Wednesday, 20 October 2021

5G NR-Unlicensed (NR-U)

I have been talking about unlicensed LTE since 2013. With all the debate around LTE-U and LAA now non-existent, the technology has evolved with every new release. As can be seen from this picture by Ericsson above, 5G NR-U in Release-16 supports:

  • License-exempt Downlink (DL)
  • License-exempt scheduled Uplink (UL)
  • License-exempt autonomous UK
  • Standalone license-exempt operation

The Release-16 work item summary details the following deployment scenarios for NR-based access to unlicensed spectrum:

  • Scenario A: Carrier aggregation between NR in licensed spectrum (PCell) and NR in shared spectrum (SCell);
    • A.1: SCell is not configured with UL (DL only); 
    • A.2: SCell is configured with UL (DL+UL). 
  • Scenario B: Dual connectivity between LTE in licensed spectrum and NR in shared spectrum (PSCell);
  • Scenario C: NR in shared spectrum (PCell);
  • Scenario D: NR cell in shared spectrum and uplink in licensed spectrum;
  • Scenario E: Dual connectivity between NR in licensed spectrum (PCell) and NR in shared spectrum (PSCell)

5G New Radio Unlicensed: Challenges and Evaluation, available on arXiv here provides a lot of useful information on different kind of operations within the unlicensed band and the challenges of co-existence with Wi-Fi

Finally, Qualcomm has quite a few resources on this topic. Last year, they hosted a webinar on the topic, "How does unlicensed spectrum with NR-U transform what 5G can do for you?". The slides from that are available here and a video of that is available here. RCR Wireless also has this short article from one of the webinar presenters here.

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Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Monday, 4 October 2021

Are there 50 Billion IoT Devices yet?

Detailed post below but if you are after a quick summary, it's in the picture above.

Couple of weeks back someone quoted that there were 50 billion devices last year (2020). After challenging them on the number, they came back to me to say that there were over 13 billion based on GSMA report. While the headline numbers are correct, there are some finer details we need to look at.

It all started back in 2010 when the then CEO of Ericsson announced that there will be 50 Billion IoT Devices by 2020. You could read all about it here and see the presentation here. While it doesn't explicitly say, it was expected that the majority of these will be based on cellular technologies. I also heard the number 500 Billion by 2030, back in 2013.

So the question is how many IoT devices are there today and how many of these are based on mobile cellular technologies?

The headline number provided by the GSMA Mobile Economy report, published just in time for MWC 2021, is 13.1 billion in 2020. It does not provide any further details on what kind of connectivity these devices use. I had to use my special search skills to find the details here.

As you can see, only 1.9 billion of these are based on cellular connections, of which 0.2 billion are based on licensed Low Power Wide Area (licensed LPWA, a.k.a. LTE-M and NB-IoT) connections. 

Ericsson Mobility Report, June 2021, has a much more detailed breakdown regarding the numbers as can be seen in the slide above. As of the end of 2020, there were 12.4 billion IoT devices, of which 10.7 billion were based on Short-range IoT. Short-range IoT is defined as a segment that largely consists of devices connected by unlicensed radio technologies, with a typical range of up to 100 meters, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee.

Wide-area IoT, which consists of segment made up of devices using cellular connections or unlicensed low-power technologies like Sigfox and LoRa had 1.7 billion devices. So, the 1.6 billion cellular IoT devices also includes LPWAN technologies like LTE-M and NB-IoT.

I also reached out to IoT experts at analyst firm Analysys Mason. As you can see in the Tweet above, Tom Rebbeck, Partner at Analysys Mason, mentioned 1.6 billion cellular (excluding NB-IoT + LTE-M) and 220 million LPWA (which includes NB-IoT, LTE-M, as well as LoRa, Sigfox etc.) IoT connections.

I also noticed this interesting chart in the tweet above which shows the growth of IoT from Dec 2010 until June 2021. Matt Hatton, Founding Partner of Transforma Insights, kindly clarified that the number as 1.55 billion including NB-IoT and LTE-M.

As you can see, the number of cellular IoT connections are nowhere near 50 billion. Even if we include all kinds of IoT connectivity, according to the most optimistic estimate by Ericsson, there will be just over 26 billion connections by 2026.

Just before concluding, it is worth highlighting that according to all these cellular IoT estimates, over 1 billion of these connections are in China. GSMA's 'The Mobile Economy China 2021' puts the number as 1.34 billion as of 2020, growing to 2.29 billion by 2025. Details on page 9 here.

Hopefully, when someone wants to talk about Internet of Thing numbers in the future, they will do a bit more research or just quote the numbers from this post here.

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Monday, 27 September 2021

Maritime Communication (MARCOM) Services over 3GPP system


Maritime Communication Services over 3GPP System is one of the topics listed in the 3GPP Release-16 summary that I summarised here.

