Three 3GPP Chairs Clarify 6G Standard Release Timeline at Global 6G Conference

Date:2024-04-23 Source:C114

At the Global 6G Conference 2024 — 6G Global Perspectives Forum held on April 16, three experts from the authoritative global mobile communications standards development organization 3GPP introduced in detail the current 6G standard development plan and process schedule in the 3GPP Working Groups, and shared their views on the 6G vision and key technologies.


C114 understands that Release 21 is expected to be the first set of 3GPP 6G technical specifications. According to 3GPP plan, the Release 21 timeline is expected to be finalized by June 2026 to meet the planning needs of IMT 2030.

3GPP 6G Timeline

3GPP SA Chair Puneet Jain said that 6G study in 3GPP will start with Release 20, which includes both 5G Advanced specification and 6G study projects. According to 3GPP plan, 5G Advanced specifications will be frozen in March 2027, and ASN.1/OpenAPI specifications will be frozen no later than June 2027. "3GPP has separate timeline for the 6G study in Rel-20, and will have the approval for the 6G SA1 study on use case and the corresponding service requirements in September this year, and we hope to conclude the study and the corresponding topics by March 2026." Puneet Jain said.



The 3GPP RAN Plenary has had three discussions on 6G. The first one reached some consensus in September last year. The second one had a high-level discussion on 6G timeline in December 2023. The third one further reached a consensus on specific matters in March 2024. 3GPP TSG RAN Chair Wanshi Chen introduced that the first 3GPP TSG-wide 6G workshop will be held in March 2025, and discussions on 6G SI will last 21 months. Release 20 RAN1 will last from Q3 2025 to Q1 2027, and Release 20 RAN2/3/4 will last from Q4 2025 to Q2 2027.



Moreover, 3GPP TSG CT Chair Peter Schmitt detailed the new capabilities and features added in Release 18, including XRM, NG_RTC, NR_RedCap_Ph2, signal level enhanced network selection, support for AI/ML services, eNA_Ph3, etc. He said that Release 18 is the first version of 5G Advanced standard specifications, Release 20 will gather preliminary ideas on 6G and 6G architecture, and Release 18, 19 and 20 will pave the way towards 6G. Release 21 will be the first version of 6G standard specifications and is expected to freeze in 2030.

The three experts all emphasized that the mobile communication standard protocols are prepared for the next decade, which should be selected through deliberation. "We think 6G will play a greater role. It will take some time to prove its potential and obtain the expected benefits, including less latency, higher energy efficiency, stronger reliability, and other improvements in all aspects. Therefore, we need more time for more extensive studies in Release 21 before the first release of 6G standards." Wanshi Chen said.

Call for Globally Unified 6G Standards

"6G standards development would involve broader participation from different industry segments including cloud industry and vertical industry. The journey towards 6G is not merely a technological endeavor but also a collaborative endeavor driven by global standardization efforts. We need everyone's participation and contributions to create unified global 6G standard." Puneet Jain said.

In the roundtable discussion, Puneet Jain emphasized that from a system and service perspective, it is very important for 6G to focus on the high coupling between communication and computing. He analyzed, "The promise of 6G is to go beyond communication service and deliver everything as a service — sensing as a service, compute as a service, AI as a service, etc. From a service perspective, 6G can be truly based on cloud-native architecture. We should pay attention to this in the 6G research process."

Peter Schmitt said, "When it comes to technology, we need to identify the relationship between different functions and what kinds of functions are needed. On the basis of requirements identification, everything should be defined as a service. As Puneet said, we want people to be able to reuse it easily and repeatedly." He believes that overly complex functions are not conducive to technological development. Functions should be simple to use for end users and integrated into the network without many configuration complications.

He said that the application of 5G varies greatly among countries — even though 5G standards have been released for 5 years. "As for 6G standards under study, operators want to make profits by providing functions for users, and equipment vendors want to make profits by selling services to operators. But the challenge is what services we can offer, how we make it easy for people to deploy our services, and how we include vertical industries as potential customers." Peter Schmitt said.