JUL 3, 2020
Our vision for 5G was a unified connectivity fabric supporting diverse devices, services, spectrum, and deployments.To realize this goal, we contributed core inventions to the first 5G standard — 3GPP Release 15, which established the technology foundation for the 5G evolution to come in this decade.
Before we get into Release 16, let me first give a few examples that explain why our Release 15 inventions are so vital to realizing the full potential of 5G. For instance, the flexible slot-based framework opens the door to efficient multiplexing of different 5G services (i.e., enhanced mobile broadband, mission-critical services, and massive IoT). The flexible OFDM numerology allows for the same 5G NR design to scale to different and new spectrum bands (i.e., from sub-1 GHz to 60+ GHz), and mobile mmWave greatly expands network capacity needed for 5G’s expansion and making extreme speeds possible. To better illustrate how these Release 15 inventions are central to the 5G system, we can use the following transportation system analogies. Click on the GIF below to watch the full animation.
Today, 3GPP achieved another important milestone — the completion of Release 16 specifications, marking the beginning of a new chapter in 5G evolution. Release 16 is a concerted effort to deliver further enhancements to the 5G technology foundations (i.e., coverage, mobility, power, reliability, etc.) and expand 5G’s reach to new use cases, spectrum bands, and vertical industries. It is an ambitious set of technical projects, but let me distill them into six key invention areas — not in any order — that are core to continued 5G evolution.
Expanding 5G to operate in all spectrum types and bands is a key aspect of our 5G vision, which will not only bring more capacity but also more flexible deployments. At Qualcomm Technologies, we have been pioneering cellular technologies operating in unlicensed spectrum for almost a decade now. Release 16 adds support for unlicensed spectrum for 5G NR (NR-U) that includes two modes of operation: license assisted access (LAA) and a standalone deployment option that does not require any licensed spectrum. The LAA mode allows mobile operators to tap into unlicensed spectrum to boost 5G bandwidth, building upon what they are already doing with LTE LAA.
The standalone NR-U mode does not require licensed spectrum, which brings 5G benefits to a broader ecosystem, including mobile operators, service providers, wireless ISPs, and 5G private network operators. In addition, NR-U can also be used to deploy 5G in the new 6 GHz band. Looking forward, NR-U will serve as the basis for future spectrum innovations such as supporting the unlicensed 60 GHz band that is targeting Release 17.
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