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The mobile industry has confirmed that it has achieved a critical milestone in the race to bring 5G networks to life: official approval of “5G standalone” specifications. In a collective announcement, 3GPP and dozens of wireless companies are describing the approval as kicking off “the final sprint towards 5G commercialization,” which will begin in the United States this year and elsewhere next year. The newly completed specification enables developers to choose from a standalone 5G standard that doesn’t depend upon 4G, or the earlier non-standalone 5G standards with 4G ties.

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The significance is that now there is a formal standard for 5G which supplants the many press releases from parties that claimed to have real 5G products and services. Now it is truly possible to have a standalone 5G product/service.

While the announcement might seem obscure to the average person, completion of the final “Release 15” 5G standards is the product of 34 months of individual and collective engineering accomplishments and is expected to have society-transforming impacts.

After the release of the 5G NR specifications for non-standalone (NSA) operation in Dec. 2017, another essential step of standardization of 5G has been successfully completed. Now, the whole industry is taking the final sprint towards 5G commercialization. The completion of SA specifications which complements the NSA specifications, not only gives 5G NR the ability of independent deployment, but also brings a brand new end-to-end network architecture, making 5G a facilitator and an accelerator during the intelligent information and communications technology improvement process of enterprise customers and vertical industries. New business models will be enabled and a new era where everything is interconnected will be opened up for both mobile operators and industrial partners.

More than 600 delegates from the world’s major telecom operators, network, terminals and chipset vendors, internet companies and other vertical industry companies have witnessed this historic moment for 5G. Balassa Bertényi, Chairman of 3GPP TSG RAN, said: “The freeze of Standalone 5G NR radio specifications represents a major milestone in the quest of the wireless industry towards realizing the holistic 5G vision. 5G NR Standalone systems not only dramatically increase the mobile broadband speeds and capacity, but also open the door for new industries beyond telecommunications that are looking to revolutionize their ecosystem through 5G.”

Erik Guttman, Chairman of 3GPP TSG SA, adds: “The agreed completion of the stage 3 freeze milestone for the 5G standalone system has great significance. The 5G System specification has now reached its official stage of completion, thanks to the intense efforts of hundreds of engineers over the past three years. A special acknowledgment is due to those who led this remarkable effort in diverse committees. 5G promises a broad expansion of telecommunications, as an ever more central component of our economies, societies and individual activities. The 5G System opens the way for commercialization of services based on the New Radio and 5G Core Network and their advanced extensible capabilities. The new system provides the foundation for ongoing specialization for support of new business sectors, for unlike 4G and past generations, 5G supports the very specific requirements and individual service characteristics of diverse communications. Already, 3GPP activities have begun to leverage the 5G system to realize opportunities in areas such as industrial automation. This activity will intensify in the months and years to come, in increasingly many sectors, all on the foundation of the work that has been achieved on this occasion.”

Mr. Li Zhengmao, Vice President of China Mobile, said: “The name of the host place, La Jolla, means “the jewel” in Spanish. As the name of the host place, 5G has been viewed as a “jewel” from its birth and bears the expectations and dreams of the entire mobile communications industry to provide faster and smoother mobile broadband services and more comprehensive and more effective communication solutions to vertical industries. The whole industry will carry the momentum to accelerate the maturity of the 5G end-to-end system, create a new ecology of cross-industry integration, cultivate a new model for 5G development, and make greater contributions to the development of the global digital economy.”

“Commercial 5G services are closer than ever with the completion of 3GPP Release 15,” said Hank Kafka, VP Access Architecture and Standards. “This milestone will allow for more advanced testing using standards-compliant equipment and paves the way for our commercial 5G launch in a dozen cities later this year. We are proud to have been part of the process as the industry participants in 3GPP came together to achieve the acceleration, and now completion, of the first phase of 5G specifications.”

China Telecom EVP, Dr. Liu Guiqing said: “China Telecom is proud of being important part of the team for completing this historical 5G milestone. With this Rel-15 SA specification frozen, China Telecom plans to lead the efforts on verifying the specified performance and optimizing the innovative features through field trials in many cities. In parallel to the verification efforts of Rel-15, China Telecom looks forward to working with others in 3GPP to define Rel-16 that is critical for URLLC applications. To get ready for commercialization, China Telecom will work closely with the vendors and partners to promote 5G ecosystem and to explore new applications and business cases.”

Yang Chaobin, president of Huawei 5G product line, said: “With the development of 5G NR standardization, we are pleased to cooperate with global organizations to reach a great milestone that 3GPP 5G NR specification of Standalone(SA) have been completed, which is a critical step forward for the 5G standardization and industry ecosystem. Huawei will positively invest on the research and development of 5G key technology and product, continue cooperating with global industry partner, and promote the implementation of 5G commercial deployment and health industry ecosystem worldwide.”

Marcus Weldon, President of Bell Labs and Corporate Chief Technology Officer, Nokia, said: “Nokia is proud to have played a significant role in achieving this milestone with excellent global industry cooperation. This milestone connects the 5G radio (NR) to the new 5G Core Network, in line with Nokia’s Future X vision. It enables exciting possibilities for the digital transformation that 5G will bring us for a connected world. A whole new horizon is available to create a digital economy with vertical industries beyond mobile broadband. Nokia will continue to leverage our unique 5G E2E capabilities and bring this vision into reality together with industry partners.”

Seunghwan Cho, Executive Vice President of Samsung Research, said: “We are very pleased to see the completion of the first release of 5G standard. Samsung has pioneered breakthrough technologies for 5G and has been actively collaborating with key partners to achieve this milestone. We will continue our efforts for the commercial success of 5G and deliver a new level of mobile experience to everyone’s life.”

Ed Chan, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Architect of Verizon, said: “I applaud 3GPP’s completion of Release 15 including the Standalone NR System specifications. This milestone mirrors our active contributions and collaboration in industry standards and our continued leadership in 5G with our vendor partners, like the creation of Verizon 5G Technical Forum with key industry players in 2015 to accelerate the pace of 5G innovation.  Earlier this month, Verizon marked two important industry firsts in 5G development: the successful completion of outdoor data sessions based on the 3GPP NR standard and the successful completion of multi-carrier aggregation, boosting the signals into the gigabit range.  The pair of successes, based on 3GPP’s NR standard and Verizon’s 28GHz millimeter wave spectrum, proved the exciting potential of 5G technologies. It demonstrated the transmission of multiple live interactive virtual reality (VR) sessions with a latency of 1.5 milliseconds and simultaneous 4K streaming video.  We are working with our industry partners in leading the 5G fixed wireless and enhanced mobile broadband deployments.  Verizon believes 3GPP’s standardization of 5G technologies will further help us build the future as we embark into a new era of services for our customers.”

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