LA PAROLA A… Erik Guttman, chairman of 3GPP TSG SA, Dino Flore, chairman of 3GPP TSG RAN

3GPP is the SDO which boasts countless attempts of imitations…What is the key to its success, in your view?

Guttman - 3GPP's success rests on the shoulders of ETSI's success standardizing GSM. The essential and well-proven practices, approach of combining formal and informal work and high technical expectations that led to this remarkable achievement were retained in the formation of 3GPP.
The partnership project model incorporates regional participants into a global structure. This way, results can be adopted easily. The composite nature of the project ensures that partner organizations interests are always taken into consideration and can provide oversight over the organization itself.

Flore - One of the keys to 3GPP success is its inclusive process. While this has meant to sacrifice some efficiency, it has ensured broad industry support and recognition.

LTE is attracting more and more verticals: from critical communication to Intelligent transport system, IoT and many more coming in with 5G … This means a huge cost benefit for everybody, but also may change 3GPP appearance in the coming years. Achieving consensus in a multi-faceted world industry arena may not be so easy as in early 3G times, almost 15 years ago…

Guttman - There are clear challenges to support both interests in broadening the 3GPP industry to encompass new verticals - such as machine type communications and critical communications, while at the same time deepening the technology with enhancements. While broadening the industry is of potential interest to all vendors and operators, opportunities tend to come with costs and the conditions of the new market will differ from the established business. 3GPP increasingly serves the interests of a broadening diversity of contributing and concerned parties. A balance must be struck, since at the least, the core business and its constituent technologies offer general and fundamental tools and opportunities for offering service to an enormous base of subscribers by means of existing (incrementally upgraded) infrastructure.

  • enormous base of subscribers by means of existing (incrementally upgraded) infrastructure.
  • how would you expect to manage such a diversified market representation”
  •  3GPP has successfully offered interworking and convergence solutions for fixed broadband service providers and numerous tools for integration of other wireless standards (notably CDMA2000 and WLAN.)

Flore - This transformation has been happening for quite some time. Achieving consensus has become more difficult as 3GPP has grown in participation over the years. This is also reflected on the fact that there is an enormous competition for 3GPP resources, meaning that we all the time have to deal with many more project proposals than what can be reasonably processed by the Working Groups (and the number keeps increasing). So in some sense 3GPP is becoming victim of its own success. On the other hand, despite these increased challenges 3GPP has been managing fine and continued to achieve good progress. And I expect this to continue in the future.

we have been hearing about virtualization a lot: how is that impacting your work or work 3GPP is doing?

Guttman - 3GPP standards define behaviors and interfaces between entities without specifying how these entitites are implemented. Virtualization is a set of mechanisms and infrastructure for implementing solutions, and thus, there is no impediment for any vendor to offer virtualized solutions today. In 3GPP we have begun to consider how 3GPP standard behaviors, interfaces and operations can be enhanced to better support virtualization. Some initial steps have been taken already in Release 13.
First, there is work to assess existing management interfaces for improved support of virtualization. Also, some features like DECOR and FMSS will potentially ease service deployments through minor optimization of the user plan and control plan of the 3GPP core network. In Release 14 a study is underway that considers a number of enhancements including virtualization.

Flore - So far the virtualization discussion has not impacted 3GPP RAN. Most of the existing discussions are focusing on the virtualization of core network functions and therefore they are largely in the 3GPP SA domain. The virtualization of baseband functions has been mentioned in the past. To enable this 3GPP RAN would have to standardize an open interface between baseband and RF functions at the eNB. However no concrete proposal has been brought forward to 3GPP RAN on this.

more in general, we are all heading towards more agile and flexible technologies…do you see a need for changing the way 3GPP standards will be built and delivered? Somebody is claiming that standards will not be needed anymore in an open-source highly cloudified world: what is your view?

Guttman - Standardization has allowed an astoundingly rapid advance in the fields of networking and telecommunications. Long before standardization, communications technology existed, though solely in proprietary markets: an excellent example is the SNA (System Network Architecture) protocol suite. Even when this market became open to multiple vendors, the protocols did not advance as standards per se. The deployment, applications and overall impact of this market remained small. What we have seen in the last 25 years is that standards, developed by a community of concerned parties including companies, research institutions and governments, has produced the most agile and flexible infrastructure yet devised, that at the same time has allowed global adoption. Open source implementations and centralized flexible infrastructure may allow broader adoption and alternative means to acquire or develop technology, but I do not see that it in any way replaces the need for standards to define how the implementations interact and behave. If standards fail to advance, I seriously doubt the rapid advance in new applications, deployment scenarios and new vertical applications would continue. Instead, innovation would occur within proprietary architectures, which consistently reduces opportunities of a market to expand.

