The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is a global wireless standards body that coordinates the development of standards for cellular telecommunications technologies, including radio access, core network and service capabilities. The organization unites seven other development organizations and provides members with a stable environment to produce the reports and specifications that define 3GPP technologies. Its most visible current project is the develop of universal standards for fifth generation (5G) technology for cellular networks.
At a recent plenary meeting, Release 16 (Rel-16) was completed with Rel-16 Stage 3 freeze, and with the approval of the Rel-16 ASN.1 and OpenAPI specification freeze.
3GPP Rel-16 focusses on key technologies that will help industrial companies with their digital transformation and Industrie 4.0, or Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives. This release will expand 5G from mobile broadband into new communication service areas that were not fully addressed in the past. Rel-16 features a set of specifications for use cases that include cellular-vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X), Industrial IoT, URLLC, NR-based access to unlicensed spectrum (NR-U), Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB).
C-V2X: C-V2X functionality allows devices to directly communicate with each over sidelink operation. This enables autonomous driving by allowing vehicles directly connecting anything or everything. Sidelink is also a key functionality for public safety.
In addition, 3GPP is making progress in two key areas:
- Ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC), 3GPP is working to integrate 5G with IEEE 802.1 specifications for Time Sensitive Networking (TSN). The Vertical_LAN work item “5GS Enhanced support of Vertical and LAN services”, part of Rel 16, is now complete. Vertical_LAN supports TSN by seamlessly integrating 5G system as a bridge to IEEE TSN. This enables Industrial IoT use cases and enhance factory automation and industrial production processes.
- NR-U: Unlicensed spectrum will boost adoptions of private networks. We will have to wait and see how the trend emerges for private networks using unlicensed spectrum as more industrial companies or enterprises prefer to use licensed spectrums to fully realize the benefits of private networks.