News Feature | July 7, 2020

The Week in 5G: 7/7/2020 — 3GPP Release 16 Ratified; U.S. Continues Hunt For 5G Spectrum

By Ed Biller


Global partnership 3GPP is responsible for approving updates to cellular standards that enable wireless phones and related devices, and it recently ratified 5G Release 16. Per VentureBeat, Release 16 is set “bolster ‘standalone’ 5G networks — towers that don’t depend on older 4G hardware and standards — by increasing upload and download speeds, as well as enabling 5G vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications and industrial IoT deployments, two innovations changing the transportation and manufacturing industries.”

However, VentureBeat reports Release 17, slated for completion in 2021, now may be looking at 1 2022 finalization. Per the report, “3GPP expects a September 2020 meeting will confirm the new timelines.”

In South Africa, operator MTN has launched 5G network, deploying initially to 100 5G sites. Since no spectrum is dedicated to 5G in South Africa, MTN deployed 58 5G sites using the 3.5 GHz band and 35 sites using spectrum in the 2,100 and 1,800 MHz bands. The operator also is using dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS).

MTN joined its rival Vodacom, which claimed to have launched Africa’s first live 5G mobile network in May, reports RCR Wireless.

Off Africa’s east coast, Ericsson and Telma have teamed to activate what is reportedly Madagascar’s first commercial 5G network, launched on the 3.6 GHz to 3.7 GHz band. Per an Ericsson press release, “two key 5G use cases for the Madagascar market are enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) … Healthcare and education are areas that will deeply benefit from this technology.”

As reported here last month, the British government has been reviewing the impact of allowing Huawei telecoms equipment to be used in 5G networks across the UK, despite earlier approving a limited role for Huawei in building those networks, one that banned Huawei from supplying "sensitive [core] parts.”

This week, the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) — a branch of the intelligence service Government Communications Headquarters — delivered its findings. Per a MarketWatch report, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will discuss the findings with parliament in order “to present any change in policy to Parliament before it rises for the summer recess on July 22.”

The Telegraph reports that U.K. operators are likely to strip Huawei equipment from their 5G infrastructure in the next six months. The article estimates such a choice would cost the nation’s telecommunications industry £2 billion and negatively impact both 4G service and 5G rollout.

In the U.S. a new National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) report identifies the mid-band spectrum between 3100 MHz and 3550 MHz as "a good" candidate for commercial wireless operations. In particular, the report calls spectrum between 3450 MHz and 3550 MHz “good candidate for potential spectrum sharing, including at the commercial system power levels sought by the wireless industry," given that spectrum below 3450 MHz has numerous uses by the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security that could prove "problematic" for sharing. 

The report notes that more research must be conducted to determine ideal ways to both share portions of the band and to migrate incumbent uses to new portions of spectrum.