The 3GPP standards undergo continual change. To ensure that there is an organised release of new functionality, new releases of the standards occur at planned times.
For the new 3GPP releases, there is a schedule of releases which contained set introductions of new functionality and this represents the work of the various Technical Specifications Groups and Working Groups.
The first 3GPP releases were termed Phase 1 and Phase 2. After this the releases were given the year of the anticipated releases, but after Release 99, they reverted to specific release numbers. Release 4 was also known as 3GPP Release 2000.
3GPP Release topics
3GPP Phase 1 reflected the first introduction of GSM. Work on GSM was the main focus through until Release 98.
3GPP Release 99 was the first release of the UMTS / WCDMA standard, and work on this proceeded with the introduction of HSDPA, the HSUPA to form HSPA.
3GPP Release 8 saw the first introduction of LTE and this was steadily updated with enhancements of LTE with LTE-A and improvements to many areas.
Moving on, 3GPP Release 14, Release 15, and Release 16 will include the 5G technologies. Initially 3GPP Release 14 will include elements that build towards 5G, the next two including the actual specifications for it.
3GPP Release schedule and summary
The table below gives the approximate dates and some of the salient features of the different 3GPP Releases for their standards.
|3GPP Release||Release date||Details|
|Phase 1||1992||Basic GSM|
|Phase 2||1995||GSM features including EFR Codec|
|Release 96||Q1 1997||GSM Updates, 14.4 kbps user data|
|Release 97||Q1 1998||GSM additional features, GPRS|
|Release 98||Q1 1999||GSM additional features, GPRS for PCS 1900, AMR, EDGE|
|Release 99||Q1 2000||3G UMTS incorporating WCDMA radio access|
|Release 4||Q2 2001||UMTS all-IP Core Network|
|Release 5||Q1 2002||IMS and HSDPA|
|Release 6||Q4 2004||HSUPA, MBMS, IMS enhancements, Push to Talk over Cellular, operation with WLAN|
|Release 7||Q4 2007||Improvements in QoS & latency, VoIP, HSPA+, NFC integration, EDGE Evolution|
|Release 8||Q4 2008||Introduction of LTE, SAE, OFDMA, MIMO, Dual Cell HSDPA|
|Release 9||Q4 2009||WiMAX / LTE / UMTS interoperability, Dual Cell HSDPA with MIMO, Dual Cell HSUPA, LTE HeNB|
|Release 10||Q1 2011||LTE-Advanced, Backwards compatibility with Release 8 (LTE), Multi-Cell HSDPA|
|Release 11||Q3 2012||Heterogeneous networks (HetNet), Coordinated Multipoint (CoMP), In device Coexistence (IDC), Advanced IP interconnection of Services,|
|Release 12||March 2015||Enhanced Small Cells operation, Carrier Aggregation (2 uplink carriers, 3 downlink carriers, FDD/TDD carrier aggregation), MIMO (3D channel modelling, elevation beamforming, massive MIMO), MTC - UE Cat 0 introduced, D2D communication, eMBMS enhancements.|
|Release 13||Q1 2016||LTE-U / LTE-LAA, LTE-M, Elevation beamforming / Full Dimension MIMO, Indoor positioning, LTE-M Cat 1.4MHz & Cat 200kHz introduced|
|Release 14||Mid 2017||Elements on road to 5G|
|Release 15||End 2018||5G Phase 1 specification|
|Release 16||2020||5G Phase 2 specification|
|Release 17||~Sept 2021|
It should be noted that each release updates all the 3GPP standards - even the GSM standards are being updated in the various 3GPP Releases.
The 3GPP standards and specifications cover all aspects of the cellular / mobile communications systems from the radio access network to the network, billing, authentication and much more.
Each 3GPP Release will update very many elements, many of which will not hit the headlines.
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