U.S. wireless titans Verizon and AT&T had it out at a recent 3GPP meeting over a proposal that would have accelerated the target completion date of parts of the 5G standard by several months.
The conflict centered around an AT&T-backed measure that would have bumped up the finish date for the lower and higher layer RAN aspects for non-standalone Option 3 to December 2017 rather than a later target in 2018.
As previously reported, the proposal was ultimately shot down by Verizon, Samsung and a number of other companies, leaving the target completion date at somewhere between December 2017 and March 2018. The final 5G standards are expected to be released in June 2018.
In a statement, Verizon said it opposed the measure because “in order to effectively define a non-standalone option which can then migrate to a standalone, a complete study standalone would be required to derisk the migration. The agreement reached by 3GPP in June was important to insure that both non standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) be completed in a timeline that would avoid two phases of Release 14. There were no significant changes between June and September that justified revisiting the agreed June schedule.”
But in a Tuesday statement, AT&T countered the proposal stemmed from “strong industry interest” in meeting the RAN objective early and wouldn’t have split any 3GPP release work into two phases.
“In the process of defining any standard, it is normal practice to make some decisions earlier in the process than other decisions,” an AT&T spokesman said. “AT&T’s proposal was to set a specific target to complete the most straightforward component of one aspect of the architecture, which AT&T felt would improve the ability of 3GPP to achieve the full R15 standard in June of 2018 and help accelerate equipment manufacturer efforts.”
AT&T said an acceleration of the timeline would help “operators deploy standards-based 5G into the market earlier than utilizing the other forthcoming 5G architecture options (including stand-alone) that are subsequent to the Option 3.”
According to Recon Analytics’ Roger Entner, it is exactly this last point that may have played into Verizon’s opposition of the accelerated timeline.
“Most carriers are waiting for the standard but Verizon likes its own semi-proprietary standard to be first,” Entner said. “That way they can say ‘Oh we have 5G even though it’s not fully standard compliant. Look at LTE. They launched LTE with a pre-standard technology. They most likely want to launch 5G with a pre-standard technology, too.”
And Verizon isn’t doing much to prove Entner wrong. Back in July, the carrier became the first to release its own 5G radio specifications.
Verizon Vice President of Network Technology Planning Adam Koeppe at CTIA in September said the specifications were built for a fixed wireless use case and were made public to help technical partners build equipment. Koeppe said Verizon is hoping its specifications – which were developed in collaboration with many of the companies involved in the 3GPP process – will help guide the 3GPP’s own standards process, but said the carrier should be able to mitigate any changes through software adjustments.
“If you look at the 3GPP standards collectively, it’s like a menu,” Koeppe said in September. “Each vendor does a little tweak and they make those modifications not via hardware, but via software … the larger specs, they evolve through software … We felt there was relatively low risk and it still created opportunity for us to say alright if this is a viable business then we’ll have technical solutions in place.”