3GPP: 5G-Advanced coming with Release 18

Despite shift to virtual meetings, 3GPP sees Release 17 progressing on schedule

Just like with its predecessor, the 5G naming convention is set to evolve to 5G-Advanced with the forthcoming Release 18 from 3GPP. The international standards-setting body, comprising representatives from across the telecoms, technology and industrial world, is currently focused on Release 17; a stage 2 functional freeze is set for June 2021 followed by a protocol freeze in March 2022. 

While some preliminary work on Release 18 has begun, the relevant package approval is currently scheduled for late in the fourth quarter this year or early in Q1 next year. 

This news from the 3GPP follows the election in March of Wanshi Chen of Qualcomm to serve as chairman of the RAN Technical Specification Group (TSG). 3GPP has three TSGs, one focused on the RAN, one focused on the core network and a third focused on services and system aspects. 

According to Tantra Analyst Founder Prakash Sangam, also a member of 3GPP, “TSG-RAN is probably the biggest in terms of size, scope, and number of activities…The primary objective of the RAN chair is to ensure all the members are working collaboratively to develop next-generation standards through 3GPP’s marquee consensus-based, impartial approach.” 

The global COVID-19 pandemic caused the 3GPP to shift to a virtual meeting format from its longstand and intensive in-person meeting schedule. According to 3GPP, Release 17 is tracking on time despite the shift in meeting formats with Chen reporting “the group’s experts have managed to ensure positive progress towards the freeze of the RAN1 physical layer specifications on schedule, by December 2021. 

In terms of next steps on Release 18, 3GPP said a workshop set for June 28 to July 2 will help define the release and that will “set the scene for email discussions about the endorsed topics for consideration.” 

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