Maritime domain, one of 5G vertical domains in 3GPP, started to be considered since 2016 to enable 3GPP systems to play the role of mobile communication platform necessary for the digitalization and mobilization of the maritime domain that bring about the Fourth Industrial Revolution of the maritime businesses as well as maritime safety.

Compared to other vertical domains, the maritime domain has the radio communication environment that 3GPP hasn’t considered in detail, which means that maritime related issues and features were not in the scope of 3GPP standardization and some of existing 3GPP enabling technologies or solutions are not able to fully support the optimized performances required by the maritime domain in a way that has been guaranteed for on-land communication. In addition, on-board mobile users in a vessel would like to experience the same rich mobile communication services as they enjoy on land.

Furthermore, it is of the view that the capacity and rate for data transmission based on legacy maritime radio communication technologies are indeed not enough for e-Navigation described in IMO Strategy Implementation Plan (SIP) or Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), which the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations specialized agency, have been working to provide to ship.

Considering that the maritime domain is one of 5G vertical domains that 3GPP take into account in order for 5G to be able to provide enhanced mobile broadband services or massive machine-type communication services etc. everywhere anytime in the world, it is desirable to study use cases and requirements for maritime communication services over 3GPP system so that 3GPP system can be a good candidate of innovative tools to help address the information gap between users on land and users at sea as well as the maritime safety and vessel traffic management etc. that IMO intends to achieve especially in 5G era.

3GPP TR 22.819, Feasibility Study on Maritime Communication Services over 3GPP system concluded in 2018 and a report is available here. The scope of the document says:

The present document aims to support the maritime communication services between users ashore and at sea or between vessels at sea over 3GPP system that are targeted to improve maritime safety, protect the maritime environment and promote the efficiency of shipping by reducing maritime casualty caused by human error, in particular, involving small ships and fishing vessels. In addition, the outcome of the technical report is expected to narrow the information gap between mobile users on land and shipboard users on vessels at sea by making it possible to provide the mobile broadband services.

The document describes use cases and potential requirements for services between shore-based users such as authorities and shipboard users in the maritime radio communication environment over 3GPP system. In addition, it deals with use cases to support Mission Critical Services between authorities on land and authorities at sea (e.g. maritime police) as well as use cases to support the interworking between 3GPP system and the existing/future maritime radio communication system for the seamless service of voice communication and data communication between users ashore and at sea or between vessels at sea.

Analysis is also made on which legacy services and requirements from the existing 3GPP system need to be included and which potential requirements need additional work for new functions to support maritime communication services over 3GPP system.

The first 3GPP Technical Specification (TS) 22.119 covering service requirements (Stage 1) is specified for the support of maritime communication (MARCOM) over 3GPP systems.

The maritime domain, one of the 5G vertical domains in 3GPP, is moving forward with the digitalisation and mobilisation of commercial as well as safety fields. Legacy 3GPP-based technologies and solutions can be beneficial to the digitalisation and mobilisation of the maritime domain though some of the legacy 3GPP enabling technologies and solutions may not be able to fully support the performances required by the maritime domain. The maritime radio environment was not originally considered by 3GPP when the technical specifications and solutions were standardised for LTE and 5G. 

However, most of the legacy mobile services and IoT services based on capabilities of EPS and 5GS specified in 3GPP specifications are applicable to maritime usage for the support of mobile broadband services, and for the support of IoT services or machine-type communication services in a vessel at sea. 

In addition, there are service scenarios and requirements specified in 3GPP specifications based on requirements of other related vertical domains (e.g. public safety domain, automotive domain, factory automation domain, and satellite industrial domain). Some requirements derived by service scenarios from these related vertical domains are applicable to the maritime domain. Thus, it is beneficial to use 3GPP enabling technologies developed to satisfy those requirements for the maritime domain in terms of the economy of scale.

For example, satellite access is one of the 3GPP radio access networks supported over the 5G system, so it is possible to provide seamless maritime mobile services by integrating multiple access technologies including satellite access depending on the service scenarios. In addition, Vertical LAN that can replace Ethernet-based access are applicable to indoor maritime mobile services inside a vessel.

Mission Critical (MC) Services specified in 3GPP specifications are applicable to commercial and maritime safety fields. Some similarities exist between the public safety domain and the maritime domain in terms of service scenarios that are essentially the same. For example, in some situations, mobile communication services are supported in spite of disconnected networks, i.e. off-network mode, or under isolated conditions. 

However, the maritime domain also has specific situations that do not happen in other vertical domains or in the legacy ICT industrial domain. New 3GPP enabling technologies dedicated to the maritime domain can be used to address such specific situations based on requirements derived from maritime use cases. Other vertical domains may benefit from such new 3GPP enabling technologies that consider maritime domain scenarios and may need more robust technologies or solutions than those that currently exist for those vertical domains.

