ETSI CTO Discusses Details of 3GPP Release 18
Monday, December 06, 2021 | Comments
European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Adrian Scrase said that the details of what will be included in Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 18 will be released by the end of the year.

Scrase discussed the release during a keynote speech at TCCA’s Critical Communications World (CCW) in November.

Work on 3GPP Release 17 will be complete by March, Scrase said. Over the past several months, 3GPP participants have been working to determine what will be included in Release 18, and while those conversations weren’t complete in November, they will be made and announced in December, he said.

As part of release 18, a rebranding from 5G to 5G Advanced will occur. This is in keeping with past history when a communications standard is generally rebranded about halfway between its preceding and succeeding standards, he said.

Scrase discussed several things that could make an appearance in Release 18, including 5G for smart energy and infrastructure and 5G control of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV). Scrase noted that many industries are beginning to use UAV for a variety of applications but many challenges still remain.

Because of the danger that UAVs can pose to those on the ground and other aerial vehicles, it’s important to be able to identify, validate and protect against those vehicles. 3GPP is currently working on standards for 5G control of uncrewed vehicles.

“5G as an enabler to control these vehicles is really compelling, but you really have to know what you’re doing,” he said.

Another key objective of current 3GPP work is energy efficiency and sustainability of communications systems. Scrase noted that inherently, radio systems consume a lot of energy and release a lot of heat, but said it is important that the standards community take a modern approach to that issue and make the systems more efficient.

“We have to move this way, or we will not reach the carbon zero targets that we’ve set,” he said.

The first standards for that work are in Release 17, and there will be more work on the issue in Release 18, Scrase said.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are two tools that future communications networks can use to help reduce system energy consumption.

“Our networks are and will become too complicated to manage by human intervention,” Scrase said. “So, you will need artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities; otherwise, you won’t be able to manage the networks of the future.”

Outside of Release 18, Scrase discussed the impact of the geopolitics and political tensions on communications standards technology.

“For the last two years, we’ve seen lots of tension around the globe in terms of geopolitics, particularly in our industry,” Scrase said. “To me, it’s a dilemma, because for the first time with 5G, we are that close to achieving a single global standard. Some would argue that we have achieved a single global standard. … In general, it’s taken us five generations of mobile systems across more than three decades to get to a single global standard, and we’re just at the point of leveraging that and seeing a total mass market economy by having this single global standard.”

He said that the goal is to be able to continue that work and momentum as the industry moves toward 6G, but that goal can become difficult and standards fragmentation can occur if parts of the globe are disenfranchised from the standards process. Scrase noted that there’s not much the standards community can do to change the situation because it lies with federal governments, but the community needs to be aware of the situation and work to cope with it.

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