SAN JOSE, Calif. — The race is on to deliver some form of 5G as soon as possible.
An Intel executive painted a picture of engineers pushing the pedal to the metal to complete an early version of the 5G New Radio (NR) standard by the end of the year. She promised that Intel will have a test system based on its x86 processors and FPGAs as soon as the spec is finished.
The 3GPP group defining the 5G NR has set a priority of finishing a spec for a non-standalone version by the end of the year. It will extend existing LTE core networks with a 5G NR front end for services such as fixed-wireless access.
After that work is finished, the radio-access group will turn its attention to drafting a standalone 5G NR spec by September 2018.
“Right now, NR non-standalone is going fine with lots of motivation, come hell or high water, to declare a standard by the end of December,” said Asha Keddy, an Intel vice president and general manager of its next-generation and standards group. “The teams don’t even break until 10 p.m. on many days, and even then, sometimes they have sessions after dinner.”
To lighten the load, a plenary meeting of the 3GPP radio-access group next week is expected to streamline the proposed feature set for non-standalone NR. While a baseline of features such as channel coding and subcarrier spacing have been set, some features are behind schedule for being defined, such as MIMO beam management, said Keddy.
It’s hard to say what features will be in or out at this stage, given that decisions will depend on agreement among carriers. “Some of these are hit-or-miss, like when [Congress] passes a bill,” she said.
It’s not an easy job, given the wide variety of use cases still being explored for 5G and the time frames involved. “We are talking about writing a standard that will emerge in 2020, peak in 2030, and still be around in 2040 — it’s kind of a responsibility to the future,” she said.
The difficulty is even greater given carrier pressure. For example, AT&T and Verizon have announced plans to roll out fixed-wireless access services next year based on the non-standalone 5G NR, even though that standard won’t be formally ratified until late next year.
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An Intel 5G test system in the field. (Images: Intel)