Progress of 5G Standards in 3GPP

Release Date:2019-01-24  Author:By Cai Xiaoliang  Click:

Mobile internet has overturned traditional business models of mobile communications. In 2020 and beyond, mobile internet will promote further upgrades in the way human society interacts with information, providing users with ultimate service experience such as augmented reality, virtual reality, ultra-high definition videos, mobile cloud, autonomous driving, and smart city. As new services continue to emerge, there is a pressing need for new mobile technologies that will be faster, smarter and more efficient.

5G has completely subverted 4G technical standards and there needs huge technical updates. The ITU sets requirements that 3GPP must propose pre-standard 5G before 2018 and put forward the first formal commercial 5G standards in 2020. 3GPP faces the pressure of tight time and heavy tasks in formulating 5G standards.

5G Standardization in 3GPP   

According to the 3GPP plan, 5G standards are completed in two phases. The first phase of 3GPP 5G R15 standards was completed in June 2018. In this phase, 5G standalone (SA) were completed, enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and ultra-reliable low-latency (URLLC) IoT were supported, and network interface protocol was completed. The second phase of 3GPP 5G R16 standards are expected to be completed in March 2020. In this phase, the complete 5G standards will fully meet all ITU requirements.

At the 82nd plenary session of 3GPP RAN that just ended, 3GPP decided that the R15 Late Drop would be frozen in March 2019 and the R15 Late ASN.1 Drop would be completed in June 2019. The R15 Late ASN.1 Drop will contain Option7, Option4 and NR-NR dual connectivity. R15 is the first version of 5G commercial standards and has synergy with the R16 standards. R15 supports eMBB and URLLC in three 5G scenarios, and the massive machine communication (mMTC) scenario will be defined in the follow-up study. R15 focuses on the 5G NR interface (waveform, coding, parameters, frame structure, and large-scale array antennas) and network architecture (NSA, SA, and CU/DU separation) in the eMBB scenario.

Release of 3GPP R15 Standards

The 80th plenary session of 3GPP RAN was held in San Diego in June 2018, where participants witnessed the birth of two milestones in the 5G standardization process. The first milestone was that 3GPP completed on time 5G NR specifications for R15 SA. The new specifications will deploy 5G NR with 5G core networks, supporting end-to-end new features including network slicing and more granular QoS models. In addition to 5G NR specifications for R15 NSA released in December 2017, 3GPP has completed the first phase of global 5G standards and is ready for commercial deployment in 2019. The second milestone is the approval of 5G Phase-2 projects that will have a significant impact on 3GPP R16 specifications. Some projects focus on further improving mobile broadband performance, while more projects will be based on the flexible framework of Release 15 to extend 5G support for new use cases. The expansion of 5G chiefly depends on 5G NR and also includes LTE evolution.

ZTE's Contribution to 5G Standards

ZTE has a total of 800 experts devoted to telecom standardization work. Among them, more than 200 are 5G experts who are fully involved in the major international standards organizations and promotion platforms such as ITU, 3GPP, IEEE, NGMN, ETSI, OpenFog, CCSA, IMT-2020, 5GIA and 5GAA. ZTE has submitted over 4,700 international proposals to 3GPP and has become the editor in three 5G key specifications and the vice chair in 3GPP RAN3. By the end of 2017, ZTE had accumulatively achieved over 2000 5G-related patents and most of them were core patents. As an active contributor to 5G standards, ZTE has proposed a number of 5G original core technologies in terms of LDPC coding, ultra short frame, M-MIMO, NOMA, high frequency, new waveform, unified frame structure, and network slicing.

  • LDPC coding: ZTE was the first to propose the compact LDPC matrix framework. The proposal has been accepted in 3GPP.
  • Ultra short frame: ZTE proposed the mini-slot DL preemption mechanism. The proposal has been standardized in R15.
  • M-MIMO: ZTE proposed M-MIMO based on CSI feedback of TDD reciprocity.
  • NOMA: ZTE established the NOMA project successfully in 3GPP, introducing the non-orthogonal multiple access scheme to the physical layer.
  • High frequency: ZTE determined the hybrid channel modeling. The channel modeling has been included in the ITU reference
  • New waveform: ZTE proposed the FB-OFDM scheme for effective intersymbol interference suppression.


5G was just a vision or even a hype for everyone two years ago, but with the completion of R15 standards, 3GPP made 5G possible in a short time. The 5G R15 standards not only provide users with higher data rates and bandwidth but also meet communication needs of different industries through an open and flexible design. 5G will be an integrated platform for diverse industries.

It is difficult for 5G to arouse such a great interest in the industry if it only increases network rates. The charm of 5G is to transform the industry. 5G experience that consumers can clearly foresee in the short term is indeed double speeds. This has also been verified in some 5G labs or field tests. 5G spectrum efficiency is more than five times that of 4G, its peak data rates reach gigabits per second, and its network energy efficiency exceeds 100 times that of 4G.

5G has a greater impact on the industry. According to the White Paper on 5G Economic and Social Impact of CAICT, by 2030, the direct contribution of 5G will bring about 6.3 trillion yuan of total output, 2.9 trillion yuan of value added and 8 million opportunities, while the indirect contribution of 5G will bring about 10.6 trillion yuan of total output, 3.6 trillion yuan of economic value added and 11.5 million employment opportunities.

Internet of vehicles, mobile health and industrial internet used to only exist in concepts or preliminary intelligent application scenarios. Their potential cannot be maximized until 5G appears to support them.

5G is not only the evolution of communications technologies, but also the revolution of business models. Network architecture and core network have undergone tremendous changes in the 5G era, which can better meet the needs of vertical industries. This is one of the important signs of 5G revolution. Therefore, expanding the 5G ecosystem to allow more vertical industries to join the work related to promoting 5G development and to exert their potential is also the direction of the whole industry. 5G standards are settled, but this is only the beginning.

[Keywords] 3GPP, 5G standards, R15 SA, R15 NSA, R16

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