The 5G Standard

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3GPP uses a system of parallel "Releases" which provide developers with a stable platform for the implementation of features at a given point and then allow for the addition of new functionality in subsequent Releases.
You can learn more about 3GPP Releases by looking into the following resources:

  • A full Release Description is produced by the Work Plan manager at the completion of the work.
  • TR 21.914 covers Rel-14,
  • TR 21.915 for Rel-15,
  • TR 21.916 for Rel-16 and..
  • TR 21.917 is the Rel-17 description document.
  • A list of Release start and end dates is available on the 3GPP Portal (https://portal.3gpp.org/). Select the "Releases" tab.
  • A table of the features, by Release, can also be found in the 3GPP Work Plan.
  • There is also a 3GPP Specification Status Report: A listing (with links) of the Specifications - showing the Release in which each specification was first developed (a bit of a leap - but useful to those in-the-know).

These resources provide an authoritative point-of-entry into understanding each of the 3GPP Releases.

On this site, we have a page for every major release – to help you to get to further resources, as background to how that release has evolved.

 

Release timelines:

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The table below, shows the most recent Releases only. The data is extracted from the 3GPP portal at https://portal.3gpp.org/, select the "Releases" tab, which shows all of the Release dates (since 1987). Please refer to the Portal page for the most up-to-date information.

Future dates are proposals, subject to change.

Release #

Status
[Note 3]

Functional Freeze
(Stage 3 complete)

End date
(Protocols stable) 

Open

2023-12-15 (SA#102)

2024-03 (SA#103)

Open

2022-03-18 (SA#95)

2022-06-10 (SA#96)

Frozen

2020-07-03 (SA#88-e)

2020-07-03 (SA#88-e)

Frozen

2019-03-22 (SA#83)

2019-06-07 (SA#84)

A list of Release dates is available on the 3GPP Portal: https://portal.3gpp.org/ - select the "Releases" tab.  

3GPP Releases and Version numbers

Release
TS/TR version

Release 4[Note 1]

4.x.y

Release 5

5.x.y

Release 6

6.x.y

--

--

Release 16

16.x.y

--

--

GSM Phases and Version numbers

GSM Release
TS/TR version
3GPP Release
TS/TR version

GSM Phase 1

3.x.y

GSM Phase 2

4.x.y

GSM Phase 2+

5.x.y

GSM Phase 2+ Release 97

6.x.y

GSM Phase 2+ Release 98

7.x.y

GSM Phase 2+ Release 99

8.x.y

UMTS Release 99
3.x.y

GSM Phase 2+ Release 00

9.x.y

Other associated terms

Stages

The term "Stage" derives from the ITU-T (originally CCITT) method for categorizing specifications (Recommendation I.130).

  • "Stage 1" refers to the service description from a service-user’s point of view.
  • "Stage 2" is a logical analysis, devising an abstract architecture of functional elements and the information flows amongst them across reference points between functional entities.
  • "Stage 3" is the concrete implementation of the functionality and of the protocols appearing at physical interfaces between physical elements onto which the functional elements have been mapped.

In addition, 3GPP often performs feasibility studies the results of which are made available in Technical Reports (normally 3GPP-internal TRs, numbered xx.8xx, not intended for transposition by the Organizational Partner SDOs). The feasibility study might be considered as a sort of "Stage 0". Furthermore, some Stage 3 specifications require test specifications to be prepared: effectively a "Stage 4".

Phases

This term has two distinct usages within the 3GPP:

  • in reference to GSM specifications, Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 2+ referred to releases of specifications (see table above);
  • some features within GSM/3G specifications have been enhanced over the years. For example, enhancements to the original CAMEL functionality are referred to as CAMEL phase 2, CAMEL phase 3 and CAMEL phase 4.

Further information

The mechanisms for creating and maintaining specifications are described in TR 21.900. A presentation outlining the release and change request process can be found here.

Note 1: The term "Release 2000" was used only temporarily and was eventually replaced by "Release 4" and "Release 5" (most elements originally in Release 2000 were renamed Release 4, but some were deferred until Release 5).

Note 2: A Specification with a version number of 0.x.y, 1.x.y or 2.x.y indicates that it is a new, draft, specification which has not yet been approved. The anticipated release is normally shown on the cover of the document.

The start date (see Portal detail) for a Release is an indication of when the first work item for that Release was approved at TSG level. In fact, it is somewhat approximate because often work items started in an earlier Release, but not completed, are "promoted" to the next Release. The end date for a Release is an indication of when the detailed protocols become stable. However, see Note 3 below.

Note 3: After "freezing", a Release can have no further additional functions added. However, detailed protocol specifications (stage 3) may not yet be complete. "Freezing" is applied successively for each of the three stages (see below), with stage 3 normally being frozen one or two TSG meetings earlier than the "end" date.  The "end" date shown on the 3GU portal is indicative only, since for each Release, a considerable number of refinements and corrections can be expected for at least two years following this date.  In addition, OA&M specs and test specs may lag by some considerable time. A "frozen" Technical Specification is one which can have no further category B or C (new or modified functionality) Change Requests, other than to align earlier stages with later stages. The individual stage freeze dates can only be seen by 3GU account holders (delegates, officials, secretariat).

Note 4: In the version number of a 3GPP TS or TR, the first field (before the first dot) indicates the Release number according to the table below. The field "x" is incremented at each change in the spec resulting from one or more Change Requests approved by the responsible TSG. Field "y" is incremented whenever an editorial change is made to a specification; editorial changes are those which cannot in any way change the technical interpretation of the spec, and are introduced at the discretion of the Support Team. Exceptionally, field "y" is incremented when a newly-provided version of a spec is found to be flawed due to, for example, misimplementation of a newly-approved CR; however, this circumstance is only permitted during the three-week period following the end of a TSG plenary round, during which new versions of specs are produced. Every change of version is documented in the "change history" annex of the spec. When "x" is incremented, field "y" is reset to zero. When the Release field (the first digit) is incremented, fields "x" and "y" are reset to zero. Version numbering was unified from Release 4 onwards, regardless of radio access technology. This implied a renumbering of the GSM-only specifications (see the Specification Numbering page).