3GPP NPN Standards Enhancements from Release 16 to 18

In an earlier blog post, I explained 5G Private Networks and how they are referred to as Non-Public Networks (NPNs) in 3GPP based standards. An article in ZTE Technologies magazine details the enhancements in the standards from 3GPP Rel-16 to Rel-18. Selected abstract as follows:

To meet diverse needs of industrial digitization and factory automation, 3GPP started "Vertical_LAN", a 5G network architecture work item for vertical industry from Rel-16, and implemented the standardization work. The Vertical_LAN work item includes three distinct 5G enablers for verticals: time sensitive networking (TSN), non-public networks (NPN) and 5G LAN-type services. For these three features, 3GPP has enhanced the relevant standard solutions in Rel-17 and has decided to further study and develop work items based on the three features in the 5G-Advanced phase of Rel-18 (Fig. 1).

Time-Sensitive Network (TSN) 

The IEEE TSN specifications will integrate deterministic and low-latency communication technologies in future factories. 5G time sensitive communication is a service that supports deterministic and synchronous communication with high reliability and availability. With enhanced evolution of Rel-16 TSN and Rel-17 industrial IoT (IIoT), the 5G system can integrate IEEE 802.1 TSN and provide time-sensitive communication as a bridge in TSN. Through network functions exposure and optimization of UE-UE time-sensitive communication, the 5G system supports enhanced deterministic applications.

The Rel-18 TSN features will be developed in the deterministic networking (DetNet) and 5G timing resiliency and TSC&URLLC enhancements (5TRS_URLLC) work items. Based on the work split between IETF DetNet WG and IEEE TSN, the DetNet work item studies how to enable deterministic QoS and time synchronization service by reusing the TSC framework defined in Rel-17 when placing the 5G system in the DetNet IP data plane network. The purpose of the 5TRS_URLLC work item is to study how to report the time synchronization status of the 5G system (such as the deviation of network timing sources of UTC and 5G systems) to UEs and third-party application functions (AFs), and how to enable AFs to request the time synchronization service in specific coverage areas and to request the highly reliable support and interworking with the TSN transport network.

Non-Public Network (NPN)

NPN provides a 5G network solution specifically used for industry users, including stand-alone non-public network (SNPN) and public network integrated NPN (PNI-NPN). In the Rel-17 eNPN work item, SNPN is enhanced to support more NPN application scenarios through cooperation between different networks or entities. For example, access authorization is provided for the UE without local certificate or subscriptions, and IMS as well as video, imaging and audio for professional applications (VIAPA ) scenarios are supported.

The Rel-18 eNPN_Ph2 work item further studies how to support mobility between SNPNs, how to access SNPN via non-3GPP, how to enable UE to discover, select, access the local hosting NPN and the localized services via the hosting NPN with proper authorization, and whether to enable NPN to support 5G proximity services.

5G LAN-Type Service 

5G LAN-type service enables 5G network to provide services similar to LAN and VPN functions by improving 5G capabilities such as high performance, long-distance access, mobility, and security. The 5G LAN-type service can manage the group IDs, members, and group data of 5G virtual networks (VNs). The 5G VN group can be configured by the network administrator or dynamically managed by the third-party AF. In this way, the NEF is required to expose a set of services to manage the 5G VN group and 5G VN members. In addition, the 5G system supports routing optimization in the 5G LAN-type service scenario. When two UEs use the same user plane function (UPF), UE-UE communication can be achieved by directly enabling local data switching at the UPF without having to traverse the data network.

Rel-18 generic group management, exposure and communication enhancements (GMEC) is a work item for enhanced features of 5G LAN-type services. It intends to study how to enhance group attribute management and group status event reporting, enhance NEF exposure framework to enable capability exposure for provisioning of traffic characteristics and monitoring of performance characteristics applicable to each UE of a given group, enhance 5G VN group communication, and how to support group communication allowing UE to simultaneously send data to different groups, where each group has a different QoS policy, so as to meet the requirements of group communication scenarios in future factories. 

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