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5G Release 16 Targets Factories

July 21, 2020

Author: Aakash Jani

When 3GPP began work on Release 15, it targeted a broad range of consumer and industrial users. But as deadlines loomed, the first 5G standard emerged with a limited scope: bandwidth upgrades for consumer handsets. That release focused on enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), delivering peak speeds of greater than 50Mbps outdoors and 1Gbps indoors to help sell 5G to the average consumer. While putting eMBB front and center, Release 15 laid the groundwork for Release 16 to deliver new features for industrial users: ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC), massive Internet of Things (IoT) deployments, and flexible network operations.

3GPP recently approved Release 16, and commercial deployments will start next year. The standard focuses on four main areas for 5G development: vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication, industrial IoT, URLLC, and unlicensed spectrum operation. Underpinning these areas are 5G efficiency improvements, including new MIMO, location, and power-consumption enhancements.

The Release 16 changes address health care, smart factories, and smart vehicles. These applications rely on continuous communication between devices; information loss or disruption is potentially devastating. Because they generally transfer small amounts of data, they benefit more from 5G’s connectivity than from greater uplink and downlink speeds.

Even as 3GPP continues to add new capabilities, 5G shipments are rising rapidly, with 19 million phones shipped last year and more than 100 million expected in 2020. With its advanced infrastructure, China is leading global 5G sales, consuming more than 60% of all 5G shipments in 1Q20. But that country is facing headwinds. For example, the pandemic has led to supply-chain uncertainty and variation for many OEMs, creating production chokepoints regardless of demand.

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