Here's our first real glimpse at 5G-Advanced
Today 5G-Advanced began to take shape. Companies across the breadth of the telecom industry this week discussed the first submitted proposals to the 3GPP RAN Release 18 workshop, giving us our first preview of what to expect in 5G’s next important evolutionary step. The first 5G-Advanced networks won’t appear until 2025, but, based on the commonalities among the 500 proposals submitted, we can start painting a picture of the features and use cases that will be supported.
Release 18 will provide a foundation for more demanding applications such as truly mobile extended reality services. The standard will also inject more intelligence into the network, utilizing machine learning to adapt to its environment. As with previous releases, Release 18 will boost fundamental radio and system performance, but it will also bring mobile broadband to new classes of devices and open 5G to new industries. For instance, 5G-Advanced will connect millions of home automation and industrial sensors to the mobile network and help control power-distribution and rail traffic-management networks.
Though the proposals for the Release 18 RAN standards are far from final. The next step is for the RAN Technical Specifications Group (TSG) to agree on and consolidate the main items heading into the overall Release 18 specifications. We expect a final Release 18 standard by the end of 2023. While we are working to define those standards, let’s take a look at some of these proposals in more detail.
Improving mobility is important to achieving high reliability and for minimizing the interruption caused by handovers. This will provide a better experience for high-end consumer applications like extended reality. For instance, a 5G-Advanced network could allow a XR meeting solution to host attendees in moving vehicles like trains. As the attendees moved rapidly between cells, they wouldn’t need to worry about their virtual avatars “freezing” due to loss of connectivity during a handover. Better mobility would also improve 5G use for different vertical segments with high reliability requirements.
Reduced capability UEs
For many applications, such as home automation, traffic cameras or industrial and agricultural sensors, one does not need full-blown 5G capabilities. While Release 17 already started work on Reduced Capability (RedCap) user equipment (UE), Release 18 is expected to reduce cost, complexity and power consumption even further, as well as improve coverage. This will make it more cost efficient to run services needing 100 Mbps or less on 5G and lower the threshold for migrating from LTE to 5G by making it far cheaper to connect multitudes of low-end devices to the network.
Access to a reliable timing source is a requirement for an increasing number of services, such as banking or smart grids, where the merest millisecond of delay can have an enormous impact. Release 18 will create resiliency against loss or degradation of satellite (GNSS/GPS) signals by providing alternate time references directly from the 5G-Advanced network.
High accuracy positioning
5G-Advanced won’t just stand in for satellite-based timing but also satellite-based location, providing high-accuracy positioning in indoor environments and tunnels. Release 18 is expected to improve cellular-positioning accuracy to below 10 cm by utilizing beamforming as well as time-based methods to determine location. This will enable machinery moving in an indoor environment to operate with centimeter accuracy without a satellite signal. The same would be true for self-driving cars in underground facilities.
5G-Advanced will lower the energy required to transmit a megabyte of data, which is a key goal in Nokia’s sustainability mission. Despite the progress 5G’s earlier phases have made in energy efficiency, it will be vital to reduce the carbon footprint of mobile communications even further as traffic volumes continue to increase. Release 18 will also focus on maximizing device battery life, by enabling smoother and faster connections to the network.
There are numbers of other proposals submitted to the Release 18 workshop. They include sidelink communications, which would use unlicensed bands to allow devices to communicate locally directly with one another, bypassing the network. Machine learning is also being investigated as a means of improving radio performance. These and many more features have the potential to elevate 5G-Advanced to new levels of system performance and capability, allowing the standard to deliver reliable high-quality services that today can only be supported over fixed connections.
At Nokia, we are looking forward to breathing life into the Release 18 standard, helping create the technology that will help the world act together. I’m excited to see how the industry will take advantage of these new features when 5G-Advanced networks enter the market in the 2025 timeframe.
We are exploring the individual features of 5G-Advanced in separate blog posts. Click here to read about how eMBB will meet the growing demand for data.