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3GPP Technology Details

The 3GPP family of data technologies provides ever increasing capabilities that support ever more demanding applications. Services obviously need to provide broad coverage and high data throughput. Less obvious for users, but as critical for effective application performance, are the need for low latency, QoS control, and spectral efficiency. Higher spectral efficiency translates to higher average throughputs (and thus more responsive applications) for more active users in a coverage area.

The discussion below details the progression of capability for each technology, including throughput, security, latency, QoS, and spectral efficiency.

This blog provides details on UMTS/WCDMA, HSPA+, LTE, LTE-Advanced, HetNets, EPC, Wi-Fi integration, IMS, broadcast/multicast services, backhaul, UMTS TDD, Time-Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access (TD-SCDMA), EDGE, and TV white spaces.

3GPP Releases

Release 99: First deployable version of UMTS. Enhancements to GSM data (EDGE). Provides support for GSM/EDGE/GPRS/WCDMA radio-access networks.

Release 4: Multimedia messaging support. First steps toward using IP transport in the core network.

Release 5: HSDPA. First phase of Internet Protocol Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). Full ability to use IP-based transport instead of just Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) in the core network.

Release 6: HSUPA. Enhanced multimedia support through Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Services (MBMS). Performance specifications for advanced receivers. Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) integration option. IMS enhancements. Initial VoIP capability.

Release 7: Provides enhanced GSM data functionality with Evolved EDGE. Specifies HSPA+, which includes higher order modulation and MIMO. Performance enhancements, improved spectral efficiency, increased capacity, and better resistance to interference.

Continuous Packet Connectivity (CPC) enables efficient “always-on” service and enhanced uplink UL VoIP capacity, as well as reductions in call set-up delay for Push-to-Talk Over Cellular (PoC). Radio enhancements to HSPA include 64 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) in the downlink and 16 QAM in the uplink. Also includes optimization of MBMS capabilities through the multicast/broadcast, single-frequency network (MBSFN) function.

Release 8: Comprises further HSPA Evolution features such as simultaneous use of MIMO and 64 QAM. Includes dual-carrier HSDPA (DC-HSDPA) wherein two downlink carriers can be combined for a doubling of throughput performance. Specifies OFDMA-based 3GPP LTE. Defines EPC and EPS.

Release 9: HSPA and LTE enhancements including HSPA dual-carrier downlink operation in combination with MIMO, Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services (MBMS), HSDPA dual-band operation, HSPA dual-carrier uplink operation, EPC enhancements, femtocell support, support for regulatory features such as emergency user-equipment positioning and Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), and evolution of IMS architecture.

Release 10: Specifies LTE-Advanced that meets the requirements set by ITU’s IMT-Advanced project. Key features include carrier aggregation, multi-antenna enhancements such as enhanced downlink eight-branch MIMO and uplink MIMO, relays, enhanced LTE Self-Organizing Network capability, Evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services (eMBMS), HetNet enhancements that include eICIC, Local IP Packet Access, and new frequency bands. For HSPA, includes quad-carrier operation and additional MIMO options. Also includes femtocell enhancements, optimizations for M2M communications, and local IP traffic offload.

Release 11: For LTE, emphasizes Coordinated Multi Point (CoMP), carrier-aggregation enhancements, devices with interference cancellation, development of the Enhanced Physical Downlink Control Channel (EPDCCH), and further enhanced eICIC including devices with CRS (Cell-specific Reference Signal) interference cancellation.

The release includes further DL and UL MIMO enhancements for LTE. For HSPA, provides eight-carrier on the downlink, uplink enhancements to improve latency, dual-antenna beamforming and MIMO, CELL_Forward Access Channel (FACH) state enhancement for smartphone-type traffic, four-branch MIMO enhancements and transmissions for HSDPA, 64 QAM in the uplink, downlink multipoint transmission, and noncontiguous HSDPA carrier aggregation.

Wi-Fi integration is promoted through S2a Mobility over GPRS Tunneling Protocol (SaMOG). An additional architectural element called “Machine-Type Communications Interworking Function” (MTC-IWF) will more flexibly support machine-to-machine communications.

Release 12: Enhancements include improved small cells/HetNets for LTE, LTE multi-antenna/site technologies (including Active Antenna Systems), Dual Connectivity, 256 QAM modulation option, further CoMP/MIMO enhancements, enhancements for interworking with Wi-Fi, enhancements for MTC, SON, support for emergency and public safety, Minimization of Drive Tests (MDT), advanced receivers, device-to-device communication (also referred to as proximity services), group communication enablers in LTE, addition of Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) to IMS, energy efficiency, more flexible carrier aggregation, dynamic adaptation of uplink-downlink ratios in TDD mode, further enhancements for HSPA+, small cells/HetNets, Scalable-UMTS, and FDD-TDD carrier aggregation.

Release 13: LTE features include Active Antenna Systems (AAS) with support for as many as 16 antenna elements and beamforming, Network-Assisted Interference Cancellation and Suppression (NAICS), radio-access network sharing, carrier aggregation supporting 32 component carriers, 91 carrier aggregation of up to four carriers on the downlink and two carriers on the uplink, License Assisted Access (LAA) for operation in unlicensed bands, LTE Wi-Fi Aggregation, isolated operation and mission-critical voice communications for public safety, application-specific congestion management, user-plane congestion management, enhancement to WebRTC interoperability, architecture enhancement for dedicated core networks, enhancement to proximity-based services, mission-critical push-to-talk, group communications, CoMP enhancements, small cell enhancements, machine-type communications enhancements including NB-IoT and Extended Coverage GSM (EC-GSM), VoLTE enhancements, SON enhancements, shared network enhancements, and enhanced circuit-switched fallback. HSPA+ features include support for dual-band uplink carrier aggregation.

Release 14: completion June 2017. Contemplated features include uplink operation for LAA (enhanced LAA), massive MIMO with more than 16 antenna elements, dual-connectivity of licensed and unlicensed carriers across non-collocated nodes, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) communications built on Release 12 Proximity Services, shared LTE broadcast in which different operators broadcast the same content on the same frequency, non-IP operation for IoT, Downlink Multiuser Superposition Transmission (MUST), enhanced LWA, and LTE latency reduction.

Release 15: completion H2 of 2018. Specifies phase 1 of 5G. Likely to emphasize enhanced-mobile-broadband use case and sub-40 GHz operation. Further LTE and HSPA+ enhancements.

Release 16: completion end of 2019. Specifies phase 2 of 5G. Likely to add >40 GHz operation, core network functions, and additional use cases for massive IoT and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications. Further LTE and HSPA+ enhancements.

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