Standards body 3GPP signed-off on the Covid-19 (coronavirus) delayed release of the latest 5G specifications, but warned its next standards were at risk of further hold-ups due to continued restrictions on physical meetings.

Release 16 specifications were finalised at an online meeting on 3 July, having been delayed by three months when the organisation suspended in-person meetings in March. At the time it also shifted the timeline for the subsequent Release 17 protocols by the same period to December 2021.

However, in its latest statement it noted Release 17 was “at a high risk of being delayed” further due to the continued need for online gatherings rather than physical ones. The issue is set to be discussed at a meeting in September.

The Release 16 protocols cover the use of a range of technologies to improve 5G mobile broadband and specify standards to support a number of vertical applications.

Updates include enhancements of Massive MIMO; protocols for access to unlicensed spectrum; and standards covering vehicle-to-everything (V2X), industrial IoT and ultra-reliable low-latency communication.

In a statement released following the virtual meeting, attended by more than 600 representatives, Huawei noted the latest standard would “provide a high performance and full-service support well into the future”.

“It will meet expectations and play an essential role in promoting digital transformation across various industries.”