The following specifications are relevant for MARCOM:

  • 3GPP TS 22.119, Maritime communication services over 3GPP system
  • 3GPP TS 22.179, Mission Critical Push to Talk (MCPTT); Stage 1
  • 3GPP TS 22.280, Mission Critical (MC) services common requirements
  • 3GPP TS 22.281, Mission Critical (MC) video
  • 3GPP TS 22.282, Mission Critical (MC) data

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Monday, 20 September 2021

When can we Stop the 5G NSA Experiment?

Cross posting from LinkedIn, please post any comments there!

One of the advantages of having been in the industry for a very long time is one knows (and in my case, remembers) the hacks of each generation of mobile technology.

In case of UMTS (3G), the initial version had very poor data rates. Even though 3G was designed to bring data to the masses, there were hardly any applications that could take advantage of the mobile data connectivity. In addition, you could hardly get over 128 kbps (yes, kilo bits per second, not mega bits).

Most people think that the data part was added later on, as HSDPA, HSUPA (collectively HSPA) and HSPA+ from 3GPP Release-5 onwards. This is just one side of the story. The initial version of 3G had Downlink Shared Channel (DSCH) and Uplink Common Packet Channel (CPCH). As nearly all the patents were held by one very small company, none of the big vendors (both in network side as well and device side) implemented it (cartel?) and those channels eventually got removed from the standards.

Politics aside, until the arrival of HSPA, people couldn’t take advantage of mobile broadband.

LTE had already started being standardised while HSPA was being rolled out. LTE promised much higher data rates and reduction in the device power consumption, and it delivered! But… 

Have you heard this industry joke? When the standards engineers were designing 3G, 2G voice and SMS was generating most of income for the operators. Naturally they focussed on Voice and SMS and forgot to design data properly. When it came to design LTE, they focussed so much on data, they forgot to design the voice part.

Not My Job

Well, to be honest, 4G was always planned to be a packet switched (PS) only network, with a flatter and simplified architecture and protocols. With CS domain gone, the RRC and NAS protocols could be simplified. From a RAN engineer point of view, the voice calls would be voice over IP (VoIP) but the people who design the network telephony part didn’t get the memo.

The first set of LTE standards in Release-8 had to rely on this hack called CS Fallback. When nobody was taking ownership of the issue on hand, GSMA stepped in and created Voice over LTE (VoLTE) standards. It was based on the IMS standards that were bandied about for a long time but never got deployed fully. The standards was also complex and even after 8 years of it being standardised, it has still not been deployed everywhere.

5G for Everyone

I have been closely following the developments in 5G for over 6 years now. If you saw and heard the things I did, you would have believed that 5G is a panacea for all the world’s ills. In fact, in reality, it is just another generation of mobile network standards, astutely referred to as 5G JAG (Just Another Generation) by the outspoken industry analyst, Dean Bubley.

In the race to launch 5G by hook or by crook, the Non-Standalone (NSA) version of 5G, option 3 (technical name EN-DC) was launched. It gives the operators the ability to show 5G icon on you smartphones easily while not having to worry too much about delivering all the promises. If an operator has spare or a lot of spectrum, they can then use (some of) it to start transmitting on 5G New Radio (NR). If they don’t have much spectrum then they will have to do some kind of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) to show the 5G icon. The problem with DSS is that while it would provide some kind of 5G to everyone capable of receiving it, it spoils the experience of the 4G users who are satisfied or happy with their LTE network.

5G Stands Alone

While all this had been going on, the operators have started buying new 5G spectrum, and started preparing and in many cases rolling out the Real Standalone 5G Network. If an operator has sufficient spectrum and the right kind of spectrum, they can now start to deliver on some of the actual 5G promises. 

I am aware of some of the operators who are already thinking about switching off their Non-Standalone EN-DC networks within the next couple of years. The initial 5G smartphones did not support the Standalone version of 5G networks so the operators will give them enough time to switch over to a newer device capable of standalone network.

So what would happen to a 5G device only supporting NSA 5G, after the NSA network is switched off?

Nothing really. It would still be able to do 4G (and 2G, 3G) which is generally good enough. They would stop seeing the 5G icon and in some cases, won’t benefit with the extra speeds boost.

Switching off 5G NSA will benefit the operator with the simplification of the network, not just from deployment point of view but also from optimization as there is no need for 4G-5G dual connectivity and for the 5G cell to be planned based on the 4G cell.

Industry’s View

5G Training ran a poll on LinkedIn to ask people involved in the 5G industry if they were happy with 5G NSA or would rather go with Standalone 5G, 6G or just satisfied with 4G. Surprisingly most people in the 5G industry said they were waiting for Standalone 5G. This was followed by “Looking forward to 6G!”. “Happy with existing 5G” got the least number of votes. 

