PALO ALTO, Calif.—In meetings around the globe this week, engineers started in earnest reviewing proposals for a broad suite of standards for 5G. Their work is expected to take at least two years, touching every aspect of wireless networks in ways more sweeping than any prior cellular generation.
The 3GPP, which acts as a central organizer for 5G standards, has broken the job initially into nearly a dozen separate study groups covering topics ranging from radio access technologies to network architectures. The groups are meeting this week in locations including Bangalore, India; Busan, South Korea; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kanazawa, Japan; Ljubljana, Slovenia; San Jose del Cabo, Mexico and Sophia Antipolis, France.
“You eat an elephant in small pieces…it takes lots of people to develop these new technologies,” said Karri Kuoppamaki, vice president for network technology, development and strategy at TMobile in an interview at the 5G Forum here.
Operators want 5G to enable more powerful and flexible networks with many of their tasks implemented in open-source software running on standard servers using virtualization. Thus 5G is expected to open a door for server chip, systems and software makers to become bigger stakeholders in cellular.
While operators want the upgraded networks to run smoothly with their existing LTE nets, they are also opening the door for radical new ideas. In that regard, one of the first presentations this week was for a novel air interface proposed by startup Cohere Technologies.
AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Telstra co-sponsored the Cohere submissions in a sign they want to shake up existing vendors focused on variations of today’s OFDM technologies.
“We co-signed with Cohere because we need to bring in new blood and have new flexible thinking,” Chih-Lin I, a chief scientist on China Mobile’s research group told EE Times. “For me, the most interesting part is their high mobility for hitting the goal of service at 500 km/hour, which we want for our high speed railways—I have not seen anyone else show how that would work, so Cohere was refreshing,” she said.
“Unfortunately, there are also many of the larger companies that are perfectly happy with just relatively minor changes to OFDM and overall to the status quo, but that is to be expected,” said Anton Monk, vice president of strategic alliances and standards at Cohere.
With more than 300 companies already involved, “the decisions are rarely technically oriented, there’s a lot of IPR, political and business considerations,” said a senior technologist at one U.S. operator who asked not to be named. “There are lots of ODFM variants being proposed…it’s an alphabet soup,” he said.
The 3GPP groups will hear many proposals this year, winnowing them down to a few top candidates next year and delivering a first phase of 5G standards in Release 15 in 2018. A second major phase will follow in late 2019 with Release 16.
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