An Early View of 3GPP Release-18 5G-Advanced Topics

5G is hot at the moment. While the operators are busy rolling out the networks based on Release-15/16 features, 3GPP is working on finalising Release-17 specifications and laying the foundations for Rel-18.

The latest issue of 3GPP Highlights magazine (I prefer the PDF) contains a lot of valuable technical content, in addition to many other articles. The technical content includes:

  • An early view of the RAN Topics for 5G-Advanced
  • 5G Advanced in the Making – The TSG SA approach to Release 18
  • Application Enablement Standards in 3GPP – Maximizing the potential of 5G!
  • RAN3 flourishing in this time of change
  • Enhanced support of Industrial IoT in the 5G System (Rel-17)
  • Autonomous Network standardization in WG SA5
  • Rel-17 Edge Computing and Network Slicing charging (WG SA 5)
  • Media Production over 5G NPN

While I am not going into too much detail here, I want to highlight the 5G-Advanced topics that will be under discussion over the next couple of months. The final list will be approved by 3GPP TSGs SA, RAN and CT in December 2021.

Dr. Wanshi Chen, 3GPP TSG RAN Chair provided an early view of the RAN topics for 5G-Advanced. 

Topics Under Discussion

As well as taking a tentative decision on an 18-month duration for Release 18, the RAN workshop endorsed a list of topics for subsequent email discussions. Some of the topics in the following list also have a set of example areas, serving as a starting point for further refinement:

  • Evolution for downlink MIMO, with the following example areas:
    • Further enhancements for CSI (e.g., mobility, overhead, etc.)
    • Evolved handling of multi-TRP (Transmission Reception Points) and multi-beam
    • CPE (customer premises equipment) -specific considerations
  • Uplink enhancements, with the following example areas:
    • >4 Tx operation
    • Enhanced multi-panel/multi-TRP uplink operation
    • Frequency-selective precoding
    • Further coverage enhancements
  • Mobility enhancements, with the following example areas:
    • Layer 1/layer 2 based inter cell mobility
    • DAPS (Dual Active Protocol Stack)/CHO (Conditional HandOver) related improvements
    • FR2 (frequency range 2)-specific enhancements
  • Additional topological improvements (IAB and smart repeaters), with the following example areas:
    • Mobile IAB (Integrated Access Backhaul)/Vehicle mounted relay (VMR)
    • Smart repeater with side control information
  • Enhancements for XR (eXtended Reality), with the following example areas:
    • KPIs/QoS, application awareness operation, and aspects related to power consumption, coverage, capacity, and mobility
      • Note: only power consumption/coverage/mobility aspects specific to XR
  • Sidelink enhancements (excluding positioning), with the following example areas:
    • SL enhancements (e.g., unlicensed, power saving enhancements, efficiency enhancements, etc.)
    • SL relay enhancements
    • Co-existence of LTE V2X & NR V2X
  • RedCap evolution (excluding positioning), with the following example areas:
    • New use cases and new UE bandwidths (5MHz?)
    • Power saving enhancements
  • NTN (Non-Terrestrial Networks) evolution
    • Including both NR & IoT (Internet of Things) aspects
  • Evolution for broadcast and multicast services
    • Including both LTE based 5G broadcast and NR MBS (Multicast Broadcast Services)
  • Expanded and improved Positioning, with the following example areas:
    • Sidelink positioning/ranging
    • Improved accuracy, integrity, and power efficiency
    • RedCap positioning
  • Evolution of duplex operation, with the following example areas:
    • Deployment scenarios, including duplex mode (TDD only?)
    • Interference management
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence)/ML (Machine Learning), with the following example areas:
    • Air interface (e.g., Use cases to focus, KPIs and Evaluation methodology, network and UE involvement, etc.)
    • NG-RAN
  • Network energy savings, with the following example areas:
    • KPIs and evaluation methodology, focus areas and potential solutions
  • Additional RAN1/2/3 candidate topics, Set 1:
    • UE power savings
    • Enhancing and extending the support beyond 52.6GHz
    • CA (Carrier Aggregation)/DC (Dual-Connectivity) enhancements (e.g., MR-MC (Multi-Radio/Multi-Connectivity), etc.)
    • Flexible spectrum integration
    • RIS (Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces)
    • Others (RAN1-led)
  • Additional RAN1/2/3 candidate topics, Set 2:
    • UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)
    • IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things)/URLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication)
    • <5MHz in dedicated spectrum
    • Other IoT enhancements/types
    • HAPS (High Altitude Platform System)
    • Network coding
  • Additional RAN1/2/3 candidate topics, Set 3:
    • Inter-gNB coordination, with the following example areas:
      • Inter-gNB/gNB-DU multi-carrier operation
      • Inter-gNB/gNB-DU multi-TRP operation
      • Enhancement for resiliency of gNB-CU
    • Network slicing enhancements
    • MUSIM (Multiple Universal Subscriber Identity Modules)
    • UE aggregation
    • Security enhancements
    • SON (Self-Organizing Networks)/MDT (Minimization of Drive Test)
    • Others (RAN2/3-led)
  • Potential RAN4 enhancements

Dr. Georg Mayer, 3GPP TSG SA Chair provides the TSG SA approach to 3GPP Release-18

The candidate items for Rel-18 include:

  • Immersive Media and Virtual/Artificial/Extended Reality (XR) Media support in Working Group (WG) SA4 and WG SA2.
  • New work areas for Internet of Things (e.g. passive IoT (WG SA2) and application capability exposure for IoT platforms (WG SA6)).
  • Proposals to for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Services Transport and Management (WGs SA2, SA5).
  • Concepts for integration and migration of existing vertical infrastructure, e.g. for railway networks (WG SA6).
  • Examples for proposed enhancements to existing 3GPP services and functionalities include:
    • Network Slicing (WGs SA2, SA5)
    • Edge Computing (WGs SA2, SA5, SA6)
    • Autonomous Networks (WG SA5)
    • Service Based Architecture (WGs SA2, SA5)
    • Northbound APIs (WG SA6)
    • Non-Public Networks (WG SA2)
    • Satellite 5G Networks (WG SA2)
    • Drone support (WG SA2)
    • 5G Multicast and Broadcast (WG SA2)
    • Location Services (WG SA2, SA6)
    • Management Data Analytics (WG SA5)
    • Mission Critical Services (WG SA6)

None of these features are final but we will know in the next few months what will be included as part of Rel-18 and what won’t. In the meantime, do check out the latest issue of 3GPP Highlights here.

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