This poll is by no measure reliable but it should force the operators, vendors and everyone else to ponder if it makes sense to move to SA sooner rather than later and to switch off NSA as soon as possible.

Non-Standalone Part 2

When the first set of 5G standards were being defined, it was felt that there should be a path to transition from 4G to 5G in the future. While the initial Option 3 (EN-DC) relied on 4G Core or EPC, these future NSA options can rely on 5G core.

Sometimes, in their zeal and enthusiasm, engineers define things that would make everyone’s lives difficult. These options are very much like that. While some operators have asked for Option 4, most people realise that it doesn’t make sense, at least right now to be creating more fragmentation in 5G deployment.

Hopefully rationality will prevail and any major architecture changes we do with 5G going forward will only be done after lots of analysing and thinking about the long term consequences. 

Please post any comments on LinkedIn as comments have been disabled on this post.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

3GPP Release 16 Description and Summary of Work Items


Someone reached out recently asking for a summary of Release 16 features. For people who are involved in standards, they already know of a few ways you can get this quickly. 

The first is to go to the Releases page here: https://www.3gpp.org/specifications/releases 

Here you can see the status of current releases as well as at the bottom of the page you can jump to the individual releases. 

A full Release Description is produced by the Work Plan manager at the completion of the work. This has been available since Release-14 onwards. You can go and get the latest version of the following technical reports:  

The following is the summary of features listed in 3GPP TR 21.916 for Release-16: 

