The first 5G-Advanced specification is now ready to be implemented by silicon providers, network infrastructure vendors and handset makers.

“The 3GPP concluded that the specification of Release 18 can be considered ready and stable to be ‘frozen,’” Bell Labs fellow Antti Toskala wrote in a Nokia blog on the topic. “This marks a major milestone for 5G-Advanced since now after three years of specification work, the handset manufacturers and network vendors like Nokia can proceed to start selling 5G-Advanced compliant solutions to the market.”  So when will we start seeing elements of the initial 5G-Advanced spec arrive on the market? Sooner than you might think, it turns out.

“For 5G overall, modem vendors like Qualcomm and MediaTek have been ready with silicon before the network infrastructure is fully in place, and that looks to continue with 5G-Advanced,” Avi Greengart, lead analyst at Techsponential, told us.

“Some elements of R18 are already hitting the market – specifically RedCap, which creates a tier of slower (“Reduced Capacity”) 5G for Internet of Things (IoT) devices,” he said in an email to Fierce. “However, even that slower 5G is still plenty fast, and later this year we should start seeing smartphones with 5G RedCap modems in price sensitive markets.”

RedCap enhancements likely will be one of the first elements on the list, agrees Roy Chua, principal analyst at AvidThink. “Generally, I expect mid to late 2025 for many R18 [Release 18] capabilities. Of course, a few could show up earlier, as early as end of this year, early 2025,” he said.

Uplink and away

As Fierce has previously noted, uplink improvements will be a big part of 5G-Advanced in Release 18. Uplink (UL) refers to the speed of transmission of 5G data from the user device (UE) to the network. Generally, uplink is significantly slower than downlink in cellular networks; any 5G uplink speed boosts will better enable image uploads for industrial, enterprise and consumer applications.

“Uplink enhancements are likely going to show up first – and yes the UEs/handsets have to support it,” Chua noted. “I expect UL capabilities as one of the early elements.”

Who will support it first?

Of course, all of this depends on chip manufacturers pumping the silicon to support the Release 18 5G-Advanced spec out first. Chua is expecting “some Chinese devices first.”

“Apple or Android will depend more on Qualcomm and Mediatek and alignment with the Apple, Google or Samsung handset roadmap,” he added.

So onward to Release 19 and the next stage of 5G evolution.

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