Nokia and Ericsson push 5G ahead of standards agreement
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:

​Ericsson and Nokia are forging ahead with 5G and 5G ready products despite 3GPP Release-15, which will include the first set of 5G specifications, being scheduled to be frozen in September 2018. However, a 3GPP spokesperson told Land Mobile that it is not unusual for the vendors that are heavily involved in the standards-making process to anticipate the features that will appear in releases and add them to new products prior to the releases being frozen. He added that much of the groundwork for the 5G features being developed in Release 15 will be handled in Release 14.

Ericsson is forging ahead to commercialise the world's first 5G New Radio (NR), the AIR 6468, for massive MIMO, with the first deployments coming in 2017. Together with the Ericsson 5G Plug-Ins announced in June and Ericsson's already commercially available Radio System Baseband 5216, which currently powers Ericsson's Radio Test Bed, Ericsson is first to deliver all components of a 5G access network.

“There is quite a large pull from some operators on being early out in deploying 5G technologies, with some trials and early deployments targeting some specific use cases,” Håkan Andersson, 5G project manager, Ericsson explained. “These could provide good input for validating specific 5G technologies and use cases, supporting decisions in 3GPP, and eventually accelerating the ecosystem support for 5G. The benefit of a globally aligned 5G standard from 3GPP is very well recognised, and will provide the basis for large scale, global deployments.”

Andersson confirmed that forward compatibility is one of the key components to support both the different phases of 5G in 3GPP, as well as to allow for future technology components to be added, as these mature, in future releases of the 3GPP 5G standard. “Ericsson is a keen supporter of 3GPP for such an approach, he added. “There has already been some key agreements in 3GPP for the 5G physical layers, such as modulation and carrier spacing, that has allowed us to start development of NR radio products and have a good view of the technology challenges NR will bring. Ericsson has already developed a programmable baseband platform that we see being capable to also allow for implementing the protocols of the anticipated 3GPP 5G standard.”

AIR 6468 combines advanced antennas with a large number of steerable ports to enable 5G technologies of beamforming, Massive MIMO and, building on that, Multi-user MIMO (MU-MIMO). These capabilities improve user experience while enhancing the capacity and coverage of the network and reducing interference. The new radio provides LTE support as well, so it is applicable in today's networks.

A host of new additions to the Ericsson Radio System are also coming that address key 5G requirements in today's networks.

Meanwhile Nokia is to introduce 4.5G Pro, an advanced mobile technology that will deliver the significant capacity and speed enhancements needed by operators as they build towards next-generation networks, including meeting the demands of ultra-connected megacities. Nokia has also outlined its plans for 4.9G, which will allow users to maintain a continuous 5G service experience using an evolved LTE to complement 5G radio coverage.

Powered by the Nokia AirScale radio portfolio, 4.5G Pro will deliver ten times the speeds of initial 4G networks, making it possible for operators to offer gigabit peak data rates to meet growing demands from the programmable world, aligned with upcoming next-generation device launches. Using extended carrier aggregation techniques across up to five frequency bands, operators will be able to leverage their diverse paired (FDD) and unpaired (TDD) licensed spectrum as well as unlicensed spectrum, in line with local national regulations, supported by the upcoming generation of user devices.

While 4.5G Pro focuses on the 2017 user device ecosystem and 5G-readiness of the network, deployment in the future of Nokia 4.9G will bring significant capacity and data rate enhancements and network latency reductions to let users maintain a continuous 5G service experience complementing 5G radio coverage. 4.9G will comprise features to further increase capacity and speeds to several gigabits per second, including allowing additional numbers of carriers to be aggregated, opening the door to additional licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and advancing the radio systems to allow highly directional antennas to be used and to allow signals sent via multiple transmit/receive paths to be added together. Furthermore, it will utilise cloud-based networks with intelligence added to the edge to reduce latencies to less than 10msec.

The latest plenary meeting of the 3GPP technical specifications groups has agreed on a detailed workplan for Release 15. The plan includes a set of intermediate tasks and check-points to guide the ongoing studies in the working groups. These will get 3GPP in a position to make the next major round of workplan decisions when transitioning from the ongoing studies to the normative phase of the work in December which sees the start of SA2 normative work on Next Generation (NexGen) architecture, and in March 2017 for the beginning of the RAN working group’s specification of the 5G New Radio (NR).

“At the end of our workshop last year we left all the controversial topics open so we could agree on what we were going to do,” Erik Guttman, TGA chairman, 3GPP and consultant for Samsung, explained. “What we’ve done is left open the questions around which use case or which scenario intentionally so we didn’t have to have a prioritisation discussion; that was intentionally deferred until next year.”

“Since then we have decided two things. We plan in December to have a decision point where we plan out the system architecture features that are going to be included in the release 15 timeframe. This will force certain kinds of decisions to occur in RAN at least three months earlier than we had previously thought because we have to decide any place where the systems level has a dependency on RAN decisions, those decisions have to be taken early enough.”

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