  1. Enhancement of Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications (URLLC)
    1. Enhancement of URLLC support in the 5G Core network
    2. Physical Layer Enhancements for NR Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communication (URLLC)
    3. Support of NR Industrial Internet of Things
  2. Support of LAN-type services
    1. NR-based access to unlicensed spectrum
    2. LAN support in 5G
    3. 5GS Enhanced support of Vertical and LAN Services
  3. Cellular Internet of Things (IoT)
    1. Cellular IoT support and evolution for the 5G System
    2. Additional enhancements for NB-IoT
    3. Additional MTC enhancements for LTE
  4. Advanced V2X support
    1. Improvement of V2X service Handling
    2. Architecture enhancements for 3GPP support of advanced V2X services
    3. Application layer support for V2X services
    4. 5G V2X with NR sidelink
  5. Northbound APIs related items
    1. Usage of CAPIF for xMB API
    2. Enhancement of 3GPP Northbound APIs
    3. Enhancements for Common API Framework for 3GPP Northbound APIs
    4. Service Enabler Architecture Layer for Verticals
    5. Other APIs-related items
  6. Coexistence with Non-3GPP systems
    1. Wireless and Wireline Convergence Enhancement
    2. Access Traffic Steering, Switch and Splitting support in the 5G system architecture
  7. Railways and Maritime
    1. Mobile Communication System for Railways 2
    2. Further performance enhancement for LTE in high speed scenario
    3. NR support for high speed train scenario
    4. Maritime Communication Services over 3GPP System
  8. Mission Critical, Public Warning
    1. Enhancements of Public Warning System
    2. MBMS APIs for Mission Critical Services
    3. Mission Critical Services Security Enhancements
    4. Other Mission critical improvements
      1. MCData File Distribution support over xMB
      2. Enhanced Mission Critical Communication Interworking with Land Mobile Radio Systems
      3. MBMS APIs for Mission Critical Services
      4. Enhancements to Functional architecture and information flows for Mission Critical Data
      5. MC Communication Interworking
      6. Enhanced Mission Critical Push-to-talk architecture phase 2
      7. Other Mission Critical activities
  9. Conversational services, Streaming and TV
    1. Conversational services
      1. Coverage and Handoff Enhancements for Multimedia (CHEM)
      2. Single radio voice continuity from 5GS to 3G
      3. Volume Based Charging Aspects for VoLTE
      4. EVS Floating-point Conformance for Non Bit-Exact
      5. Media Handling Extensions for 5G Conversational Services
      6. VR QoE metrics
      7. Media Handling Aspects of RAN Delay Budget Reporting in MTSI
      8. Removal of H.263 and MPEG-4 Visual from 3GPP Services
    2. 13.2 Streaming
      1. Enhancement of LTE for Efficient delivery of Streaming Service
      2. Enhancements to Framework for Live Uplink Streaming
      3. Media streaming architecture
  10. 5G Location and Positioning Services
    1. 5G positioning services (5G_HYPOS)
    2. Enhancement to the 5GC LoCation Services
    3. NR positioning support
  11. User Identities, Authentication, multi-device
    1. User Identities and Authentication
    2. Multi-device and multi-identity
  12. Slicing
    1. Enhancement of Network Slicing
    2. Enhancement of 3GPP management system for multiple tenant environment support
    3. Business Role Models for Network Slicing
    4. Enhancement of performance assurance for 5G networks including network slicing
  13. UE radio capability signalling optimization
    1. Optimisations on UE radio capability signalling
  14. Other system-wide Features
    1. Enablers for Network Automation Architecture for 5G
    2. Provision of Access to Restricted Local Operator Services by Unauthenticated UEs
    3. Enhancing Topology of SMF and UPF in 5G Networks
    4. Private and Non-Public Network Support for NG-RAN
    5. Service-Based Architecture
      1. Enhancements to the Service-Based 5G System Architecture
      2. SBA aspects of enhanced IMS to 5GC integration
    6. User data interworking, Coexistence and Migration
  15. Radio Features
    1. NR-related Release 16 Features
      1. NR-based access to unlicensed spectrum
      2. 2-step RACH for NR
      3. UE Power Saving in NR
      4. Integrated access and backhaul for NR
      5. Dual Connectivity (EN-DC) with 3 bands DL and 3 bands UL
      6. NR mobility enhancements
      7. Rel-16 NR inter-band CA/Dual Connectivity for 2 bands DL with x bands UL (x=1, 2)
      8. Rel16 NR inter-band Carrier Aggregation for 3 bands DL with 1 band UL
      9. Add support of NR DL 256QAM for frequency range 2 (FR2)
      10. SON (Self-Organising Networks) and MDT (Minimization of Drive Tests) support for NR
      11. Introduction of NR FDD bands with variable duplex and corresponding framework
      12. Cross Link Interference (CLI) handling and Remote Interference Management (RIM) for NR
      13. RF requirements for NR frequency range 1 (FR1)
      14. NR RF requirement enhancements for frequency range 2
      15. NR RRM enhancement
      16. RRM requirement for CSI-RS based L3 measurement in NR
      17. Over the air (OTA) base station (BS) testing TR
    2. Release 16 Features impacting both LTE and NR
      1. Transfer of Iuant interface specifications from 25-series to 37-series
      2. Introduction of GSM, UTRA, E-UTRA and NR capability set(s) (CS(s)) to the multi-standard radio (MSR) specifications
      3. Direct data forwarding between NG-RAN and E-UTRAN nodes for inter-system mobility
      4. eNB(s) Architecture Evolution for E-UTRAN and NG-RAN
      5. High power UE (power class 2) for EN-DC (1 LTE TDD band + 1 NR TDD band)
      6. LTE-NR & NR-NR Dual Connectivity and NR Carrier Aggregation enhancements
      7. 29 dBm UE Power Class for LTE band 41 and NR Band n41
      8. LTE/NR Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) in band 48/n48 frequency range
    3. LTE-related Release 16 Features
      1. LTE-based 5G terrestrial broadcast
      2. Support for NavIC Navigation Satellite System for LTE
      3. Even further mobility enhancement in E-UTRAN
      4. DL MIMO efficiency enhancements for LTE
      5. Other LTE-only items
  16. All other Release 16 Features
    1. Service Interactivity
    2. RTCP Verification for Real-Time Services
    3. Stage-3 SAE Protocol Development for Rel16
    4. Reliable Data Service Serialization Indication
    5. Shared Data Handling on Nudm and Nudr
    6. New Services and Markets Technology Enablers – Phase 2
    7. Ambient noise test methodology for evaluation of acoustic UE performance
    8. KPI reporting
  17. Telecom Management
    1. Network and Service Management
      1. 5G Management capabilities
      2. Energy Efficiency of 5G
      3. OAM aspects of LTE and WLAN integration
      4. Methodology for 5G management specifications
      5. Closed loop SLS Assurance
      6. Trace Management in the context of Services Based Management Architecture and Streaming Trace reporting
      7. Management of QoE measurement collection
      8. Network Resource Model (NRM) enhancement
    2. Charging Management
      1. Charging Enhancement of 5GC interworking with EPC
    3. Other charging and management items
  18. Other items
    1. Items not (fully) completed in Rel-16
      1. Remote Identification of Unmanned Aerial Systems
      2. 5G message service
      3. Integration of Satellite Access in 5G

If you find them useful then please get the latest document from here.

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Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS)


I have been meaning to write on this topic for a very long time. The discussion started back in 2016 when the limitations of GSM-R were obvious and it was recognised that a successor will be needed sooner or later. The International Railway Union (UIC) published a user requirement specification in their paper “Future Railway Mobile Communication System - FRMCS”. This is available on 3GPP server as liaison statement S1-161250.

As 3GPP notes in their article, this was the trigger for them to go ahead and start the studies. Then in Release 16, 3GPP TS 22.289 "Mobile communication system for railways" outlined the requirements for railway communication, beyond the 3GPP Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) Phase 1 specs. Details are available on this post here.

