The 3GPP, a consortium responsible for creating standards for wireless communications, has started studies on 5G New Radio. This comes after the 3GPP agreed to accelerate the timetable for 5G standards development last month, allowing for large-scale testing and deployment of 5G networks by the year 2019. In addition to the earlier deployment of 5G wireless networks, the acceleration of the timetable also resulted in the start of new studies regarding the operation of 5G networks in unlicensed spectrum. Qualcomm, which has been a major player in the development of LTE in unlicensed spectrum or LTE-U, has shown its commitment to studying and developing appropriate technologies and protocols of 5G in shared unlicensed spectrum. Qualcomm has stated that it will continue studies on the implementation of 5G New Radio with its partners through the year 2018.
The standard 3GPP agreed to develop last March, 5G New Radio, aims to fulfill the need for a more robust wireless data infrastructure brought about by the massive increase in mobile data consumption around the world and the emergence of new use cases for mobile data. In the new timetable developed by the consortium, 5G New Radio aims to fulfill first the consumers’ need for an enhanced mobile broadband experience before the year 2020, with the further development of 5G standards to come by the year 2020 or beyond. Qualcomm hopes that 5G New Radio can be used on all available spectrum, including the unlicensed spectrum, which will allow for deployment models which ensure that the greatest number of consumers are serviced by the 5G networks with faster and better mobile broadband.
The companies developing 5G in unlicensed spectrum should develop standards and protocols to ensure that interference will not occur between devices using the unlicensed spectrum. An example of how 5G New Radio in unlicensed spectrum could become a reality is through emulating LTE-U development in the unlicensed 5GHz spectrum, which is already populated by Wi-Fi devices. Among the technologies developed to prevent interference of LTE-U devices with Wi-Fi devices are Licensed Assisted Access or LAA and the MulteFire. Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) makes use of a protocol named “Listen Before Talk,” which reduces the risk of interference by making the device seek for a radio channel that is not occupied by any other device, whether it uses Wi-Fi or LTE. While LAA needs licensed frequencies to work, MulteFire can use unlicensed spectrum for LTE service even without licensed frequency to anchor its coverage. MulteFire also allows for easier deployment of infrastructure, as it is designed to mimic Wi-Fi networks in terms of simplicity. While none of these technologies are tested to apply to 5G standards, further testing will be done to gain the benefits of increased bandwidth and faster data speeds.