Why do we need 5G?

5G use cases ETSI illustration

So 5G should deliver significantly increased operational performance (e.g. increased spectral efficiency, higher data rates, low latency), as well as superior user experience (near to fixed network but offering full mobility and coverage). 5G needs to cater for massive deployment of Internet of Things, while still offering acceptable levels of energy consumption, equipment cost and network deployment and operation cost. It needs to support a wide variety of applications and services.

Comparison of key capabilities of IMT-Advanced (4th generation) with IMT-2020 (5th generation) according to ITU-R M.2083:

IMT advanced spider chart

Who is interested in using 5G?

5G offers network operators the potential to offer new services to new categories of users.


What are the main usage scenarios of 5G?

ITU-R has defined the following main usage scenarios for IMT for 2020 and beyond in their Recommendation ITU-R M.2083:

which requires different key capabilities according to  ITU-R M.2083:


How is the 5G standard developed?

ITU-R has set up a project called IMT-2020 to define the next generation of mobile communication networks for 2020 and beyond with the following time plan:

IMT 2020 Timeplan mobile communication


At TSG #67 in March 2015, 3GPP formulated with SP-150149 a 3GPP timeline on how to contribute to this 5th generation of mobile networks.

In connection with RAN #69 in Sep. 2015, 3GPP held a workshop in Phoenix, USA in order to inform 3GPP about the ITU-R IMT-2020 plans and to share the visions and priorities of the involved companies regarding the next generation radio technology/ies.
The chairman's summary (RWS-150073) formulated 3 next steps:

At RAN #69 in Sep.15, 3GPP started a Rel-14 study item (FS_6GHz_CH_model, RP-160210) "Study on channel model for frequency spectrum above 6 GHz". This study completed at RAN #72 in June 2016 with the 3GPP TR 38.900.

Note 1: LTE-Advanced was so far aggregating spectrum of up to 100MHz and was so far operating in bands below 6GHz. This study looks at the frequency range 6-100GHz and bandwidths below 2GHz.

Note 2: The whole contents of this TR was later transferred into 3GPP TR 38.901 "Study on channel model for frequencies from 0.5 to 100 GHz" covering the whole frequency range.

At RAN #70 in Dec. 2015, 3GPP started already a Rel-14 study item (FS_NG_SReq, RP-160811) "Study on Scenarios and Requirements for Next Generation Access Technologies" with the goal to identify the typical deployment scenarios (associated with attributes such as carrier frequency, inter-site distance, user density, maximum mobility speed, etc.) and to develop specific requirements for them for the next generation access technologies (taking into account what is required for IMT-2020).
This study completed at RAN #74 in Dec. 2016 with the 3GPP TR 38.913 which describes scenarios, key performance requirements as well as requirements for architecture, migration, supplemental services, operation and testing.

In March 2016, ITU-R invited for candidate radio interface technologies for IMT-2020 in a Circular Letter. The overall objectives of IMT-2020 were set via ITU-R M.2083 and the requirements were provided in ITU-R M.2410 like e.g.:

The minimum requirements:

Other requirements:

At RAN #71 in March 2016, 3GPP started a Rel-14 study item (FS_NR_newRAT, RP-170379) "Study on New Radio (NR) Access Technology" with the goal to identify and develop the technology components to meet the broad range of use cases (including enhanced mobile broadband, massive MTC, critical MTC) and the additional requirements defined in 3GPP TR 38.913. This study completed at RAN #75 in March 17 with the Rel-14 3GPP TR 38.912 which is a collection of features for the new radio access technologies together with the studies of their feasibility and their capabilities.

Note: Included in this study item were also some RAN Working Group (WG) specific 3GPP internal TRs: 38.802 (RAN1), 38.804 (RAN4), 38.801 (RAN3), 38.803 (RAN4).

At RAN #75 in March 17, 3GPP started a Rel-15 work item (NR_newRAT, RP-181726) on "New Radio Access Technology". Over time this WI got split into 3 phases addressing different network operator demands:

Note: Originally all other architecture options were supposed to be completed in this regular freeze phase as well. However, due to the extremely challenging time plan apart from option 2 only architecture option 5 (an LTE base station can be connected to a 5GC) was completed in this phase as well.

Note 1: Illustrations of the different architecture options can be found in 3GPP TR 38.801 (with the caveat that the terminology was not yet stable during this study phase).

Note 2: Rel-15 is distinguishing 2 frequency ranges: FR1: 450 MHz – 6000 MHz and FR2: 24250 MHz – 52600 MHz; while LTE is operating only in FR1, NR can operate in FR1 and FR2; that's why FR1 is considered for NSA NR and FR2 is considered for SA NR.

As LTE-Advanced can fulfill parts of the IMT-2020 requirements for certain use cases the 3GPP input (called "5G") to IMT-2020 will have 2 submissions:

Note: The terms RIT and SRIT are discussed and explained in RP-171584.

When will the 5G standard be ready?

Splitting Rel-15 into multiple drops turned out to be very challenging, e.g.

Nevertheless, 3GPP contributed in time to the IMT-2020 schedule shown below:

Note: The characteristics templates give a good overview about the considered technology.

Overview technology

A final 3GPP input is then planned for mid of 2019 and this will also include further Rel-16 enhancements.

The Rel-16 ASN.1 freeze is planned for March 2020. Like with GERAN, UMTS and LTE in the past, 5G will be further evolved in the future to address the industry and customer demands.

Where to find the corresponding 5G specifications?

A list of all 5G related specs (incl. core network and system aspects) is provided in 3GPP TR 21.205 or use this URL on the 3GPP website.

Radio related specifications addressing only NR: 38 series specifications.

Radio related specifications addressing only LTE: 36 series specifications.

Radio related specifications addressing aspects affecting both LTE and NR: 37 series specifications.

Service requirements for next generation new services and markets: 3GPP TS 22.261.

System Architecture for the 5G system (stage 2): 3GPP TS 23.501.

Procedures for the 5G System (stage 2): 3GPP TS 23.502.

NR; NR and NG-RAN Overall Description (stage 2): 3GPP TS 38.300.

NR; Multi-connectivity; Overall description (stage 2): 3GPP TS 37.340.

NG-RAN; Architecture description: 3GPP TS 38.401.

ETSI's 5G Building Blocks

ETSI has a number of component technologies which will be integrated into future 5G systems: Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), Millimetre Wave Transmission (mWT) and Next Generation Protocols (NGP).

Related Committees

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