The 3GPP recently agreed to accelerated timelines 5G standard definition to bring in a new radio system in both non-standalone (LTE EPC core) and standalone (next generation core) architectures within Release 15 targeting June 2018 for completion of specifications.In the meantime, the ‘more mature’ version of 5G will come in Release 16 in conjunction with ITU specification for IMT-2020.
The accelerated standardization timeline pulls up the standalone deployment scenario (new radio and next-generation core) into Release 15. It answers to the pressure from a few network operators, especially those in US, Japan and Korea, to get on with 5G specifications whereas European operators are more inclined for letting the process takes its course. Moreover, the new timelines aims to prevent divergence and fragmentation of 5G at this early stage. For example, Verizon released its requirements for 5G last month (see http://www.5gtf.org/).
Considering the scope of targets set for 5G, fragmentation is a major risk that can only be compounded by the mandate of standard bodies such as 3GPP which specifies ‘what to do’ leaving much on ‘how to do’ subject to vendor implementation. 5G runs a risk of being a complex network of many parts that is only optimized within a certain vendor’s sphere leaving much desired in terms of interoperability and multi-vendor sourcing. It also runs the risk of having many interpretations of what 5G is. This is ironic since LTE managed to present a unified global technology and achieve rapid wide-scale adoption. On the other hand, 5G promises to defragment the market with different implementations of technology. From that sense, it would be more appropriate to refer to 5G as a framework for wireless networks than a technology. Taking this a step further, it may well be the last ‘G’!