The development of 5G Advanced leaves the next-generation technology primed to take several large steps up the evolutionary ladder, extending its reach across new industries, locations and devices.

3GPP first standardised 5G elements in its Release-15 followed by Release-16 and Release 17, the latter of which was finalised in March of 2022.

The beginning stages of the 5G Advanced era began with 3GPP Release-18, the scope of which was finalised in December 2021 with initial meetings kicking off this month.

3GPP ironed out the capabilities and specifications of Release-18 and now vendors and operators are in the process of deciding which elements they’ll develop and implement.

Qualcomm SVP of Engineering John Smee told Mobile World Live (MWL) 5G Advanced would extend across Release-18, -19 and -20, with a final freeze expected in late 2023 or early 2024 ahead of 6G availability around 2030.

“It’s an important design trade off to make sure that 5G Advanced is making improvements for mobile broadband but also providing vertical expansion for the operators who’ve invested in their 5G networks into new types of 5G devices,” Smee explained.

He noted operators are “going to continue to see improvements in core mobile broadband. At the same time, 5G will further expand into other industries through 5G Advanced”.

Release-18 is chock-full of features which expand on Release 17, such as sidelink to enable communication between different types of new consumer and enterprise 5G devices including wearables, as well as introducing improvements in the technology’s end-to-end system foundation, advancement of green networks and better spectral efficiency.

Smee noted the scope of 5G Advanced also includes improvements across downlink and uplink MIMO as well as tapping into AI and machine learning to optimise energy savings and improve network performance.

It’s also tackling improvements for air interfaces needed for AI along with the use of full duplex and sub-band full duplex.

Novel uses
In addition to having long-term research baked into it, Release-18 will unlock high-precision location, presence and timing technologies for the first time.

Smee stated the location capabilities would be used by drones or automated guided vehicles (AGVs) inside of factories.

Metaverse-based extended reality (XR) is often cited as one of the drivers for 5G Advanced. While AR applications are available today, Smee said the user experience was currently limited across smartphones, laptops and headsets due to connectivity issues.

In a blog, Nokia Bell Labs fellow Antti Toskala explained 5G Advanced will improve uplink coverage for XR by using better random access channel coverage.

Jane Rygaard, head of Dedicated Wireless Networks at Nokia, told MWL XR’s potential goes beyond consumer applications to the digitalisation of physical industries by creating digital twins for verticals such as IoT applications and factories.

In the latter example, a worker would don a VR headset and be coached on how to fix something on a factory floor using an XR application.

She said XR has global implications across Europe, North America, Japan and North Korea, all of which have 5G networks deployed, in industries such as mining, manufacturing and logistics.

“Then the debate becomes how do we deploy these networks in various parts [of the world] and what needs to come with them? But we can’t do any of this at the cost of the energy efficiency,” Rygaard stated. “We can’t afford to miss our commitments to the climate change and sustainability goals.”

By extending capabilities that are currently being developed in Release-17 and setting the stage for 6G, 5G Advanced is the next big thing for the industry,

With operators at different stages of monetising their next generation networks, 5G Advanced provides them with a flexible framework to support massive use cases, such as millions of sensors for industrial IoT, while catering to specific types of traffic profiles including XR.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.