Tech Talk: Gold Coast, Australia, 3GPP Plenary Meetings Recap

October 5, 2018
FirstNet Authority participates in 3GPP Plenary meetings held September 10-14, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.
FirstNet Authority participates in 3GPP Plenary meetings held September 10-14, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.
By Dean Prochaska, Senior Director of Standards, First Responder Network Authority

This blog post is part of the "Tech Talk" series focused on the FirstNet Authority’s standards development activities to support the public safety community needs.  This post recaps discussions linked to public safety and other related topics from the 3GPP Plenary meetings that were conducted from September 10-14, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.  The First Responder Network Authority (“FirstNet Authority”) represented public safety interests at the plenary meetings.

In the FirstNet Authority’s ongoing effort to keep you informed regarding standards development activities impacting public safety, and following our recent update regarding the June 2018 plenary meetings in La Jolla, California, this blog discusses the latest developments from the 3GPP plenary meetings held in Gold Coast, Australia, September 10-14, 2018. The September quarterly meetings addressed standards in several areas relevant to the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) in three separate plenary group meetings. 

The Secretary of the Department of Communications and the Arts of Australia, Mr. Mike Mrdak AO, and the CEO of Telstra, Mr. Andrew Penn delivered welcoming remarks to the joint plenary meetings. This marks the first time a 3GPP plenary meeting was held in Australia.  Both speakers stressed the importance of the work 3GPP does in wireless telecommunications and how important 5G will be to Australia.

The Radio Access Network (RAN) Plenary

More than 325 registrants representing vendors, operators and government agencies from around the globe participated in the RAN Plenary meeting. As you may recall, we reported in our last blog that the plenary committee froze specifications for Release 15 New Radio (NR) Standalone (SA). The SA mode facilitates single mode NR and single mode LTE mobiles working individually with the Next Generation (NG) 5G Core Network (NGCN). In these meetings, significant progress was reported on specifications for “late drop” additions, architectural options 4 and 7. Architectural option 4 is a Non-Standalone (NSA) - “NR assisted” dual-mode mobile connected to a next generation core network (NGCN) configuration, while option 7 is a Non-Standalone - “LTE assisted” dual mode radio connected to the NGCN configuration.  These non-Standalone (NSA) 5G NR options will utilize the existing LTE radio and core network as an anchor for mobility management and coverage while adding a new 5G Radio Frequency (RF) carrier. This work remains on schedule for completion by December 2018, when Release 15 is expected to be frozen. Some of the other focus areas related to public safety discussed and advanced during this plenary included:

  • Satellite Access: A study on New Radio (NR) to support non-terrestrial networks has been approved. As a part of this study, using satellite access in 5G enables several vertical stakeholders including public safety to leverage broader geographical coverage of satellite systems in natural disaster incidence areas.
  • Location Services: According to the latest requirements defined in Stage 1, the 3GPP system should support higher accuracy location capability to a resolution of 0.5 meters in all axes. The recent advances in massive antenna systems can provide additional degrees of freedom to enable more accurate user location by exploiting spatial and angular domain propagation of radio waves in combination with time measurements. A new study item to investigate available antenna technologies for higher accuracy location determination was approved.
  • 6 GHz: A feasibility study on 6 GHz for LTE was discussed extensively and approved. The development of unlicensed 3GPP-based technologies in the 6 GHz band is expected to support higher throughput demanding services by leveraging carrier aggregation.

The Core Network and Terminals (CT) Plenary

The CT Plenary meeting included 180 global registrants. With Phase 1 of 5G (Release 15) being declared complete in June 2018, the primary concentration focused on cleaning up Release 15, including the completion of specific enhancements. As reported in our July 2018 blog, work on mission critical features received a major push from the FirstNet Authority and a number of other companies over the past 3 months. The committee made a significant dent in the leftover pile of mission critical work enhancements from Release 15 and before.  A number of additional features were completed, and work continues through the end of 2018 and beyond to complete defining the remaining important features needed by first responders.

In particular, in June the work on MCPTT and Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Services (MBMS) enhancements was marked as only 20% and 10% complete respectively. In September, MCPTT enhancements were marked as 80% complete, and MBMS enhancements for mission critical services was marked as 70% complete. This is a significant advance in the work.

Outstanding functional areas for mission critical enhancements will continue as part of Release 15 through December. Unfinished work (the lower priority items) will move to Release 16, and will be given priority to achieve completion as early as possible.

Another major effort in CT is on interworking mission critical services on LTE to legacy land mobile radio (LMR) systems.  This work is pressing on and the FirstNet Authority is taking a very active role to see that the basic features are completed as quickly as possible, along with an eye toward additional features that will further enhance this function. The public safety community will benefit from first responders using the new MCPTT services on LTE that can be joined into the same talk groups as first responders using LMR equipment, while taking advantage of the newer features that LTE provides. This will allow agencies to move to mission critical services on LTE at the rate that makes the most sense for them.

The LMR-LTE interworking capability has two components: the LTE side of the work that is being developed in 3GPP and the LMR side of the work that is being developed in the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) together with the Telecommunication Industry Association (TIA). The goal is to complete the basic LMR-LTE interworking capability in 3GPP by December. In parallel, the LMR work continues in ATIS/TIA, where the FirstNet Authority is also participating. It is expected that the 3GPP portion of the work will be ready well before the LMR side is complete. All major features that first responders expect are being built into the basic interworking effort, such as group calls, emergency group calls, private calls, encryption, etc.

The Service and System Aspects (SA) Plenary

The SA Plenary meeting included 271 global registrants. The SA working groups reported that most of the work during the last quarter focused on Release 16 along with corrections and enhancements for 5G Phase 1, Release 15.  The following are some of the areas related to the Public Safety community interests. 

SA1, the Stage 1 requirements group, received approval for two new work items to benefit Public Safety. The first work item is a study on “Remote Identification of Unmanned Aerial Systems.” The second work item will study “Communication Services for Critical Medical Applications” which includes “Remote Patient Monitoring” and other medical/EMS aspects that are considered mission critical.

SA2 (Stage 2 architecture) agreed to continue focusing on previously prioritized study items that are aligned with RAN study items. It is expected that once these study items are completed, 3GPP member companies will submit proposals for follow up work items to start the normative technical specifications. SA2 also reported progress on the work for several Release 16 study items that benefit public safety such as “Enhancement to Service Based Architecture for Location Services” and “Advanced V2X services.”

In SA3, the Security group, discussion of security in the 5G system was a very hot topic. A strong effort is being made in 3GPP to make 5G as secure as possible. Several study items were approved including “5G Security Enhancement against False Base Stations.” False base stations, like rogue Wi-Fi access points, could be a security problem, and this work will include helping the mobile detect false 5G base stations.

Finally, a new study item for SA6 (Mission-critical applications) on "Location enhancements for Mission Critical services" was approved.  This work will study location enhancements to enable the MC application to better track a user's position (including altitude, bearing, and velocity). For example, enhancements for handling location updates when users cross Mission Critical system boundaries (common in Europe), enhancements for location when a user can be tracked via multiple devices (in-vehicle and on-person), and enhancements for automatic triggers for location updates based on call state (e.g. emergency) are potential items to be investigated in this study. Release 16 Stage 2 work is scheduled to complete by June 2019.

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