Key highlights from 3GPP Release-17 (5G wearable, 60 GHz standard, NR-Light and more)

3GPP or 3rd Generation Partnership Project is an organization that plays a crucial role in standardization of cellular communication’s technical specifications. Each structured ‘release‘ (short – Rel) of 3GPP provides a set of specifications and enabling functionalities.

The current standard 3GPP Rel-15 was approved in mid-2018 which set the foundation for early 5G using 4G network as a backbone (5G NSA). Upcoming finalization of 3GPP Rel-16 standards in March 2020 paves way for innovation with 3GPP Rel-17. 3GPP has approved a collection of 24 new projects designed to extend the capabilities 5G standard with release 17.

While Rel-16 focuses on creating a complete end-to-end 5G system (5G SA) and setting the foundation for V2X (Vehicle to Everything) communication, Rel-17 is intended to address the third phase of the standards expansion. Apart from speed boosts and power efficiency, it includes certain aspects such as dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), dual 4G-5G simultaneous connectivity and mmWave beamforming. This standard will also improve the location accuracy down to centimeter level and there will be multi-SIM support for the first time.

However, one of the most important projects will be NR-Light – It will be a variant of 5G that is targeted for next-gen wearable and IoT devices that need higher bandwidth with power efficiency. NR-Light will be able to deliver 100 Mbps downloads and 50 Mbps uploads using spectrum of only 10-20 MHz bandwidth – the same will be enough for surveillance video cameras, industrial IoT sensors and wearables. The Massive IoT project will also the enable existing IoT sensor platforms to support satellite transmissions.

The Rel-17 is also expected to broaden the use of spectrum beyond 52 GHz. The most mmWave deployments so far have been in the range of 24-39 GHz. It is also expected to add the support for public-safety multicasting and venue casting. This will enable a large number of people in specific geographical locations to simultaneously receive warnings and notifications.

3GPP is currently expecting to complete major aspects of its work on Rel-17 by Q2 2021 and finalize the standard by September 2021. My upcoming article will focus on additional details from the same. Stay tuned!

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