Surprise for many, but long expected by some: in a recent announcement 3GPP declared that the standardisation work of the 5th generation mobile system has been suspended and postponed to unspecified time.

the rapid end of 5G

Justifying the decision 3GPP had said that “there is little benefit in a 5G New Radio technology compared to existing LTE Advanced Pro and its possible enhancements” and also “a dramatic change in the approach to the new core network architecture will result in the need of substantial investments from the mobile network operator community and operators are not happy with this”. The mobile industry is already struggling to handle the impact of the mobile IoT business, which requires a lot of new network capacity while generating only a tiny revenue for the mobile carriers. The need to invest into a revolutionary new 5G core network architecture might be a too heavy a burden for some mobile operators.

In order to continue development of the 3GPP mobile systems, the focus of standardisation will shift towards enhancements and improvements of the existing mobile technologies, which are successfully deployed and used globally.  Most of the planned and proposed changes will require much smaller investments than launching a new set of core network elements and thousands of New Radio base stations.
Few new projects and a number of work items have already been announced by 3GPP:

2G EDGE Advanced Pro:

building on a success of EDGE phase 2, the 3GPP will continue development and improvement of the most popular global radio standard. The higher order modulations, Advanced Carrier Aggregation and Massive MIMO are in the pipeline of GERAN standardisation in order to bring LTE-like experience to the users of 2G systems.

3G VHSPA:

the Very High Speed Packet Access was already discussed a while ago as a possible evolution of the 3G UTRA. A number of speed-enhancing technologies utilised in LTE-A and planned for the 5G NR can easily be introduced into WCDMA-based 3G systems with software-only upgrades to the radio base stations and RNCs. Again, the target here is to have LTE-like speed experience to the users of the 3G radio networks.the Very High Speed Packet Access was already discussed a while ago as a possible evolution of the 3G UTRA. A number of speed-enhancing technologies utilised in LTE-A and planned for the 5G NR can easily be introduced into WCDMA-based 3G systems with software-only upgrades to the radio base stations and RNCs. Again, the target here is to have LTE-like speed experience to the users of the 3G radio networks.the Very High Speed Packet Access was already discussed a while ago as a possible evolution of the 3G UTRA. A number of speed-enhancing technologies utilised in LTE-A and planned for the 5G NR can easily be introduced into WCDMA-based 3G systems with software-only upgrades to the radio base stations and RNCs. Again, the target here is to have LTE-like speed experience to the users of the 3G radio networks.

4G LTE-PP:

the “LTE Pro Plus” term may be one of those ad-hoc ideas which will stay with us for years to come, although some are pushing for the “4.99G” term instead. The concept of using millimetre waves and wider cell bandwidth for E-UTRAN access with massive MIMO, 1024-QAM modulation already used in latest WiFi variants (802.11ax) plus advanced beam-forming can bring 5G-promised bitrates to the end-users without the need for a new radio technology at all, while keeping the existing network infrastructure and providing extra capacity for zillions of NB-IoT and LTE-M devices.

VEDGE:

building on success of VoLTE and slowly starting IMS-based voice service over HSPA (and eHSPA and VHSPA soon), the idea of providing IMS voice and HD-video services over 2G networks seems challenging. IMS Voice-over-EDGE (VEDGE) can potentially be used by tens of millions of 2G-only mobile phones which – after a simple software upgrade – could enjoy a much better speech quality while at the same time allowing mobile network operators to decommission their old 2G circuit-switched core network elements utilising the almost half-a-century-old communication protocols inherited from the wireline telephony systems.

The 3GPP explicitly said that the “5G project is not abandoned, but the industry does not really need it and is not ready yet for the next generation mobile system”.

NOTE: Did you check on which date this article is published? 😉 ha ha ha 🙂

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