„5G Evolution – 3GPP Rel. 17, Rel. 18, and 5G-Advanced” – Whitepaper

We are pleased to introduce our latest 5G Evolution Whitepaper: 3GPP Rel. 17, Rel. 18, and 5G-Advanced by Rimedo Labs. This post is dedicated to revealing some contents of the whitepaper.


The baseline 5G system was specified within 3GPP Releases 15 and 16, also known as 5G Phase-1 and 5G Phase-2, correspondingly, to fulfill the ITU-R requirements of IMT-2020.

5G standardization, however, did not stop at Rel-16. There are exciting developments within 3GPP evolving the system towards Rel-17 and Rel-18. Recently, the standardization took the step towards a significant update with the so-called “5G-Advanced” using Rel-18 for that purpose.

This whitepaper provides a technical discussion, on the recent advancements within the 3GPP 5G standardization of Rel-17 and Rel-18. First, the 5G standardization path and current timeline are introduced, along with an overview of 3GPP Rel-17, which serves as an evolution of 5G from its baseline specified within Rel-15 and Rel-16.

Later, the Rel-18 is introduced, also known as „5G-Advanced”, to mark the significant step of the system features update concerning its baseline. Next, the Rel-18 RAN features are discussed within the standardization in 3GPP TSG RAN. This is followed up by the elaboration of the 3GPP TSG SA2, working on Rel-18 system architecture features.

The whitepaper ends with a summary and conclusions section and a glossary of the 5G and 5G-Advanced terms.

Cite this: M. Dryjanski, „5G Evolution – 3GPP Rel. 17, Rel. 18, and 5G-Advanced”, Whitepaper, Rimedo Labs, October 2022

The 5G Evolution Whitepaper Contents

1.0 Introduction to the Evolving 5G

The baseline 5G system was specified within 3GPP Releases 15 and 16, also known as 5G Phase-1 and 5G Phase 2, correspondingly, to fulfill the ITU-R requirements of IMT-2020. The standardization process did not stop there, and currently, there are significant updates made to 5G. This chapter provides an overview of the evolutionary steps of the 5G system as per 3GPP releases.

  • 1.1 From LTE to 5G-Advanced
  • 1.2 5G Standardization Roadmap

Chapter 2.0 3GPP Rel-17: Evolution of 5G

3GPP Release-17 covers enhancements to the baseline 5G system, as well as new features, like NTN, UAS, or support for higher frequency bands. This chapter outlines the features included within the timeframe of that release serving as an intermediary step between 5G and 5G-Advanced.

  • 2.1 3GPP Rel-17 feature list
  • 2.2 Selected features from 3GPP Rel-17

Chapter 3.0 3GPP Rel-18: 5G Advanced

The prioritization process on 3GPP Release-18 features was completed in December 2021. Currently, stage 2 of the process is taking place for Rel-18, which describes functions and procedures in a general manner, and performs logical analysis, message flows, and functional elements. This chapter provides an overview of 5G-Advanced.

  • 3.1 Rel-18 Workshop
  • 3.2 3GPP Rel-18: 5G-Advanced Key Topics
  • 3.3 3GPP Rel-18: Timeline and Specifications

Chapter 4.0 3GPP Rel-18 RAN

On the 17th of December 2021, 3GPP TSG (Technical Specification Group) RAN plenary (3GPP RAN TSG 94e) approved 28 Release-18 projects (i.e., Study and Work-Items, SI/WI) with the following split among RAN groups: 12 RAN1-led projects, 10 RAN2-led projects, 5 RAN3-led projects, and 1 RAN4-led project [5]. Their topics include, among others, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) for New Radio
(NR) and NG-RAN, Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) and MIMO enhancements, evolution for sidelink,
UAV, RedCap, SON, QoE, and XR services. In this chapter, we elaborate on each of the approved WI/SI entering 5G-Advanced standardization.

  • 4.1 3GPP Rel-18 RAN Features
  • 4.1.1 WIs/SIs to be led by RAN1
  • 4.1.2 WIs/SIs to be led by RAN2
  • 4.1.3 WIs/SIs to be led by RAN3
  • 4.1.4 WIs/SIs to be led by RAN4

Chapter 5.0 3GPP Rel-18 SA2

On the 20th of December 2021, 3GPP SA TSG approved a total of 28 Work-/Study-Items (WIs/
SIs) for the SA2 Rel-18 at the SA plenary meeting 94e (SP-94e). The approved projects include TSN, NW slicing, support for edge computing, NW automation, location services, AI and ML-based services, and XR services to name a few. In this chapter, we elaborate on each of the approved WI/SI entering 5G-Advanced standardization within SA2.

  • 5.1 3GPP Rel-18 SA2 Features
  • 5.1.1 WIs/SIs to be led by SA2

Summary and conclusions

This whitepaper summarizes the recent advancements within the 3GPP standardization related to 5G evolution through Releases 17 and 18.

