Mobile standards body 3GPP agreed to accelerate the approval of Non-Standalone 5G New Radio (NR) standards, which will enable earlier large-scale testing of 5G mobile broadband use cases.

The interim standards, which will be finalised by March 2018, will use LTE technology as a base while 5G NR carriers are used to increase data rates and reduce latency.

3GPP agreed the move at its RAN Plenary Meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia, this week. Dino Flore, 3GPP RAN Chairman, said it was a “major decision” in developing its 5G NR workplan.

At the meeting, 3GPP also re-instated a commitment to complete standards covering Standalone 5G NR by September 2018, the year it is due to finalise Release-15 standards, its first release of 5G specifications.

Previous 3GPP information explained Non-Standalone NR will utilise LTE as the “control plane anchor” while Standalone NR “implies full control plane capability” for NR.

The news follows calls from some of the industry’s largest companies at the recent Mobile World Congress to accelerate standardisation schedules to allow large-scale trials and deployments in 2019 ahead of full 5G roll-out. Companies pledging support for the early standards included Qualcomm, Huawei, Ericsson, Vodafone, AT&T and SK Telecom.

In a joint statement made last month, Tom Keathley, SVP wireless network architecture and design at AT&T, said: “Our focus is on prioritising important specifications in the standards to bring 5G to market as quickly as possible. In the process of defining any standard, it is normal to make some decisions earlier than others.

“These accelerated decisions on key components of 5G New Radio standards will allow an earlier start on the development of the infrastructure and devices of tomorrow’s 5G deployments.”

Arun Bansal, SVP and head of business unit network products at Ericsson, added: “The faster we commercialise 5G based on 3GPP specifications, the faster we will realise its benefits for the entire industry.”