Source Tweet

The latest version of 3GPP TR 22.889, Study on Future Railway Mobile Communication System; Stage 1 is from Release 17. The introduction to the document clarifies:

The railway community is considering a successor communication system to GSM-R, as the forecasted obsolescence of the 2G-based GSM-R technology is envisaged around 2030, with first FRMCS trial implementations expected to start around 2020. 

The Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) Functional Working Group (FWG) of the International Union of Railways (UIC) have investigated and summarised their requirements for the next generation railway communication system in the Future Railway Mobile Communication User Requirements Specification (FRMCS URS). The present document is based on this input given by the UIC/ETSI TC-RT 

Study on FRMCS Evolution (FS_eFRMCS), available as SP-201038 clarifies:

The UIC FRMCS programme was recently releasing stable version 5.0.0 of the User Requirement Specification, version 2.0.0 of the Functional Use Cases and a new specification item, version 1.0.0 of the Telecom On-Board System - Functional Requirements Specification, as a further step in the evolution of the FRMCS specifications. The UIC FRMCS Programme is developing all the technical conditions for the 5G FRMCS, with the main objective to make available a “FRMCS First Edition” ecosystem available for procurement by Q1 2025.

The UIC FRMCS 3GPP Task Force has been identifying and analyzing impact of this newly released set of FRMCS specifications on existing use cases and requirements collected in TR 22.889. The UIC FRMCS 3GPP Task Force analysis has concluded that refining existing use cases, defining new use cases such as merging railway emergency communications and real-time translation of conversation, and deriving potential new requirements, will be necessary to align FRMCS and 3GPP specifications. The potential impact on normative work is estimated to be limited and much less compared to the study work.

As approved in SA1#90-e (S1-202245), TR 22.889 has now been re-named to TR 22.989 from Rel-18 onwards (latest version is TR 22.989 v18.0.0) to make it visible to the Rail community to be able to follow the 3GPP normative work in line with their needs. It is of most importance for the Rail community that specifications from different organisations (i.e. UIC, 3GPP and ETSI) are all aligned.

Due to the expected 3GPP work overload in Release 18 (SA1 and downstream groups), it is proposed to reduce the scope of the present Rel-18 study to evolution of critical applications related use cases only already identified by UIC – what is really essential for the railways as part of the “FRMCS First Edition” and the migration phase from GSM-R to FRMCS. 

Study of non-essential use cases (e.g. evolution of performance and business use cases) shall be postponed to Rel-19.

This plan is from 2019 so quite likely that it is already outdated. It does provide an idea on different steps and trial plans. Some of this was also covered in the 5G RAN Release 18 for Industry Verticals Webinar detailed here.

Finally, as this image from Arthur D. Little highlights, there is a lot of other interest in addition to FRMCS for 5G in railway. Report here.

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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Qualcomm Explains 5G Millimeter Wave (mmWave) Future & Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB)

We have covered various topics in our blog posts on millimeter wave spectrum and even going beyond 52.6 GHz in FR2. A Qualcomm webinar from back in January expands on many of the topics that I looked superficially in various posts (links at the bottom).

The following is edited from the Qualcomm blog post:

5G NR in unlicensed spectrum (NR-U) was standardized in Release 16 and it is a key enabler for the 5G expansion to new use cases and verticals, providing expanded spectrum access to mobile operators, service providers, and industry players. At the same time, we are starting to push the mmWave boundary to even higher bands toward the sub-Terahertz (i.e., >100 GHz) range. Expected in Release 17, 5G NR will support spectrum bands up to 71 GHz, leveraging the 5G NR Release 15 scalable numerology and flexible framework. This opens up 5G to operate in the globally unlicensed 60 GHz band, which can fuel a broad range of new applications and deployments.

One daunting challenge that mobile operators will face when expanding 5G mmWave network coverage is the cost of deploying additional base stations for mmWave, which usually requires new fiber optics backhaul installations. Release 16-defined IAB allows a base station to not just provide wireless access for its user devices (e.g., smartphones) but also the ability to backhaul wirelessly via neighboring base stations using the same mmWave spectrum. IAB opens the door to more flexible densification strategies, allowing mobile operators to quickly add new base stations to their networks before having to install new fiber to increase backhaul capacity. 

Release 16 established foundational IAB capabilities, such as dynamic topology adaptation for load balancing and blockage mitigation, and Release 17+ will further enhance IAB by bringing new features like full-duplex operation, topology redundancy, and ML-based network management.

