Does the 5G Standards Process Need a Reset? Qualcomm Thinks So

SDX Central
Sue Marek
August 9, 2017

The 3GPP, which oversees the 5G technical specifications process, is currently in the midst of working on Release 15, which will deliver the first set of 5G standards.

But at least one company is unhappy with the way the 5G technical specification process is progressing and thinks some companies are gaming the system.

Qualcomm, which is very involved in the 3GPP standards group, says that some companies are significantly ramping up the number of submissions to the standard as a way to assert their leadership in the 5G standards process.

“Submitting more papers can create more chaos,” said Lorenzo Casaccia, vice president of technical standards at Qualcomm. “It is a type of inferior measurement. We really wish companies would stop using the number of contributions as a way to assert leadership.”

Casaccia refused to name the companies that Qualcomm believes are guilty of creating this logjam, but he did say that some firms are divvying up submissions into multiple parts just to drive up their numbers. Others are giving employees incentives based upon the number of papers they submit to the standards process.

However, not everyone agrees. Some think that the number of submissions a company makes to the 5G standards process is a valid measurement of leadership. Michael Thelander, president and founder of analyst firm Signals Research Group, said his company has been working closely with clients to measure leadership in the standards process. In fact, they have been doing it for several years and came up with a methodology that allows you to track relevant submissions and remove those submissions that aren’t relevant. “We’ve developed this methodology that has proven to be transparent and highly objective,” he said.

But Thelander agreed that the 5G standard is attracting a larger number of submissions than in past standards. “You can see that the number of submissions made now vs. a year ago has gone up substantially,” Thelander said.

Casaccia added that some of the chairpersons of the standards committees are trying to resolve the problem by limiting the number of submissions or only considering papers that are endorsed by several companies.

Thelander said the 3GPP has discussed limiting the number of submissions in working groups by only allowing those submissions that have strong support from a variety of companies to be considered. He also said that some companies are making efforts to work out their differences prior to the 3GPP meeting in order to streamline the process.

“I agree with Qualcomm that there is a problem with the number of submissions, but I am not convinced the entire problem is due to what they are saying,” Thelander said.

How the 3GPP Works
The 3GPP is a member-driven organization that relies on the support of individual member companies like Qualcomm, Ericsson, Nokia, and others. The organization delivers technical specifications, which are then made into standards by standards setting organizations (SSOs) that make up the 3GPP partnership. The SSO is responsible for establishing and enforcing intellectual property rights policy. In the U.S., ATIS acts as the SSO.

The 3GPP is organized into 16 working groups along with technical specification groups. Those groups are where most of the decisions about specs are determined.

Many operators and vendors are intricately involved in the 3GPP standards process. Operators like AT&T and Verizon are hoping their contributions to the standards process are validated so they can quickly deploy the technology. Vendors, of course, want their contributions to be included in the standards process because that can lead to a very profitable intellectual property business.