First standalone 5G network standard approved

The first standalone release of 5G has been finalized, paving the way for mobile operators to launch commercial networks as early as later this year.

The 3GPP has approved completion after 34 months of work and discussions with stakeholders, including operators, device manufacturers, chipset vendors and Internet companies.

A pre-standard release of 5G was made available late last year, enabling the industry to work on rollouts and trials. However while this standard used 5G New Radio (5G NR), it relied on an existing LTE network to function.

5G standards

“The 5G System specification has now reached its official stage of completion, thanks to the intense efforts of hundreds of engineers over the past three years,” declared Erik Guttman, chairman of 3GPP TSG SA. “The 5G System opens the way for commercialization of services based on the New Radio and 5G Core Network and their advanced extensible capabilities.

“The new system provides the foundation for ongoing specialization for support of new business sectors, for unlike 4G and past generations, 5G supports the very specific requirements and individual service characteristics of diverse communications. Already, 3GPP activities have begun to leverage the 5G system to realize opportunities in areas such as industrial automation.”

The first commercial 5G services are expected to go live next year, enabling ultrafast speeds, high capacity and low latency for mobile broadband, fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband and a raft of new applications such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and connected vehicles.

However the more revolutionary aspects will allow be enabled once operators reconfigure their core networks to be more software-based. This will allow them to move functions around their network, closer to customers, and allowing for ultra-low latency.

“Two years ago, 5G was seen as a vision or even just a hype - with the closing of Rel-15 3GPP has made 5G a reality within a very short time,” added Georg Mayer, Chairman of 3GPP TSG CT. “The outcome is an amazing set of standards that will not only provide higher data rates and bandwidth to end customers but which is open and flexible enough to satisfy the communication needs of different industries.”

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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.