Process/ How are cellular standards developed?
Process/ How are cellular standards developed?

5. How are cellular standards developed?

5.1 Principles:

International standards development organizations typically consider the principles established by the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) fundamental for the development of cellular standards.

5.2 Process: Let us now see how the standards development process happen.

We can divide the elements of open standards development into 5 stages: (1) definition of the objective; (2) contributions and discussions; (3) working groups and revision; (4) approval and rejection and (5) publication.

In each phase of the process, certain principles must be followed. Due to the complexity of the technology and the ambitious project goals, each generation of a cellular standard usually needs an average of ten years to be developed.

Open standards development illustration
Open standards development illustration
  • 1. Definition of the objective

    Definition of the objective

    The first step is to define the objective and the solutions they aim to reach through standardisation. An example of an objective might be higher download speeds. In charge of developing cellular standards is 3GPP, which combines the efforts of seven SDOs. One of them is the European Telecommunications Standard Institute (ETSI), which is also the seat of 3GPP secretariat. In 3GPP, hundreds of standardisation experts, representing public and private sector organisations, get together to first define the goal of the project, or technical challenges to be solved.

  • 2. Contributions and discussions

    Contributions and Discussions

    Participants propose various technical solutions that they believe will most effectively solve challenges for achieving the goals of the standardization project. Sometimes participants develop novel solutions during the standardisation process, while at other times they propose the use of technologies they have already developed within their individual companies or research institutions. Some member companies have already spent billions of euros in the research and development underpinning their proposals. In addition, companies invest personnel resources to attend 3GPP meetings needed to develop the standard. For example, to develop 3G and 4G companies spent almost 3.5 million working hours in meetings. Hundreds of thousands of technical solutions are submitted to the standardisation process. Over 260,000 technical contributions were submitted during the development of 3G and 4G standards.

  • 3. Working groups and revisions

    Working Groups and Revisions

    3GPP has working groups that enable subsets of participants to focus on specific parts of a standard, when that part touches upon their specialised expertise. If a working group comes to consensus, then the result is presented for decision at the corresponding technical specification group in the plenary quarterly meeting.

  • 4. Approval or rejection

    Approval or rejection

    Competition over the inclusion of technical solutions in a standard is very steep, as only the best technologies based purely on the technical merits are chosen. In 3GPP, standards take the form of ’releases’ and each of these releases incorporates a new features or functionalities to existing technologies. The release is an internally consistent set of features and specifications. Technical specifications explain how to develop, implement or use the technical feature in a product, process, or service. A 3GPP release fulfils the objective, or solves the problem, set out in the first stage. When possible, the decision to approve or reject a proposal is based on the consensus of the participants. Very few technical decisions are made by casting votes.

  • 5. Standard publication

    Standard publication

    In the final stage of the standardisation process, a document containing the standard’s technical specifications is published.

    What happens after the standard is published?

    Once the standard is published the organizational partners (the seven SDOs part of 3GPP) convert the release of 3GPP into national and regional standards for adoption, implementation and use by consumers.