The new standard approved in Lisbon by the 3GPP TSG RAN group is known as 5G New Radio Non-Standalone operation (NSA) under which control signalling is still sent over LTE networks. Standards for Standalone (SA) operation, where all control signalling and user data are sent over 5G, are planned to be ready from mid-2018.
First services in 2019
The introduction of an intermediate standard on the way to 5G was decided in March this year, as a way to accelerate the roll-out of the next mobile network generation. With the first standards ready now, the industry expects to start 5G commercial services from 2019.
Qualcomm said it expects to have chips ready for devices in 2019, and Korea Telecom was one of the first operators to say it targets a 2019 launch of services. Other operators such as Japan’s NTT Docomo and T-Mobile US said they expect to launch 5G NSA in 2020.
A number of companies have already held interoperability tests for the new standards across spectrum bands. Ericsson and Qualcomm, in collaboration with AT&T, NTT Docomo, Orange, SK Telecom, Sprint, Telstra, T-Mobile US, Verizon and Vodafone, showcased 3GPP-compliant 5G NR multi-vendor interoperability during live demonstrations at the Ericsson Lab in Kista, Sweden and the Qualcomm Research lab in New Jersey, US. The demos used Ericsson’s 5G NR pre-commercial base stations and Qualcomm Technologies’ 5G NR UE prototypes.
The over-the-air Interoperability Development Testing was conducted for lower layer data connections operating at both the 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz bands. These layers have been standardized in the first specifications as the building blocks of 5G NR. NSA 5G NR will use the existing LTE radio and evolved packet core network as an anchor for mobility management and coverage while adding a new 5G NR radio access carrier to enable certain 5G use cases starting in 2019.