Beyond IAB, there is a rich roadmap of other new features that can further improve 5G mmWave system performance and efficiency. The webinar embedded below is presented by Ozge Koymen, Senior Director, Technology, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. It covers the following topics:

  • Qualcomm's vision for 5G mmWave and the new opportunities it poises to bring for the broader ecosystem
  • mmWave capabilities and enhancements coming in Release -16 and beyond
  • Qualcomm’s role in mobilizing and democratizing 5G mmWave to usher in new experiences
  • Latest update on the global commercial rollout of 5G mmWave networks and devices

Slides of the presentation are available here.

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Tuesday, 24 August 2021

3GPP's 5G-Advanced Technology Evolution from a Network Perspective Whitepaper


China Mobile, along with a bunch of other organizations including China Unicom, China Telecom, CAICT, Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, etc., produced a white paper on what technology evolutions will we see as part of 5G-Advanced. This comes not so long after the 3GPP 5G-Advanced Workshop which a blogged about here.

The abstract of the whitepaper says:

The commercialization of 5G networks is accelerating globally. From the perspective of industry development drivers, 5G communications are considered the key to personal consumption experience upgrades and digital industrial transformation. Major economies around the world require 5G to be an essential part of long-term industrial development. 5G will enter thousands of industries in terms of business, and technically, 5G needs to integrate DOICT (DT - Data Technology, OT - Operational Technology, IT - Information Technology and CT - Communication Technology) and other technologies further. Therefore, this white paper proposes that continuous research on the follow-up evolution of 5G networks—5G-Advanced is required, and full consideration of architecture evolution and function enhancement is needed.

This white paper first analyzes the network evolution architecture of 5G-Advanced and expounds on the technical development direction of 5G-Advanced from the three characteristics of Artificial Intelligence, Convergence, and Enablement. Artificial Intelligence represents network AI, including full use of machine learning, digital twins, recognition and intention network, which can enhance the capabilities of network's intelligent operation and maintenance. Convergence includes 5G and industry network convergence, home network convergence and space-air-ground network convergence, in order to realize the integration development. Enablement provides for the enhancement of 5G interactive communication and deterministic communication capabilities. It enhances existing technologies such as network slicing and positioning to better help the digital transformation of the industry.

The paper can be downloaded from China Mobile's website here or from Huawei's website here. A video of the paper launch is embedded below:

Nokia's Antti Toskala wrote a blog piece providing the first real glimpse of 5G-Advanced, here.

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Tuesday, 17 August 2021

'5G RAN Release 18 for Industry Verticals' Webinar Highlights

5G PPP held a virtual workshop on RAN Release 18 for Industry Verticals on June 23rd, 2021. The workshop was organised by 3GPP Market Representation Partners (MRPs): 5G-IA, 5GAA, 5G-ACIA and PSCE.

It features a fireside chat with new 3GPP RAN TSG Chair, Wanshi Chen. In addition to this, the workshop then provides a deep dive on new requirements from verticals, spanning automotive (5GAA), manufacturing (5G-ACIA), critical communications and public safety (TCCA with PSCE), broadcasting and media (5G-MAG), satellite (ESOA), rail (UIC), maritime (IALA) and energy (EUTC).

5G-SOLUTIONS came on board as a 5G PPP project supporting verticals with the 5G-EVE and 5G-VINNI 5G network infrastructures alongside RAN specialists doing standardisation work applicable to multiple verticals.

The video of the webinar is embedded below. In addition, you will find timings of when a particular talk starts and a link to the slides (if shared/available)

Timings:

  • 0:04:21 Fireside chat with Wanshi Chen, Qualcomm and 3GPP RAN TSG Chairman
  • 0:21:00 NTN Requirements in Rel-18 by Nicolas Chuberre, Thales Alenia Space (slides)
  • 0:31:40 Multiple verticals: Andrea Di Giglio, 5G SOLUTIONS (slides)
  • 0:36:35 Media and Broadcasting: David Vargas, BBC and 5G-MAG Chair of CD-T WG, Proposals for 3GPP RAN Rel-18 (slides)
  • 0:43:19 Maritime: Hyounhee Koo, Synctechno and IALA, Maritime Requirements on 3GPP Rel 18 RAN Studies/Works Priorities (slides)
  • 0:46:12 Rail: Ingo Wendler, UIC, NR Narrowband Channel Bandwidth - Railway Use Case (slides)
  • 0:50:02 Utilities: Julian Stafford, EUTC 3GPP RAN Rel-18 Requirements (slides)
  • 0:58:35 Utilities: Erik Guttman, Samsung 5G Smart Energy Infrastructure (slides)
  • 1:05:45 Multiple verticals: Mathew Webb, Huawei and 3GPP RAN 3GPP Release 17 and Release 18 support for industry verticals (slides)
  • 1:15:19 Public Safety/Critical Communications: Tero Pesonen, TCCA Chair, joint presentation with PSCE, 3GPP MRP Mini Workshop: 3GPP Rel 18. Requirements from industry verticals (slides)
  • 1:20:15 Multiple verticals: Thierry Berisot, Novamint and 3GPP RAN, Industry Verticals and Rel-18 RAN (slides)
  • 1:32:56 Manufacturing/IIoT: Michael Bahr, Siemens and 5G-ACIA WG 1Chair and An Xueli, Huawei and 5G-ACIA WG1 Vice Chair 3GPP RAN Rel-18 for Industry Verticals (slides)
  • 1:42:20 Automotive: 5GAA Maxime Flament, CTO Input to RAN 18 Rel-18 Workshop (slides)
  • 1:53:35 Interactive Session 2
  • 2:04:36 Passive IoT for 5G-Advanced, Mathew Webb, Huawei and 3GPP RAN (slides)
  • 2:14:59 Template A for Interactive Session 2
  • 2:20:40 Critical Communications / Public Safety requirements for Release 18 
  • 2:26:00 Closing Remarks

