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A look at key innovation areas of 3GPP Rel-17

The upcoming work on 3GPP Release 17 will mark the next chapter in New Radio standardization. The work, which will begin in 2020, will look to build on previous releases by enabling even more use cases. Below, we take a closer look at the key features.

Senior Researcher networks

Principal Researcher radio networks

Engineer researching and working with machines

Senior Researcher networks

Principal Researcher radio networks

Senior Researcher networks

Contributor (+1)

Principal Researcher radio networks

The standardization of cellular communication technical specifications plays a critical role in enabling future innovation. Overseen by 3GPP and other standardization organizations, each wave of various specifications are structured as releases which each provide a set of enabling functionalities.

Following the successful finalization of 3GPP Release 16 in December 2019, the work to develop the next wave of innovation will begin immediately with 3GPP Release 17 (Rel-17) in 2020.

At Ericsson, our approach to standardization is guided by a focus on four key areas: spectrum and technical regulations, connectivity networks, ecosystem expansion and implementation components. Learn more by visiting our standardization page.

overall 5G_NR vision on different 3GPP releases

This figure illustrates our overall 5G/NR vision on different 3GPP releases. NTN, IWSN, V2X, IIoT, eMBB and FWA refer to Non-Terrestrial Networks, Industrial Wireless Sensor Networks, Vehicle-to-Everything, Industrial Internet of Things, enhanced Mobile Broadband and Fixed Wireless Access, respectively.

Focus areas of 3GPP Rel-17

The contents of 3GPP Rel-17 have already been agreed by 3GPP stakeholders throughout 2019. By June 2021, the Rel-17 standards are expected to be finalized and published.

3GPP Rel-17 will bring more use cases where mobile communication can be utilized. At Ericsson, we are committed to ensuring that 3GPP NR covers all relevant use cases so that everything can be connected, anywhere and anytime with non-limiting access to information for anyone and anything.

From the feature dimension point of view, the features introduced in Rel-16 can provide fundamental support for a given use case and that can be further evolved as long as enhancements are commercially justified.

Below, we discuss some of main features that we are committed to driving as part of Rel-17:

NR Machine Type Communication: In 3GPP, 5G Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) IoT communication is based on the LTE massive MTC (mMTC) technologies: LTE-M and NB-IoT. These technologies cover wide range of use cases and requirements in order to handle high volumes of IoT devices in a number use cases, such as smart metering, parking, building management and controlling smart city lights.

On other hand, 3GPP has worked on Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC) mainly as an NR technology so as to meet the stringent reliability and latency requirements of critical MTC (cMTC) use cases, such as robotics and manufacturing. In between, these offerings could be complemented by introducing a new NR device type (“NR Light”) especially tailored to support industrial wireless sensor networks. NR Light communication is based on NR building blocks, such as numerology and SSB bandwidth, but complemented with enhancements to meet the new requirements such as reduced complexity and lower UE power consumption. 


: 3GPP has worked on advanced Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna technology over multiple releases. As we move into Rel-17, we will drive an agenda which focuses on fixing the issues learned from real-life deployments, instead of standardizing incremental enhancements or enhancements that are not practically implementable.


IAB enhancements
: We expect the Integrated Access and Backhauling (IAB) solution, which was introduced in Rel-16, will be further evolved to provide increased efficiency and support additional use cases. For instance, in disaster scenarios and areas, we believe it can be critical to enable support of ad-hoc and temporary IAB nodes.

IAB enhancements

: For broadcast solutions, it is important to look at more advanced use cases compared to the traditional TV broadcast. An example can be found in the public safety scenario where broadcast in terms of group call and video would certainly benefit. Furthermore, intelligent transportation systems (ITS) could utilize this technology e.g. for the distribution of road conditions and traffic sign/lights. Therefore, we believe in developing a common framework to enable single and multi-cell (SFN) broadcast.


Sidelink enhancements
: Rel-17 is expected to support more use cases for 3GPP based mobile communication. Public safety is the prime example of that. Support of such communication should leverage on as many synergies as possible with ITS. For example, sidelink standardized in ITS use case can be leveraged as broadcast.

Sidelink enhancements

NR operation on high frequencies (NR > 52.6 GHz)
: Operating NR in higher than 52.6 GHz provides great capacity for the operators in specific use cases such as mobile broadband services in indoor and dense urban scenarios.  It is important to leverage current NR standards as much as possible also in high frequencies to ensure synergies. Lots of spectrum in higher frequencies is unlicensed. Thus, we are committed to exploring (minimum) changes to support unlicensed operation in those frequencies.  With respect to NR-U operation in lower bands, Rel-16 already provides the necessary key components.

NR high frequency

Milestones of 3GPP Rel-15 and Rel-16

Rel-17 is preceded by earlier 3GPP releases 15 and 16 which introduced a number of technical milestones within cellular communication.

3GPP Release 15 (Rel-15) had great importance as it introduced New Radio (NR) technical specifications for the very first time, including the introduction and standardization of 5G Core (5GC). Rel-15 focused on mobile broadband use cases with very high bitrate and low latency and, in addition, some features for ultra-reliable and low latency communication (URLLC) were standardized.

Rel-15 was completed in three steps. The early drop in December 2017 which included E-UTRA-NR Dual Connectivity and EN-DC, the focus on standalone NR in June 2018, and the late drop in March 2019 which introduced other architecture options.

3GPP Release 16 (Rel-16) served to broaden the use cases where NR can be applied as well as improve capacity and performance of the system. These features and use cases included:

  • serving highly demanding critical industrial use cases as well as support of Time-Sensitive Communications (TSC) as part of a focus on URLLC and Industrial IoT e.g. by providing accurate timing information from the network to the device.
  • providing more capacity for traditional and new operators to meet customer needs by utilizing the larger bandwidths at 5 and 6 GHz in unlicensed spectrum. In addition, the work regarding the introduction of non-public network (NPN) in standalone or as a part of public networks served to enhance the support of vertical and LAN services.
  • NR V2X solutions to complement existing LTE V2X solutions for advanced automotive industry services. For this purpose, NR sidelink was introduced to allow vehicle-to-vehicle communication and vehicle communication to roadside units.
  • MIMO features such as joint transmission from multiple TRPs and enhanced feedback from the terminals to allow more extensive usage of advanced multi-antenna schemes.
  • integrated access and backhaul (IAB), referring to the solution where the backhaul link of a node uses NR link. Such a relay node is called a IAB node. This sort of solution is useful for operation in high frequencies with larger spectrum availability but poorer coverage.

Read more

We will discuss the final details of the Rel-17 content in the upcoming 3GPP RAN Plenary meeting (RAN#86) which will be held next week on December 9th–12th in Sitges, Spain.

In the meantime, visit our standardization page to read the latest insights and technical articles about our ongoing work in 3GPP standardization.

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