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3GPP Technology Trends

The transformative potential of 3GPP’s current trends and technologies are focused on positively reshaping our daily lives. ‘3GPP Technology Trends’ provides a detailed overview of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and its journey towards 5G-Advanced that begins with Release 18 (NR Rel-18).

The document underscores pivotal progressions in NR Rel-17, emphasizing their transformative effects on cellular networks and the wider technology arena. It sets the stage for delving into 5G-Advanced distinguished by groundbreaking applications including the metaverse (encompassing extended reality (XR) and digital twins), Reduced Capacity (RedCap), integrated sensing and communication (ISAC), and ambient IoT. Moreover, it accentuates the critical role of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) in facilitating the transition from 5G-Advanced to the nascent 6G epoch.

Key topics covered in this 5G Americas white paper include:

  • Release-17 and the journey toward 5G-Advanced
  • XR enhancements for Metaverse
  • RedCap evolution
  • Integrated Communications and Sensing
  • Ambient IoT
  • AI/ML for 3GPP-based wireless networks
  • Spectrum and Air Interface in 3GPP
  • Sustainable development

Orlett Pearson, Senior Specialist Standardization, Nokia and working group co-leader said, “3GPP’s commitment to evolving telecommunications is evident in its pursuit of more efficient, reliable, and versatile networks. The transition from 5G to 5G-Advanced and beyond signifies a leap in technological advancements, setting new milestones in connectivity and network capabilities. As additional technological advancements are introduced, 6G will be studied with AI/ML as an integral part of the system, designed to boost performance and usability.”

Also available in our shorter briefing paper format.

5G Advanced, heralded by 3GPP Release 18 and beyond, marks a pivotal moment in mobile communication, initiating the seamless convergence of digital and physical realms. This transformative era witnesses the convergence of XR, Integrated Sensing and Communication, and the profound influence of AI and ML on networks, sparking innovation and redefining connectivity.

Executive Summary

In the ever-evolving realm of telecommunications, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) plays an important role in the innovation and progress of connectivity and communication in an interconnected world. While 5G networks have already started a transformative journey for many people worldwide, members within 3GPP tirelessly dedicate themselves to elevating these networks to even greater heights with the development of 5G-Advanced. 5G-Advanced, the natural successor to 5G, heralds an extraordinary evolution in our connectivity experience. With faster data speeds, reduced latency, and ultra-reliability, 5G-Advanced promises to unlock a vast array of opportunities for industries, consumers, and the broader ecosystem. This white paper ventures deep into the core of 5G-Advanced, shedding light on the pivotal technologies, features, and use cases that will define the forthcoming era of wireless communication.

In June 2022, 3GPP Release (Rel)-17 was introduced, heralding significant enhancements to existing applications, complementing the advancements in data speeds, reduced latency, and ultra-reliability. These encompass Multiple In Multiple Out (MIMO) for 5G New Radio (NR), Improved Uplink Coverage, Enhanced Sidelink Communications, Positioning Enhancement, UE Power Saving, Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC)/Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Enhancements, Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB), and Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN). These enhancements collectively propel the comprehensive development of 5G networks, driving progress in areas like MIMO technology, power efficiency, communication reliability, positioning capabilities, and support for non-terrestrial networks. Moreover, the expansion of spectrum utilization designed to enhance coverage has contributed to the emergence of a more versatile and efficient 5G ecosystem with 3GPP Rel-17. 5G NR introduces key features that enhance the network’s capabilities and functionalities, making 3GPP Rel-17 a pivotal milestone in the evolution of cellular networks. Throughout the paper, we will use the term NR Rel-17, 3GPP Rel-17, and Rel-17 interchangeably.

The evolution of 3GPP technology trends continues with Rel-18, exploring cutting-edge topics such as the metaverse. The metaverse is a dynamic concept in the realm of digital technology, offering immersive digital experiences that seamlessly interconnect people, places, objects, and information in real time, transcending the constraints of the physical world. In addition to the metaverse, RedCap (Reduced Capability) devices were also initially introduced in 3GPP Rel-17, which supports diverse use cases and lays the foundation for additional specification work on NR RedCap. This work includes applications like wearables (e.g., smartwatches, wearable medical devices, augmented reality (AR)/VR goggles, industrial wireless sensors, and video surveillance). Planned enhancements for RedCap devices in 3GPP Rel-18 aim to improve these features and expand into new realms, including smart grid technology. 3GPP Rel-18 also delves into features like joint communication and sensing (JCAS), integrating communication and sensing functionalities within the same system or network.

Where ML (machine learning) coverage was expanded to provide descriptions of principles for Radio Access Network (RAN) intelligence enabled by ML in Rel-17, Rel-18 extends specifications for AI/ML into the new radio air interface. The focus on this area of the air interface, specifically addresses ML solutions that require interactions between network infrastructure and user equipment. Future AI/ML use cases will be addressed in the air interface, RAN, and system architecture in Rel-19. As we approach Rel-20, 6G will be studied with AI/ML as an integral component of the system. Advanced technologies such as distributed learning, in conjunction with deeply embedded AI, will significantly boost performance and usability, marking 6G as the first generation of data-driven mobile networks.

As 3GPP technology trends continue to evolve, spectrum and sustainability also take center stage. Spectrum remains a critical necessity, with new spectrum bands holding the promise of not only enabling innovative applications but also enhancing the capabilities of existing ones within the realm of 5G-Advanced. The spectrum allocated for 5G-Advanced cellular deployments, often occupying the upper midbands from 7.125 GHz to 24.25 GHz, possesses key advantages such as substantial bandwidth and suitability for extensive geographical coverage. This designated “FR3” spectrum, highlighted in this whitepaper, shows promise for enhancing positioning and sensing capabilities.

Finally, 3GPP recognizes the importance of addressing climate change by paying careful attention to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 3GPP diligently works on standards related to energy efficiency, resource efficiency, circularity, and social responsibility. This comprehensive approach underscores the commitment of 3GPP to lead global technology trends while innovating on connectivity, systems, and various modes of communication. Their approach has broad impacts on minimizing resource usage, limiting the environmental effects of network operations, and increasing global resource efficiency.

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