Official page here.

The slide above nicely summarizes 3GPP RAN Verticals up to Release 17.

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Monday, 9 August 2021

Qualcomm Demoes Sub-band Half Duplex (SBHD)


Qualcomm has been busy promoting its advanced 5G solutions these last few months in the run up to Mobile World Congress (MWC). You can find a detailed write-up on their website here as well as a feature which they did with RCR wireless here.

One of the innovations that caught my attention was Sub-band Half-Duplex (SBHD). In the first glance it looks like the Enhanced Interference Mitigation & Traffic Adaptation (eIMTA) solution we discussed long back here.

Their article talks about how their 5G multi-cell over-the-air (OTA) test network can now support subband half-duplex, allowing for more flexible service multiplexing as well as improved latency and coverage. 

While you can get an idea of what SBHD is from the diagram above, here is a video explaining it further.

Let us know what do you think about how important will this feature be in future 5G networks.

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Monday, 2 August 2021

3GPP's 5G-Advanced Workshop Summary

From 28 June to 02 July 2 2021, 3GPP held its first internal workshop on the radio specific content of Release 18, reviewing over 500 company and partner organization’s presentations, to identify topics for the immediate and longer-term commercial needs for:

  • eMBB (evolved Mobile BroadBand);
  • Non-eMBB evolution;
  • Cross-functionalities for both eMBB and non-eMBB driven evolution.

All the documents related to the workshop can be found on the 3GPP website here. The workshop details is available in RWS-210002 while the summary of the RAN Rel-18 workshop is available in RWS-210659.

The following is from 3GPP's news article on 5G-Advanced workshop:

Wanshi Chen, the TSG RAN Chair, summarized that the example areas under each topic serve as a starting point, each subject to further update or removal during the email discussion period - with additional topics still possible, up to the September e-meeting. That RAN#93-e meeting (13-17 September 2021) will see progress on ‘high-level descriptions’ of the objectives for each topic.

List of Topics:

1. 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
2. Uplink enhancements, with the following example areas:
  • >4 Tx operation
  • Enhanced multi-panel/multi-TRP uplink operation
  • Frequency-selective precoding
  • Further coverage enhancements
3. 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
4. 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
5. 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)
6. 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
7. RedCap evolution (excluding positioning), with the following example areas:
  • New use cases and new UE bandwidths (5MHz?)
  • Power saving enhancements
8. NTN (Non-Terrestrial Networks) evolution
  • Including both NR & IoT (Internet of Things) aspects
9. Evolution for broadcast and multicast services
  • Including both LTE based 5G broadcast and NR MBS (Multicast Broadcast Services)
10. Expanded and improved Positioning, with the following example areas:
  • Sidelink positioning/ranging
  • Improved accuracy, integrity, and power efficiency
  • RedCap positioning
11. Evolution of duplex operation, with the following example areas:
  • Deployment scenarios, including duplex mode (TDD only?)
  • Interference management
12. 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
13. Network energy savings, with the following example areas:
  • KPIs and evaluation methodology, focus areas and potential solutions
14. 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)
15. 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
16. 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)
17. Potential RAN4 enhancements 

The latest timeline for Release-17/18 is as shown in the diagram above. 

The official 3GPP Release-18 page is here. This link is better to navigate through features in different 3GPP releases.

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Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Introduction to 5G Reduced Capability (RedCap) Devices

Back in 2019, we wrote about Release-17 study item called NR-Lite (a.k.a. NR-Light). After the study started, it was renamed as RedCap or Reduced Capability.

We have now made a video tutorial on RedCap to not only explain what it is but also discuss some of the enhancements being discussed for 3GPP Release-18 (5G-Advanced). For anyone wanting to find out the differences between the baseline 5G devices with RedCap, without wanting to go too much in detail, can see the Tweet image for comparison.

The video and the slides of the tutorial are embedded below:

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