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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Thursday, 22 July 2021

AT&T Cybersecurity Experts Provide 5G Security Overview

The National Governors Association (NGA) in the USA is the voice of the leaders of 55 states, territories, and commonwealths. On May 24th, the Resource Center for State Cybersecurity featured a panel of experts from AT&T for a conversation on understanding the 5G ecosystem, security risks, supply chain resilience and the challenges and opportunities that exist around deployment.

The talk highlighted top 5G security areas of concern. The top three being:

  • Increased attack surface due to massive increase in connectivity
  • Greater number & variety of devices accessing the network
  • Complexity of extending security policy to new types of non-traditional and IoT devices


Some of the Security Advantages with 5G are highlighted as follows:

  • Software Defined Networking/Virtualization
  • Stronger 3GPP encryption for over-the-air encryption
  • Subscriber Identity Privacy
  • Roaming or network-to-network protection
  • Network Slicing

The slides of the talk is available here and the video is as follows:

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Tuesday, 13 July 2021

The History of Camera Phones


Last year, Professor Nigel Linge Director of the Computer Science, Networking and Mathematics Directorate and Professor of Telecommunications at the University of Salford, Manchester presented a talk at IET, titled "Nobody saw it coming - the rise and rise of the camera-phone ". 

The following is the summary of the talk from the flyer (can't find link):

When you buy a new smartphone, what features do you look for? It is probably a safe bet that its ability to make and receive phone calls is well down the list, if on it at all! Yet the quality of the camera is probably near the top. How ironic that a technology that began life as a mobile telephone is now marketed and sold based on everything else it can do. This webinar will examine the extraordinary rise and rise of the camera-phone, from the Sharp J-SHO4 in 2000, to pushing the megapixel count up from one in 2004 to five in 2006, and then eight in 2008 to today's one-hundred plus megapixel, 4K HD video recording, multi-camera, offerings. From the first selfies, to transforming social media and turning everyone into an on-the-spot news reporter, the camera-phone has had a phenomenal impact on society in its first twenty years.

I definitely recommend watching the video, it's available on the IET page here.

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Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Different Types of RAN Architectures - Distributed, Centralized & Cloud


I come across a question relating to the different type of RAN architectures once per month on an average. Even though we have covered the topic as part of some or the other tutorial, we decided to do a dedicated tutorial on this.

The video and slides are embedded below

As always, feedback and comments welcome.

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Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Open RAN Terminology and Players


When we made our little Open RAN explainer, couple of years back, we never imagined this day when so many people in the industry will be talking about Open RAN. I have lost track of the virtual events taking place and Open RAN whitepapers that have been made available just in the last month.

One of the whitepapers just released was from NTT Docomo, just in time for MWC 2021. You can see the link in the Tweet

Even after so much information being available, many people still have basic questions about Open RAN and O-RAN. I helped make an Open RAN explainer series and blogged about it here. Just last week, I blogged about the O-RAN explainer series that I am currently working on, here.

There were some other topics that I couldn't cover elsewhere so made some short videos on them for the 3G4G YouTube channel. The first video/presentation explains Open RAN terminology that different people, companies and organizations use. It starts with open interfaces and then looks at radio hardware disaggregation and compute disaggregation. Moving from 2G/3G/4G to 5G, it also explains the Open RAN approach to a decomposed architecture with RAN functional splits.

If you look at the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenRAN group or O-RAN Alliance, the organizations driving the Open RAN vision and mission, you will notice many new small RAN players are joining one or both of them. In addition, you hear about other Open RAN consortiums that again include small innovative vendors that may not be very well known. 

The second video is an opinion piece looking at what is driving these companies to invest in Open RAN and what can they expect as return in future.

As always, all 3G4G videos' slides are available on our SlideShare channel.

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Thursday, 24 June 2021

O-RAN Introduction for Beginners


Having been writing about Open RAN for a while, I thought it was important to make simple beginners tutorials for O-RAN. As my full time job* is with a company that is heavily involved in Open RAN and O-RAN, I had an insiders view for doing this project. 

I am making a series of videos for Parallel Wireless to help the industry become familiar with the technology and terminology. The playlist is embedded below:

Four of these are ready and more will be added as and when I get some time. Here is a summary of the videos available. Some of them also have a corresponding blog that I am linking below.

