.
The 5G baseband vendors are expcted to differentiate their chips, in part, by the numbers of global frequency bands and receive/transmit antennas they support as well as their latency, throughput and energy efficiency.
Looking ahead, Release 16 is expected to enable next-generation modems supporting shared licensed/unlicensed spectrum, ultra-low latency links and a capability for base stations to talk with each other to coordinate their efforts.
In U.S and Sweden labs earlier this month, Qualcomm and Ericsson tested the Release 15 spec over 3.5 and 28 GHz bands.
Last month, China Mobile lab used a prototype base station from China's ZTE. Qualcomm has announced plans to test its prototype baseband with Nokia's base stations.