Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB)
Release 16 will be providing support for this new technology developed by Qualcomm. Backhaul is a portion of the cellular network that comprises the intermediate links between the cell towers and telco’s core network. Traditionally, these backhaul connections have been using methods such as microwaves, fibre and other cable connections. Since, a typical 5G network will consist of numerous antennas in form of ‘small cells’ to ensure the best performance over millimetre waves, it would be impractical and very expensive to use these traditional types of connections for backhaul. With IAB, telcos can use the same millimetre waves to communicate to user equipment as well as other reception points within the cell. Single equipment will be used for cellular as well as backhaul access, hence saving a huge amount of expenses which would be otherwise spent on traditional backhaul methods.
Cellular V2X and Sidelink
Release 16 has been focusing on enhancing the safety of autonomous driving. Sidelink enables support for sensor data sharing and coordinated driving. Sensor data from one car can be shared with another car within proximity for assisted driving. There are also many other enhancements that improve the efficiency of autonomous driving and reduce the effective power consumption when it comes to sending cellular signals to network as well as other connected vehicles.
Time Sensitive Networking (TSN)
Being another important addition to 5G standard, Time Sensitive Networking technology ensures the level of precision in environments where the same timing and low latency are critical. The use cases are advanced IoT environments like a factory or remotely operating mechanical systems. Presently, wired ethernet connections are the only way to ensure these precision demands. However, TSN will be able to meet these demands over a 5G wireless connection and ensure everything in these environments stays in sync.
Satellite Access with 5G (SatCom)
This is one of the interesting introductions in Release-16. Although more is expected in Release-17 when it comes to SatCom, it allows the extension of 5G network coverage by using satellite link. This will integrate cruise ships, airplanes and submarines with a 5G network. The satellite will provide a transparent link between UE and 5G base station (gNodeB). More on SatCom in an upcoming post!
Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) Phase 2
5G FRMCS is eventually going to replace GSM-R, a 2G standard currently being used for train radio communication. 3GPP Release 16 has standardized certain services for FRMCS such as Mission Critical Push To Talk (MCPTT), Mission Critical Voice and Video, Mission Critical Data and Mission Critical Common Requirements (MCCoRe). To read more on FRMCS from Towards5G, click here.
Release 16 standards have paved way for operators to kick off their 5G SA deployments. 5G is more of an enabler for digital transformation of the globe and catalyst for Industry 4.0. However, the story doesn’t end here! 3GPP Release 17 is already in progress and expected in late 2021.