Mission-Critical Features Move Forward in Latest 3GPP Plenary Meetings
Monday, October 09, 2017 | Comments

The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) plenary meetings in Sapporo, Japan, 11 – 14 September addressed standards in several areas relevant to public-safety Long Term Evolution (LTE). The 3GPP plenary meetings consisted of three separate plenary group meetings.

The Core Network and Terminals (CT) plenary meeting included more than 125 global registrants and addressed several items related to public safety, with an emphasis on acknowledging the completion of stage three work for Release 14 mission-critical push to talk (MCPTT) over LTE, mission-critical video and mission-critical data. Notably, each specification set was considered 99 percent, 98 percent and 98 percent complete, respectively. The remaining work for these features, mostly security aspects, is expected to be completed by December.

With more than 200 global registrants, the Service and System Aspects (SA) plenary included a major public-safety discussion focused on re-naming the current mission-critical specifications. For example, the first public safety-oriented 3GPP specification is titled MCPTT over LTE. The “over LTE” text is limiting because 3GPP has begun the creation of 5G specifications in earnest. Attendees suggested removing the “over LTE” text so that the same specification can be re-used for 5G work. The same applies for the mission-critical video and data specifications. Removing the “LTE” limitation from these stage one requirements will help evolve the mission-critical services in stages two and three to support the 5G network.

While there was general agreement on removing the “over LTE” phrase of the name, participants also discussed a name change that would impact other industry segments, such as railway and maritime, interested in leveraging 3GPP’s mission-critical specs. The majority did not agree to the change.

The SA plenary committee also discussed the technical report from the study on interworking between MCPTT and legacy LMR systems. Work on the normative technical specification for interworking is in progress with expected completion in Release 15. This will include the protocol specifications from the LTE side that will eventually enable vendors to build standardized gateways between MCPTT and legacy two-way radio systems such as Project 25 (P25) and TETRA.

Additionally, the committee reviewed studies on railway communications and common application programming interface (API) frameworks and granted approval to move forward to develop final specifications. The railway communications work will leverage the mission-critical services specifications and will add to the economy of scale when deploying public-safety features. Finally, work items were approved to continue making additions and enhancements to MCPTT and mission-critical video and data features.

With more than 300 global registrants, the Radio Access Network (RAN) plenary meetings in Sapporo emphasized the evaluation of all outstanding work items to ensure that previously committed major milestone dates — December 2017 for phase one non-stand-alone and June 2018 for phase two stand-alone schedules — are still on target. As a part of the discussions, the scope of Release 15 RAN was downsized to remain on schedule, and as a result, some features were postponed to future releases.

During the March 2017 RAN meetings in Dubrovnik, Croatia, attendees decided to prioritize the development of 5G specifications to align with planned aggressive deployment schedules of major global mobile network operators. The RAN plenary agreed to a work plan proposal for the first 3GPP 5G new radio (NR) specifications that will become part of the global 5G standard.

The majority of the mobile ecosystem community committed to accelerating the 5G NR schedule by splitting Release 15 into two phases by introducing an early milestone for completion of a variant called non-stand-alone 5G NR. This new milestone will enable large-scale trials and deployments of 5G beginning in 2019 in two phases.

In the first phase, non-stand-alone 5G NR uses the existing LTE radio and core network as an anchor for mobility management and coverage while adding a new 5G carrier. This is the configuration that will be the target of early 2019 deployments or non-stand-alone 5G NR deployment scenario option three. In phase two, stand-alone 5G NR implies full user and control plane capability for 5G NR, using the new 5G core network architecture also being developed in 3GPP.

The specifications that will be delivered in December 2017 will support global service providers’ plans for early deployment of 5G systems. Additional features that are part of phase two will be supported by way of firmware and/or software updates on the deployed systems, which should enable re-use of the same silicon chips used in phase one.

First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Director of Standards Dean Prochaska provided the update in a blog.

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