Flore - Standards will exist as long as it is highly beneficial to have interoperability between products from different manufacturers. This regardless of whether functionalities move to the cloud or remain at the edge of the network, or of whether some of the protocols go open-source. However standards need to evolve and make use of the latest available technologies to the extent that these can offer more performing and cheaper solutions for the ecosystem.

New brand for LTE. Why is it needed and what are the benefits for the end customers?

Guttman - A new brand for LTE will allow subscribers to identify and understand the benefit they can receive by upgrading their terminals. It allows a clear and consistent means for communication regarding developments in the mobile telecommunication industry. Without a brand name, different marketing terms will be used and confuse investors, consumers and render difficult a clear understanding of the progress of the industry adopting 3GPP standards.

Flore - The capability of the LTE platform has been significantly expanded since the introduction of LTE-Advanced in Rel-10. Beside further enhancing the efficiency of LTE to cope with the exploding mobile broadband demand, we started expanding the LTE platform to address new services/verticals. For the end customers this will not only mean the usual increase in actual datarates (which has been the only metric that mattered so far for end users), but a wealth of new services. Note that some of these new services will come with different modes and new end customers (think about IoT space).

Learning from failures: during the last 17 years of life, 3GPP delivered features have not always been the top of success of the mobile industry. Can you provide examples of failure stories and what are the lessons learned we should derive from them, in your view?

Guttman - 3GPP features may not be successfully adopted at all, or they may take quite some time to see adoption. Some cases of 'failures' in the past have been adopted later - for example, current use of 'untrusted non-3GPP access' came 6 years after standardization completed. Other standards, for example some enhancements of GSM, have never been included in products. At the same time, GSM has continued to serve subscribers globally for decades and will continue to do so. Rather than concentrate on failure stories, I rather consider how fortunate it is that 3GPP remained open to developing different options and changing direction as needed. This has increased the agility of the entire industry to move in directions one could not have foreseen as the standard features were under development.

Flore - Some *waste* is part of the process. Part of it is inherent to the fact that we start to work on things that will see the light of the day in the market many years down the road. So pointing at some specific feature that failed and try to derive some lesson learned with hindsight it may not be the most relevant questions. Many features failed and this is because we don’t have a perfect crystal ball. One thing that could help though would be trying to reduce the overall time-to-market of features (from the beginning of the discussion in 3GPP to the actual commercial deployment). This may include some 3GPP restructuring to fit the new industry needs. While we will still have an imperfect crystal ball, the less in advance we need to predict what the market needs the more reliable will be our predictions.

…and say in one word one thing you would retain and one you would see changed in future 3GPP

Guttman -
Retain: cooperation
The willingness to collaborate to achieve consensus decisions based on technical merit in a short time by diverse parties remains the greatest strength of the 3GPP standards body.

Change: e-meetings
I believe there are opportunities to work productively without necessitating travel and face-to-face meetings. E-meetings could reduce financial and personal burdens on standards delegates, their companies and prove ecologically beneficial. The technology, investments and understanding of e-meeting options will require a long time to mature, though I have confidence they will.

Flore - I would definitely retain its inclusiveness. But I would certainly try to adapt the 3GPP to be more fit to the new industry needs.

 

Torna all'articolo


Erik Guttman

works with Samsung Electronics and in March 2015 he was elected  chairman of TSG SA, the group responsible for management of activity within the Services and System Aspects working groups, as well as for coordination between Technical Standards Groups and other standards organizations. From 2011 to March 2015 he served as chairman of SA WG2, the group in charge of designing the 3GPP System Architecture. 

 

Dino Flore

works with Qualcomm and in March 2015 was re-elected chairman of TSG RAN for his second term. TSG RAN is in charge of the specification of the radio access for UMTS, LTE and their evolutions.
Dino was previously serving as chairman of RAN WG3 (2009-2013), the group in charge of the specification of the interfaces among RAN nodes and among RAN and Core Network nodes.