  1. Introduction to O-RAN Philosophy: This explains the basics of O-RAN and how O-RAN is transforming the mobile networks industry towards open, intelligent, virtualized and fully interoperable RAN.
  2. Introduction to O-RAN Timeline and Releases: This part looks at important timelines from the O-RAN Alliance, understand the O-RAN Software Community (OSC) and the role it plays in O-RAN, and finally, looks at the O-RAN Open-Source Software releases.
  3. Introduction to O-RAN Architecture: This part looks at how the basic OpenRAN architecture is evolving into the O-RAN Alliance based Intelligent, Virtualized and Fully Interoperable RAN. It starts with a high-level ORAN architecture and then delves into details of Service Management and Orchestration (SMO), Non-Real-Time (Non-RT) RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC), Near-RT RIC and O-Cloud.
  4. O-RAN Technical Steering Committee (TSC) & Workgroups: This part looks at O-RAN Technical Steering Committee (TSC) & Workgroups (WGs). The O-RAN TSC decides or gives guidance on O-RAN technical topics and approves O-RAN specifications prior to the Board approval and publication. The TSC consists of Member representatives and the technical workgroup co-chairs, representing both Members and Contributors. Within the TSC, there are 10 work groups, 4 focus groups, Open-Source Community and Minimum Viable Plan Committee. These have all been discussed within the video.
  5. O-RAN Workgroup1: Task Groups and Deliverables: This part looks at O-RAN Workgroup#1 (WG1), its task groups and sub-task groups and finally the deliverables produced by WG1.

I am hoping that I will be able to do a few more parts and add a lot more information to the basics so a handy resource is available for anyone interested. Feel free to add links, suggestions, etc. in the comments below. 

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*Full Disclosure: I work for Parallel Wireless as a Senior Director, Technology & Innovation Strategy. This blog is maintained in my personal capacity and expresses my own views, not the views of my employer or anyone else. Anyone who knows me well would know this.

Monday, 21 June 2021

3GPP Standards on Edge Computing

A sub-set of 3GPP Market Representation Partners hosted a 2-part webinar series in April 2021 looking at edge computing for industry verticals and on-going standardisation work in 3GPP. The first part write-up is available here. The webinar was attended by a mix of organisations from both verticals and the telecommunication industry, helping to share a common understanding on edge computing. 

The webinar brought together top experts at the 3GPP plenary level, SA2 (Architecture) and SA6 (application enablement and critical communication applications) for a deep-dive into how 5G and related standards can help harmonise and enable technologies like edge computing and artificial intelligence to work together much more efficiently. 

The webinar was co-chaired by Georg Mayer, 3GPP SA Chairman and Stephanie Parker, Trust-IT and Vice-chair of the 5G-IA Pre-Standardisation WG with the John Favaro, Trust-IT and member of the 5G PPP Automotive Working Group. 

The webinar was attended by a mix of organisations from both verticals and the telecommunication industry, helping to share a common understanding on edge computing.

This video embedded below is the recording of the webinar on edge computing held on Thursday 22 April 2021 part 2 - 3GPP Standards on Edge Computing as an educational deep dive to help industry verticals gain a better understanding of an evolving landscape. It gives key insights into 3GPP standardisation work on edge computing with an overview of the main activities taking place within SA (System Aspects and Architecture). Presentations and panel discussions zoom in on the network layer with SA2 Architecture and on the application layer for vertical enablement with SA6 Application Enablement and Critical Communication Applications. The panel discussion with SA TSG, SA2 and SA6 chairmen sheds light on the role of artificial intelligence from both the network and application perspectives, underscoring the vital importance of industry verticals in the standardisation process to meet their specific requirements in 3GPP as a truly global initiative.

PDF of presentations as follows:

Global5G has a summary with main takeaways and poll findings here. The following is from there:

Main Takeaways

  1. 5G will help technologies like edge computing and artificial intelligence to harmonise and enable them to work together much more efficiently.
  2. 3GPP Release 17 is foundational for edge computing but more will come in future releases given its importance in mobile communications and as we gradually move beyond 5G. The webinar was therefore a timely deep-dive into today's landscape. 
  3. Artificial Intelligence and edge computing can both serve as building blocks but in different ways: 
    • Network layer perspectives: AI can further optimise edge computing applications.
    • Application layer persepctives: Edge computing can be a building block for AI, e.g. offloading limited capabilities from the device to the network.
  4. Global initiatives like 3GPP can help reduce regional fragmentation, drive convergence and enable network-compliant rollouts that benefit the ecosystem around the world.
  5. As a global initiative, 3GPP is well placed to build on its strong relationships and collaborations with ETSI MEC and GSMA. 
  6. It is absolutely essential that industry verticals get involved in 3GPP working groups, which is where key activities take place and where their requirements should be channelled. It is also important that verticals understand how their seemingly specific requirements could be relevant to other sectors. Being part of 3GPP is a complex but highly rewarding experience. It does not need to be a life-long commitment.

