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Release 14

Release 14, brought about a series of Mission Critical enhancements, LTE support for V2x services, eLAA, 4 band Carrier Aggregation, inter-band Carrier Aggregation and more...

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The 3GPP Summary of Release 14 Work Items is now available on-line...here
Functional freeze date including stable protocols was in June 2017 (...what does this mean?)

Some Background on Release 14




Release 15

Update of April 26, 2019

After initial delivery in late 2017 of ‘Non-Stand-Alone’ (NSA) NR new radio specifications for 5G, much effort focused in 2018 on timely completion of 3GPP Release 15 – the first full set of 5G standards – and on work to pass the first milestones for the 3GPP submission towards IMT-2020.

2019 NR schedule late drop pic3While initial specifications enabled non-standalone 5G radio systems integrated in previous-generation LTE networks, the scope of Release 15 expands to cover ‘standalone’ 5G, with a new radio system complemented by a next-generation core network. It also embraces enhancements to LTE and, implicitly, the Evolved Packet Core (EPC). This crucial way-point enables vendors to progress rapidly with chip design and initial network implementation during 2019.

As the Release 15 work has matured and drawn close to completion, the group’s focus is now shifting on to the first stage of Release 16, often referred to informally as ‘5G R15Phase 2’. By the end of the year, 83 studies relating to Release 16 plus a further thirteen relating to Rel-17 were in progress, covering topics as diverse as Multimedia Priority Service, Vehicle-to- everything (V2X) application layer services, 5G satellite access, Local Area Network support in 5G, wireless and wireline convergence for 5G, terminal positioning and location, communications in vertical domains and network automation and novel radio techniques. Further studies were launched or progressed on security, codecs and streaming services, LAN interworking, network slicing and the IoT.

Other activities focused on broadening the applicability of 3GPP technology to non-terrestrial radio access systems – from satellites and airborne base stations to maritime applications including ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communications. Work also progressed on new Professional Mobile Radio (PMR) functionality for LTE, enhancing railway-oriented services originally developed using GSM radio technology which is now nearing its end of life.
(Source: ETSI Annual report 2018)

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Further reading:


Release 16

At the TSG#88e Plenary meetings - ending July 3, 2020 - Release 16 was completed with both the Stage 3 freeze and the ASN.1 and OpenAPI specification freeze being approved. 

 graphic version3 SP 200222

The "Release 16 Description; Summary of Rel-16 Work Items" (TR21.916) is now in production, with the Work Plan manager adding summary notes for each of the Features within.  Although the detailed data on each piece of work (Studies, Work item descriptions, Features) is available via the work plan, or via the 3GPP Portal, we hope that the "initial state" (pre-Change Request state) of the Features in TR21.916 will be of use to you. 

Release 17

December 12, 2020

More 5G system enhancements are set to follow in Release 17. A new schedule was approved at TSG#90-e Plenaries:

Release timeline v2 july R17 R18

 The following areas have been prioritized, at the December 2019 TSG meetings, for inclusion in the release: 

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Some Background on Release 17

Details of the features and work items under each 3GPP Release are contained in the Work plan.


Release 18

Release 18 content, priorities and timeline are now moving into the discussion and decision phase.  The prioritization process on Rel-18 features should be complete by the end of 2021 - with 'Rel-18 Package Approval' scheduled for TSGs#94:

Release timeline R17 R18

TSG SA Rel-18 timeline

As at September 2021, SA#93-e: RP-211644

  • Stage 2 functional freeze: March 2023
  • Stage 3 freeze: December 2023
  • SA2 has 8 meetings from Jan 22 till March 2023
  • SA2 TU planning according to 8 meetings
  • CT needs 9 months after Stage 2 functional freeze
  • Rel-18 content decided by RAN/SA/CT in Dec/21 at TSGs#94-e

Rel-18 Study items and Work Items from the Working Groups SA3, SA4, SA5, SA6 are under discussion and some of them have already been approved.

