3GPP Release 16 and what this means for 5G – Part 1

May 8, 2020 - Alan McNamee

Alan McNamee, Openet’s Chief Science Officer, discusses the importance that 3GPP release 16 will have on 5G.

3GPP are working very hard to complete Release 16. As 3GPP has contributors from all around the world it has been impacted from the early stages of the outbreak of COVID-19. 3GPP has cancelled all face to face meetings and has adopted e-meeting format to conduct meetings. This has affected the Release 16 freeze dates. The latest announcements from 3GPP have set June 2020 as the stage 3 and coding freeze dates.

Release 16 is an important release for 5G. Many operators will use it as the reference release for their first adoption of a 5G Core (5GC). The 5G community is excited for the completion of Release 16 as the new core network will deliver a valuable set of enhancements to the Release 15 capabilities. These include the following:

Release 16 Enhancements:

Enhancement of network slicing

Network slicing is a key 5G feature that enables an operator to support specific use cases with a dedicated set of network resources matched with a service level agreement for the use case. Support for network slicing is enhanced in Release 16.

Enhancements for the service based architecture (SBA)

Service discovery and service routing are enhanced in Release 16. This includes the introduction of a new service communication proxy (SCP) network function.

Enhancements to the Network Automation

The 5G core network supports the application of analytics to provide intelligent automation of the network, In Release 16 the set of use cases that are proposed for the Network Data Analytics Function (NWDAF) is widely expanded.

Redundancy enhancements to enable URLLC services

5G will support services that require ultra-reliability. Release 16 introduces support for end to end redundancy of the data paths for 5G applications using URLLC services.

Enhancement of Location Services

The 5G supports the retrieving location and velocity of a UE registered with the 5GC. This functionality is further enhanced in Release 16 to support new features such as roaming, privacy management and exposure services.

Radio Capabilities Signaling Optimization

This enhancement covers the signaling of UE Radio capabilities within the network and the management of the required mappings to achieve this. This includes the introduction of a new UE Capability Management Function (UCMF).

Topology enhancement for flexible deployment of SMFs and UPFs

The distributed nature of the 5GC architecture is further enhanced to enable more complex scenarios for interactions between SMFs and UPFs. This includes the introduction of a new Intermediate SMF (I-SMF) network function.

Advanced V2X services over 5G

Release 16 has enhancements to provide transport services to facilitate vehicular communications for Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) services. This will enable features such as intersection safety and vehicle platooning for self-driving cars.

Protocol enhancements for Mission Critical Services, Public Warning System, and Future Railway Mobile Communication System

Release 16 enhancements build upon the architecture from Release 15. These enhance the system to provide improved services to a broader set of verticals such as public safety and railway systems.

In addition to the above enhancements release 16 will also introduce a set of new capabilities that will extend the set of 5G supported use cases beyond initial set of use cases that were centered on enhanced mobile broadband.

Release 16 New Capabilities:

Support for Cellular IoT

This feature existed in previous generations but Release 16 marks the first support for it in 5G. The feature includes support for a wide set of functionalities including: infrequent small data transmission, frequent small data communication, high latency communication, power saving functions, management of enhanced coverage, overload control for small data, support of the Reliable Data Service, support of common north-bound APIs for EPC-5GC interworking, network parameter configuration API via NEF, monitoring, Inter-RAT mobility support to/from NB-IoT, support for expected UE Behaviour, QoS support for NB-IoT, core network selection and steering for Cellular IoT, Group Message Delivery using unicast NIDD, MSISDN-less MO SMS, Interworking with EPS for the Cellular IoT.

Support for Time Sensitive Networking

The ability for 5G to support industrial IoT is a key milestone achieved with Release 16. This is achieved by delivering support for a Time Sensitive Networking architecture in 5G. Release 16 enables a 5G network to be deployed as a TSN bridge within a wider TSN network.

Support for Non-Public Networks (NPN)

Release 16 introduces support for Non-public Networks. The support covers the ability to identify, discover, select and implement access control for non-public networks. The feature provides service continuity and support for access of NPN services via PLMN and vice versa. There are two types of NPN supported: Stand-Alone Non-Public Networks (SNPN) and Public Network Integrated NPN (PNI-NPN).

Support for 5G LAN type services

LAN type services introduce the concept of a 5G Virtual Network (VN) group that provides the ability of a group of UEs to communicate privately. A 5G VN group can be managed dynamically using a set of exposed services.

Support for Access Traffic Steering, Switch and Splitting

This feature introduced in Release 16 allows fine grained traffic steering across multiple accesses. The feature introduces the concept of a Multi Access PDU session. This allows for data traffic to be served over multiple accesses e.g. 3GPP access, trusted and untrusted non 3GPP access.

Support for an integrated architecture enabling wireline access connectivity towards a 5GC via 3GPP interfaces and protocols.

Release 16 provides native support for wireline access networks. The architecture reference model now includes wireline access by incorporating support for fixed network residential gateways (FN-RGs) and a Wireline Access Gateway Function (W-AGF).

Common capabilities for a Service Enabler Architecture Layer

A new service enabler architecture layer (SEAL) that supports vertical applications by providing a common set of services e.g. group management, configuration management, location management.

Looking at the enhancements and the new capabilities we can see the importance of release 16 on 5G. Next week I’ll look at how operators will be able to charge and build new business models using the new release 16 features.

Alan McNamee


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