Early Version of 5G NR Spec is Just One Piece in the 5G Puzzle

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Saturday, March 11, 2017 with No comments

At its RAN Plenary meeting this week, the 3GPP gave the go-ahead to a proposal for an early NonStandAlone (NSA) version of the 5G New Radio specification, The Mobile Network reported

The early version of 5GNR allows "vendors and operators interested in getting to market earlier to do so with a version of 5G radio that roots core control in the existing LTE EPC," The Mobile Network noted in its report.

While opponents of the proposal expressed concern that adopting an intermediary 5G standard might lead to incompatibility with the final specification and not take into account 5G core architecture, TMN said 3GPP's approval was pretty much a foregone conclusion and may not make much of a difference in the timeframe of 5G standardization and deployment. 

"After all, the eventual June 2018 5GNR deadline is still the same, and even with the NSA acceleration its December 2017 spec will be perhaps more of a semi-freeze than a permafrost – as it will allow for some change requests after that date," TMN noted, concluding that adoption of the interim standard "merely puts in writing the implied Release 15 schedule that was needed all along to meet the full completion of the Release 15 specification in time."
Of course, operators have been moving toward 5G for a while now, standards or no, and they're making good progress. For example, Comcast recently declared that its network footprint is ready to handle 5G backhaul deployments and Verizon said it's a third of the way through its virtualization efforts and expects to roll out mobile 5G deployments in late 2019 following live fixed trials in selected markets.

Still, it has to be acknowledged that evolving toward 5G is no easy feat, requiring nothing less than a massive network transformation, to steal a phrase from another recent TMN article that explored the best way to support operators with the data they need to assure 5G customer experiences. 

Assuring 5G networks means addressing stringent latency and throughput requirements, and providing a real-time view of both the immediate nature of network fabric and longer-term trends, TMN said in the article. 

In an article by Dan Meyer, RCR Wireless News put the task of 5G development another way: that it requires "a complete software- and cloud-based reorganization of how telecom networks are constructed and operated" to meet Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G demands. 

From a practical standpoint, Meyer said in the article, that basically boils down to the challenges of latency and sustainable business models. Meeting latency requirements means bolstering existing central data centers with edge computing. And, telcos must adopt new business models and ways of thinking, like embracing open source platforms to drive down costs and increase efficiency. 

How do you see the standardization and roll-out of 5G playing out? Drop a comment below. 

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