3GPP, the working group that’s designing the 5G standard for next-gen wireless communication, has ratified the first 5G specification at a meeting in Portugal. It means that the final design of the first tranche of 5G, Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G New Radio (NR), is now available to networks and manufacturers, who can start designing radios and silicon to bring networks online.

The ratification is a little ahead of the long-term schedule, which only had 5G NR scheduled to be finished next year. Although we’ve seen plenty of 5G trials and plans for commercial deployment already, finalizing the specification is a huge and very concrete step towards making 5G widely available.

“This is really the step that enables vendors to start building equipment off of,” Qualcomm Director of Technical Marketing Matt Branda told Fierce Wireless. “This is an important moment and a crucial development toward making 5G NR happen,” said Neville Ray, Chief Technology Officer for T-Mobile US. “At T-Mobile, we’re committed to drive a 5G rollout across the US in 2020, and the efforts of 3GPP will help us to realize this great win for our customers.”

“Reaching this milestone enables the next phase of equipment availability and movement to interoperability testing and early 5G availability,” said AT&T, one of T-Mobile’s big rivals in introducing 5G to the US market.

While finalizing the standard doesn’t change anything from a technical perspective, agreeing on the standardization of the specs should open up commercial availability of the hardware needed. Silicon manufacturers like Qualcomm, and antenna designers like Ericsson have already made 5G hardware for trials, but standardizing the spec means that any interested manufacturer can and will make equipment.

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