Rel-18 Study items and Work Items from SA2 will undergo a prioritization process until/during SA#94-e (December). There are currently about 40 Rel-18 S/WIs proposals discussed for SA2.

There are foreseen RAN impacts on the work and a need for cross-group coordination of those items. This will be moved forward during the December TSGs (#94-e).

Note: For a description of the Stages of a release, see TR21.900, section 4.0.

TSG RAN Rel-18 planning

RAN held its first Rel-18 workshop June 28th – July 2nd. The endorsed summary of the workshop is in RWS-210659.

The subsequent email discussion for RAN Rel-18 occurred during August 30th – September 3rd, producing a set of email summaries (See RP-211642 for details)
Next steps on RAN Rel-18 management after RAN#93-e (as in 'RAN planning – meetings and Rel-18' RP-210770):

  • Email discussions in October 2021 to start deriving RAN1/2/3/4 WIs and SIs from consolidated proposals
  • RAN#94-e to approve RAN1/2/3/4 work package for Rel-18
  • RAN4 impacts of RAN1/2/3-led items are included in the WI/SI sheets at the December approval
  • RAN#94-e (December) can potentially approve item(s) on RAN4-led new areas
  • Further RAN4-led proposals that are dependent on Rel-17 finalization are to be worked on in Q1/2022
  • RAN#95 (March) to approve the rest of the RAN4 core work package for Rel-18

TSG CT input to joint CT/RAN/SA session about Rel-18

As always, TSG CT works in syncronisation with TSG SA and TSG RAN. 

Although TSG CT owns some Stage 2 items, it is mainly dependent on TSG SA stage 2 inputs for the production of Stage 3 work.

The CT-owned stage 2 items in Rel-18 can start as soon as the Rel-17 workload has decreases sufficiently. TSG CT can produce TEI18 (Technical Enhancement or Improvements, See TR21.900, Section 6.2), independently of Stage 2, immediately after the Rel-17 freeze date. Part of Stage 3 work (e.g. study on protocol selection/evolution) can be triggered at the CT-level before the finalization of the Stage 2.

TSG CT input on the Release 18 timeline (RP-211643):

  • CT depends on SA/RAN Stage 2 completion dates
  • CT requires 9 months between Stage 2 freeze and Stage 3 freeze
  • CT needs frozen and stable functional scope to implement the protocol details in new/existing specifications
  • 3 plenary cycles provide enough time for the development/update of the new/existing specifications, efficient TSG-cross coordination based on the strong interaction and inter-dependency with SA1, SA2, SA3, SA4, SA5, SA6, RAN2, RAN3, RAN5.

The new 5G-Advanced marker

5G Advanced 3D Waves 450pxWe now have an official 5G-Advanced logo, for use on 3GPP Reports and Specifications, from Release-18 onwards. 

The decision to adopt the new marker was taken at the 3GPP Project Coordination Group (PCG#46-e Meeting) in April 2021. The PCG has considered and approved the use of distinct 3GPP markers - logos - since the completion of early LTE work in 2008, to help distinguish new release capabilities and services that they bring.

Whether ‘LTE’ or ‘5G’, these markers have allowed the broader industry to achieve some clarity in their conversations about which 3GPP system they are referring to in a variety of conversations with partners and customers as well as within the 3GPP community.

Guidelines for the use of the 5G-Advanced logo are found ...here.

The Rel-18 Work Plan

As new studies and the detailed specification work begins, the Work Plan will be the place to go to to monitor the growth of Release 18. Every Plenary set of meetings sees an update to the 3GPP Work Plan review

The latest Work Plan is always available for download at https://www.3gpp.org/specifications/work-plan 

Some Background on Release 18

  • 3GPP news article: Advanced plans for 5G (July 6, 2021)
  • News story 'Evolution towards 5G-Advanced' - Link to webinar presentation by Wanshi Chen, TSG RAN Chair.
  • TR21.918 the "Release description; Release 18", will be approved and published at the end of the Release. Prior to that, draft versions will be available. 


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