We have long been hearing that major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are aiming to implement 5G by 2019. But despite their announcements, these carriers had little to no information on what they will be working with until now. The 3GPP, the agency that oversees cellular standards, officially approved the first 5G spec on Thursday.
Here’s what this 5G spec means for telecoms
According to Fierce Wireless, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, or 3GPP, ratified the hardware specifications for the Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G New Radio (NR) standards at a meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. The 5G spec approval reportedly includes support for low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum, which ranges from below 1 GHz to about 50 GHz. Detailed specifications will be revealed later on the group’s official website.
NSA 5G NR specs were approved today at RAN#78. Balazs Bertenyi , RAN Chair called it “an Impressive achievement in a remarkably short time, with credit due particularly to the Working Groups”. News article to follow on the 3GPP site and from 3GPP Member announcements. pic.twitter.com/b10fTV5V5n
— 3GPP Live (@3GPPLive) December 20, 2017
The first 5G spec is basically a template that companies planning to operate in the 5G market need to follow. The formal approval of it means that equipment makers and carriers now have a foundation upon which to develop their products. Equipment makers can now sell their products to carriers, which will then be able to develop their plans in a more methodological way.
Thus, the approval means that companies like Intel and Qualcomm can now start developing their 5G wireless products and components, notes AndroidAuthority. Last month, Qualcomm, ZTE, and China Mobile successfully tested the world’s first end-to-end 5G NR interoperable system based on the standards set by the 3GPP.
Work not finished yet
Earlier this year, the industry acknowledged the need to accelerate the timeline for the approval process so that some part of the 5G standards would be done before the end of the year, rather than leaving everything to next summer. Many doubted whether the approval would come this year, but industry experts were confident on the timeline, as they knew that some details had already been worked out in the group meetings before, notes FierceWireless.
Though the approval of the first 5G wireless hardware specifications is a big step toward 5G implementation, the 3GPP has more work to do. The organization still needs to ratify the Standalone (SA) 5G specs, something that is not expected to happen until June 2018, according to AndroidAuthority.
Even though the first 5G spec is approved, it will take a while before it is actually made available to users. Carriers like Verizon and AT&T are aiming to test 5G next year, but it will take some time before the technology officially replaces 4G. Following the approval, Sprint has also reaffirmed its plans to commercialize 5G services by “late 2019.”
In a press release, the carrier said that it is working with Qualcomm and SoftBank on realizing its objective. Further, the company said that it owns “160 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum available in the top 100 US markets,” and it claims that spectrum to be the “largest nationwide block of sub-6 GHz 5G spectrum” for large-scale use in the United States.
“This is an important milestone and we’re making great progress accelerating the development and commercialization of 5G NR in the 2.5 GHz band,” said Sprint CTO Dr. John Saw.