Taking a look at chapter 2.0, we may see that part of 3GPP Rel-17 is a “cleanup” of the basic 5G from Rel-15 and Rel-16. That includes both, gaps and enhancements to the already defined features (like slicing, and sidelink). On the other end, there are new features to allow the introduction of new services like UAS or operation in the higher spectrum bands. Having a strong background and cleaned-up basic system features from Rel-15/16, it’s now time to put emphasis on certain verticals and provide tailored solutions
taking a subset of the functionality to realize the particular need, like by addressing Non-Public Networks (NPN) topic. Personally speaking, the most interesting item from the above discussion, in terms of practical application, is the topic of NPN, as in my opinion, this is the way forward in which 5G could bring actual benefit to the ecosystem. From the technical standpoint and technical challenges, the interesting ones include slicing in the RAN and higher frequency applications.

Chapter 3.0 introduces 3GPP Rel-18 also known as 5G-Advanced. The general direction is towards the vertical sectors. There are interesting topics, such as applications of 5G to smart grids, personal IoT, railways, high accuracy positioning, timing resiliency, tactile communications, vehicle-mounted relays,
and extra-territorial systems. Another area deals with the optimization of the 5G system in general, and by this I mean, features like AI/ML models usage and incorporation into the 5G framework, enhancements, and optimizations related to network slicing, data integrity, and service function chaining within 5G.

To have a closer look at the 3GPP TSG RAN work towards Rel-18, chapter 4.0 covers interesting topics like the inclusion of AI/ML within RAN and even air interface. This is part of the automation framework, which is getting more advanced within the 5G system and is accompanied by other relevant features like enhancements to QoE and SON/MDT. Other sets of topics include novel architectural aspects, like Mobile IAB, UAV, Network Controlled Repeaters, Sidelink, and NTN. Furthermore, aspects such as coverage enhancements, Small data transmission, RedCap, positioning, or NTN within the IoT area are dealt with in the IoT sector. Finally, the MBB-related features include MIMO and CA enhancements along with MBS and XR enhancements.

Speaking of the system architecture items of 3GPP Rel-18 from the 3GPP TSG SA2 perspective, chapter 5.0 provides an overview. They can be grouped into several main topics like:

  • Enhanced Services, including XR, Enhanced IMS, MBS, Priority Services, Ranging-based Services, LCS;
  • Advanced IoT Use Cases, including UAS/UAV, RedCap, Satellite, Personal IoT, TSC, DetNet;
  • Architectural Aspects, including Satellite backhaul, NPN, SFC, ProSe enhancements, Sidelink Positioning, Mobile Relays, Wireless-Wireline Convergence;
  • Automation and Optimization, including AI/ML in CN, Edge computing, NW Automation, and NW Slicing.

In those topics, you could find enhancements to the already applied functionality, as well as new topics, which provide further advancements to the 5G system.


[1] https://www.3gpp.org
[2] https://www.3gpp.org/DynaReport/WI-List.htm
[3] https://www.3gpp.org/release-17
[4] https://www.3gpp.org/DynaReport/FeatureListFrameSet.htm
[5] 3GPP RP-213469, „Summary for RAN Rel-18 Package”, 3GPP TSG RAN Meeting #94e, Dec. 6 – 17, 2021
[6] „New 3GPP RAN Chair in conversation”, ETSI Webinar, 05.05.2021, available at ETSI – Webinar standardization – Webinar Organized by ETSI
[7] Evolution towards 5G-Advanced (3gpp.org)
[8] Release 18 (3gpp.org)
[9] 3GPP TR 21.900
[10] https://portal.3gpp.org/#/lt-55936-specifications
[11] SP-211655, „List of Approved 3GPP SA WG2 Study and Work Items”, 3GPP TSG SA Meeting #94e, Dec. 6 – 17, 2021

To download the Whitepaper, go to „5G Evolution” Whitepaper.

Other Resources from Rimedo Labs

Author Bio

Marcin Dryjanski received his Ph.D. (with distinction) from the Poznan University of Technology in September 2019. Over the past 12 years, Marcin served as an R&D engineer and consultant, technical trainer, technical leader, advisor, and board member. Marcin has been involved in 5G design since 2012 when he was a work-package leader in the FP7 5GNOW project. Since 2018, he is a Senior IEEE Member. He is a co-author of many articles on 5G and LTE-Advanced Pro and a co-author of the book „From LTE to LTE-Advanced Pro and 5G” (M. Rahnema, M. Dryjanski, Artech House 2017). From October 2014 to October 2017, he was an external advisor at Huawei Technologies Sweden AB, working on algorithms and architecture of the RAN network for LTE-Advanced Pro and 5G systems.​ Marcin is a co-founder of Grandmetric, where he served as a board member and wireless architect between 2015 and 2020. Currently, he serves as CEO and principal consultant at Rimedo Labs.

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