Standards group 3GPP revealed a final version of its 5G specification is expected to be completed three months later than originally scheduled, with a new target date of March 2019.
Significant portions of the Release 15 standard have already been finalised, including those related to non-standalone and standalone operation. However, a so-called late drop version of the specification to resolve any outstanding issues was set to be closed this month.
In a blog, 3GPP RAN group chairman Balazs Bertenyi, explained the deadline was amended to enable work on “additional architecture options to aid migration from LTE to 5G” in Release 15 to be completed. However, he stressed the move “does not in any way impact the first 5G deployments. The compatibility of devices and networks used for the first deployments are not impacted”.
The postponement in finalising Release 15 will result in a corresponding three-month delay to Release 16: Bertenyi argued this will “ensure better completion stability”.
Peter Clemons, founder of critical communications consulting company Quixoticity who was present at 3GPP’s plenary meeting in Italy this week, predicted a functional freeze on development of Release 16 specifications would now happen in March 2020.
However, in a LinkedIn post he said the Release 15 move was a “mini-bombshell”.
The news comes on the heels of a report from Light Reading in November which detailed the discovery of backwards compatibility issues between an update of the standard released in September and previous iterations.
This raised concerns about a potential impact on early 5G launches, given operators had already begun installing network equipment based on the standard. But AT&T and Samsung both told Mobile World Live in interviews earlier this month the issue could be resolved through software updates.
Clemons said the delay announcement was met with “a lot of sympathy in the room for all parties due to the massive work overload” 3GPP members faced in trying to complete Release 15.
He noted requests for changes to the standard have steadily increased at each plenary meeting, growing from 1,500 early on to more than 3,500 at this week’s event.
“It’s inevitable with so many new items and so many companies and organisations involved now within 3GPP and so much at stake that minor delays have crept into the 3GPP work plan”, Clemons concluded.