Poll Findings - Participant Viewpoints

Do you participate in standardization on edge computing?

Interestingly most respondents do not take part in any standardisation initiatives. Hence the webinar series was an opportunity to highlight the many activities taking place and encourage participants to get involved. Those that do take part mostly contribute to 3GPP and other forums (29%) like ETSI (SDO) and industry associations like 5GAA and 5G-ACIA as some of the early movers on edge computing. Beyond 3GPP, a smaller number of respondents (11%) contribute to ETSI and other forums such as 5GAA and GSMA and the same amount (11%) are involved in other forums.

How important do you think coordination on edge computing standardisation is?

Coordination on edge computing standardisation needs to be prioritised with 65% of respondents saying it's vital and another 33% saying it's quite important. Only 1 respondent said it's not needed. An important output via the 5G-IA Pre-Standardisation WG and supported by panellists and organisers (5G-IA, 5GAA, 5G-ACIA and PSCE) would be a user-friendly guide on edge computing standardisation to help stakeholders navigate the landscape. 

Do you see a need for new areas of standardisation for edge computing?

Findings from this poll are particularly interesting as we have a close split between those that think more standardisation work is needed (47%) and those that don't know (43%) with just 10% saying it's not needed. Webinar organisers have come up with two possible explanations. On the one hand, we may be looking at a fragmented landscape that would benefit from more unification, also from an architecture perspective. On the other hand, organisations looking at the landscape may simply be overwhelmed by the dverse activities taking place. They may also have new applications sitting on top of the network but are not sure if they need to be standardised. Practical guidance could go a long way in clarifying this uncertainty. 

Again, a quick guide on edge computing standardisation could be a useful output, highlighting also the good cooperation already taking place as an important step in the right direction. 

You can see Part 1 of this webinar here.

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Saturday, 19 June 2021

Edge Computing - Industry Vertical Viewpoints


A sub-set of 3GPP Market Representation Partners hosted a 2-part webinar series in April 2021 looking at edge computing for industry verticals and on-going standardisation work in 3GPP. The webinar was attended by a mix of organisations from both verticals and the telecommunication industry, helping to share a common understanding on edge computing. 

The first webinar brought together experts from the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), the 5G Alliance for Connected Industry and Automation (5G-ACIA), Edge Gallery, ETSI Multi-access edge computing (MEC) and the Automotive Edge Computing Consortium (AECC) to highlight opportunities and updates on how diverse market sectors can benefit from offloading data at the edge of the network. Further insights came from interactive discussions and polling with participants. This webinar is part of a 5G user webinar and workshop series designed for industry verticals co-hosted by 5G-IA, 5GAA, 5G-ACIA and PSCE as Market Representation Partners of 3GPP.

This video embedded below is the recording of the webinar on Tuesday 20 April on edge computing - part one, giving an educational deep dive on industry vertical viewpoints. 5GAA (5G Automotive Association) gives an overview of its white paper, use cases and upcoming trials for Cellular-V2X in the automotive sector. Edge Gallery shows how it is supporting the Industrial Internet of Things with its 5G open-source solutions and application development support. ETSI MEC explain its common and extensible application enabling platform for new business opportunities. 5G-ACIA (5G Alliance for Connected Industry and Automation) describes new work on the applicability of 5G industrual edge computing within the associaton. The Automotive Edge Computing Consortium (AECC) brings insights into how it is driving data to the edge.

