Georg Mayer (Huawei & 3GPP)
Over the last 5 to 10 years, 3GPP has seen growing participation from companies and organizations with a non- telecommunication background. These entities from other industry sectors are usually summed up under the term “verticals” and they range from businesses related to emergency first responders, self-driving cars, satellite vendors, factory builders, agriculture, hospital and medical services and, neither last nor least, broadcasting and media organizations. One basic common interest among these diverse vertical players is the wish to make use of the global 5G network as an enabler for their services.
Requirements and constraints
Recent 3GPP releases created a baseline of standards for 5G, triggering the roll-out in many global markets of products and services meeting both consumer and industry needs. This success in a short time and on a large scale is only possible because 3GPP is open to new requirements with every new release, but also sets a number of constraints before initial ideas can make it into an approved 3GPP specification.
With 5G Advanced, 3GPP will further develop and enhance these existing services, but will also include new technologies and services in the 5G platform. First candidate topics are AI and machine learning, highly sophisticated internet-of-things scenarios, and capabilities for extended reality, i.e., creating a truly immersive virtual reality experience for applications and media that have strong interactions with the real world.
Broadcasters have been participating in 3GPP for several years already and were especially active during Release 17 in several work items. Two of those work items were 5G Multicast Broadcast Services (5MBS) and ProSe (also known as Sidelink) for proximity services. When 3GPP discussed the detailed objectives of these work items two years ago, they got huge support from many different companies across various industries. Both were co-signed by over 30 companies from all regions of the globe.
However, in order to get Release 17 completed on time, nearly all items, including 5MBS and ProSe, had to be reduced from their initially intended scope. This meant that some features had to be left out which were important not only for broadcasters, but also for other companies. This didn’t mean that the parts that were left out would never be realized by 3GPP; rather it illustrated the functioning of the release mechanism. New services start from a small and basic set of objectives, on which all interested parties can agree, i.e., consensus for the way forward is approved.
Consensus is key
As strange as it might seem, the principle of seeking consensus is a mechanism that is working very well in 3GPP. It is a key signal to all product developers that what is written in 3GPP standards has broad support and therefore is ready to be released to the market.
Now, at the outset of Release 18, both 5MBS and ProSe are again on the candidate list, this time with many new enhancements and ideas that all build on what has been achieved in the previous release. Once again, most likely not everything will make it through the upcoming discussions about the content of Release 18, but consensus will be reached on what will be ‘in’. Beyond that, there are a host of other interesting and powerful new features that will be of potential benefit to broadcasters.
All of this shows that engagement in 3GPP – or more generally in standards – needs to be considered long-term. Participating in standards is essential for all companies that want to make use of the related services, as they can participate in the shaping of future technologies and also learn from others what capabilities the 5G system really offers.