A number of large mobile communications companies announced their support for the acceleration of the 5G New Radio (NR)  standardization schedule to enable large-scale trials and deployments as early as 2019, a year earlier than expected.

AT&T, NTT DOCOMO, INC., SK Telecom, Vodafone, Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies, British Telecom, Telstra, Korea Telecom, Intel, LG Uplus, KDDI, LG Electronics, Telia Company, Swisscom, TIM, Etisalat Group, Huawei, Sprint, Vivo, ZTE and Deutsche Telekom support accelerating the timetable for finalizing the specification.

The first 3GPP 5G NR specification will be part of Release 15, the global 5G standard that will make use of both sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum bands.

At least some of the supporters have business reasons for wanting a faster commercial standard: 5G NR will make fixed wireless broadband operate at gigabit rates (in other words, competitive with fiber to premise), at cost per bit cost-per-bit comparable to fixed networks.

Also, some operators might perceive business advantages for earlier deployment, especially where software-defined networks already are in place. As its name suggests, 5G NR will require an SDN core.

Some mobile operators might argue against “prematurely” locking in the standard, to allow more time for figuring out what other capabilities might be needed. But it also is common for operators not in the best position to invest to argue for more caution where it comes to major new platforms.

Based on the current 3GPP Release 15 timeline the earliest 5G NR deployments based on standard-compliant 5G NR infrastructure and devices will likely not be possible until 2020.

Instead, the new proposal introduces an intermediate milestone called “Non-Standalone 5G NR” that will support  large-scale trials and deployments starting in 2019.

Non-Standalone 5G NR will utilize the existing LTE radio and evolved packet core network as an anchor for mobility management and coverage while adding a new 5G radio access carrier to enable certain 5G use cases starting in 2019.