Bios and PDF presentations as follows:

Global5G has a summary with main takeaways and poll findings here. The following is from there:

Main takeaways

  1. The webinar was an excellent deep-dive into the edge computing landscape highlighting on-going work in automotive, manufacturing and the Industrial Internet of Things, as well as standardisation work in ETSI and open-source approaches. 
  2. It illustrated the value of edge computing with strong signs coming from industry in terms of growing interest and adoption roadmaps. There is an impressive number of initiatives across the globe embracing edge computing, with examples of cooperation globally as seen in 5GAA, 5G-ACIA, AECC and ETSI MEC. 
  3. Industrial automation, digital twins and infrastructure control among the main drivers for growing demand. 
  4. Collaboration on edge computing is essential and will become even more important as applications increasingly move to the edge. Continued discussions are needed to have greater clarity at multiple layers: business and technology, SW and HW. Collaboration can also support efforts to educate consumers and businesses, both key to uptake and achieving network compliant rollout.  
  5. The collaboration underpinning the 3GPP MRP webinar series is an excellent example of how we can intensify joint efforts across the ecosystem working towards convergence and ensuring RoI, e.g. for telecom investments. 

Poll Findings - Participant viewpoints

Where would you position your organisation in terms of implementing edge computing?

Only 16% of respondents already have a commercial strategy in place for edge computing while 26% are starting to develop one. Therefore 42% are expected to have one in short term. 30% are at early learning stage to understand market opportunities and 28% are exploring its potential. 

In which verticals do you expect the first implementations other than automotive?

The automotive sector is an early mover in edge computing, as testified by 5GAA and AECC presentations in the webinar with both having published studies and white papers. 5GAA is planning trials in 2021 in various locations globally so another webinar on this topic in 2022 would be helpful. After automotive, manufacturing is expected to be the next sector to implement edge, as testified by the 5G-ACIA presentation. All three associations are market representation partners of 3GPP, with 5GAA also contributing to standardisation work. In the 5G PPP, 5GCroCo (cross-border automotive use cases) has contributed to standardisation activities of both 5GAA and AECC. Gaming, AR/VR and media is the next sector expected to adopt edge computing. 

What are your top 2 priority requirements for edge computing? 

Low latency is the top requirement for most respondents (33%) followed by interoperability and service continuity (both on 20.5%) with transferring and processing large volumes of data and very high reliability in joint third place (both on 12.8%). It' will be important to see how many of these requirements feature in early deployments as not all of them will be there at first rollout. The poll also shows how requirements combine together, e.g. 2 priority requirements: Low latency + very high reliability; Interoperability + Service continuity; Interoperability + Low latency; 3 requirements: Interoperability + Service continuity + Transferring and processing large volumes of data and 4 requirements: Interoperability + Service continuity + Low latency + Transferring and processing large volumes of data. 

Part 2 of this webinar is available here.

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Monday, 14 June 2021

A mmWave Special Cell in Open RAN Environment

NR RRC signaling messages exchanged for establishing a 5G radio connection, in particular the NR RRC Reconfiguration and NR RRC CG Config messages, contain a parameter called "SpCellID", which refers to the Special Cell ID. 

The concept of the Special Cell already exists in 3GPP LTE Advanced standards. Here a Special Cell is set of physical cells with same or different carrier frequency and physical cell ID (PCI) that overlap in a certain geographical area and thus, are combined for data transmission to/from UEs located in this area.

This concept now also gains high importance for 5G NR mmWave spectrum and here is why:

Many 5G mmWave radio transmitters can only handle a maximum bandwidth of 100 MHz, but the radio sector shall be covered with total bandwidth of e.g. 600 MHz. To achieve this six mmWave radio transmitters are installed in parallel at the same spot covering the same footprint. 

Each transmitter is identified on the radio interface by its own dedicated NR ARFCN (carrier frequency) and PCI. Thus, from UE point of view the sector is covered with 6 dedicated NR cells that all together form a Special Cell.

When a UE gets radio resources assigned in this 5G sector one of  the 6 cells is the Primary Cell, which NR CGI (Cell Global Identity) is then used as Special Cell ID in layer 3 signaling messages. All other cells act as Secondary Cells.

In an Open RAN environment the F1AP protocol allows perfect analysis of the SpCell resource allocation since it contains the SpCellID as well as all SCellIDs to be setup in the call. 

If the gNB-DU fails to allocated resources for a particular Secondary Cell this will also be signaled together with a failure cause value on F1AP as illustrated in the figure below. Also radio link failures occurring within the Special Cell will be signaled on F1AP including a cause value that provides deeper insight than  protocol causes seen on X2AP (in case of 5G NSA connections) or NGAP (in case of 5G SA connections). 

(click on image to enlarge)